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 Header Item Unfinished Housing Developments (Continued)
 Header Item Waste Management Regulations
 Header Item Free Trade Agreements between the European Union and Columbia and Peru: Motion

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 865 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Paudie Coffey: Information on Paudie Coffey Zoom on Paudie Coffey] The Deputy is aware that a planning authority is required to initiate the taking in charge of an estate in two scenarios. The first is where the estate is properly finished and it is at the request of the developer or a majority of the owners of the houses. The second is where the estate is not finished properly in accordance with the planning permission and enforcement proceedings have not been commenced within seven years of the expiration of the permission authorising the development at the request of the majority of the owners.

What that means is that, where a local authority has not been proactive in enforcement and pursuing the developer, the majority of the owners can then petition a local authority to take the estate in charge. I recognise from where the Deputy is coming. The planning (No. 2) Bill, which will come before the Oireachtas and has been published, will provide further opportunity for engagement with Deputy Catherine Murphy and other Deputies, as well as the joint committee.

I wish to reassure Deputies that the new building regulations and inspection regimes and the requirement for certification and standards will, I hope, mean we will not see further legacy issues in any new Bill to which the Deputy refers.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy The last time I checked, 19,000 houses in County Kildare had not been taken in charge. Some of the cases in housing estates went back 20 years. There is an issue on which I hope we can all be at one. There are issues relating to bonds and bonds expiring. Bonds have a seven-year duration and are not in perpetuity. When a local authority can take an estate in charge, it will take in charge a liability when developers are still involved. We need to strip out the offenders and reward good behaviour in the kind of legislative provisions that are being put in place.

I welcome the fact that the Minister will be open to some of the proposed changes at a pre-legislative stage in the planning (No. 2) Bill because it is important that we are not still talking about this in 20 years' time. I will not be here in 20 years' time. This does not involve just the recent crash; there are legacy issues that go back to the last crash. We cannot allow that to happen.

Deputy Paudie Coffey: Information on Paudie Coffey Zoom on Paudie Coffey I acknowledge many of the concerns the Deputy has outlined. I reiterate that the planning authorities, which are local authorities, have responsibilities with regard to ensuring planning compliance within their respective planning areas. There are legacy issues with regard to unfinished estates, bonds and other matters. Some of them are the result of obvious economic reasons such as developers going bust, which have other implications for home owners. Local authorities have to ensure that they are on top of the planning permissions they grant and that they are proactive in enforcement where problems arise. We need to ensure the problem is not exacerbated.

There is an opportunity in the planning (No. 2) Bill to examine the taking in charge process. Protocols and procedures are already in place and if they are adhered to in the way they are intended we should not see the problems arising to which the Deputy referred. I look forward to further engagement on this issue.

Waste Management Regulations

 10. Deputy Brian Stanley Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly his plans to introduce a waiver for domestic waste collections as promised in the programme for Government. [3607/15]

Deputy Brian Stanley: Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley I refer to the promised waiver for charges for refuse collection, which was a commitment in the programme for Government and was quite clear. It stated: "A public service obligation would include a fee waiver scheme for low income households." That was a Labour Party demand in the programme for Government, or so I am led to believe. It is not too late for the Government to try to do something about this now that there is a Labour Party Minister in the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government and he has the upper hand. Phil Hogan is in Europe and the Minister, Deputy Kelly, is in the hot seat. I would like to know what plans the Minister has to introduce a waiver scheme.

Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly I thank the Deputy. Flattery will get him everywhere. The Government’s waste policy, A Resource Opportunity - Waste Management Policy in Ireland, was published in July 2012. Among the measures included in the policy document was the establishment of an interdepartmental working group to report to the Government with options to minimise the impact of waste charges on low income families. The working group, which comprises representatives of my Department and the Departments of Social Protection, Public Expenditure and Reform and Finance and the Tánaiste's office, submitted its second report to Government on 23 July 2013.

The Government considered the report. Given the complexity of the issues involved, including the fact that the vast majority of households have moved away from local authority collection - I understand only Kilkenny and Killarney are still involved in it - and have engaged private waste collectors on whom it would be difficult to impose any obligation to provide a waiver system, the Government mandated the working group to continue to examine the issue, with a view to submitting a third report to it shortly. All of those issues are being examined and I expect the report to come before the Government very soon. It is something of which I am quite mindful. It is a complex area, given the fragmentation of waste collection services across the country.

Deputy Brian Stanley: Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley The reply is very disappointing. I received a similar reply from Phil Hogan a couple of years ago. The Minister said he referred the matter for further examination, but waste collection charges are increasing every year. The company I am with has increased its charges every year for the past three years. That is driven, as the Minister knows, by a number of factors, such as landfill and other associated charges.

Illegal dumping is also on the rise, and one can see evidence of that in Dublin city. There is no excuse for it, regardless of the charges. Our party is very concerned about its effects on the environment, tourism, the Tidy Towns competition and towns, villages and cities across the State. As the Minister knows - he lives in a rural area - farmers are gathering up the bags of rubbish people have dumped. We want the situation to change.

I hope the Labour Party has not given up on trying to do something about this issue. Illegal dumping is a separate, but related, issue. I agree with the Minister. Many of those involved in illegal dumping have vehicles worth €30,000, €40,000 or €50,000, which I could not afford to buy. In some cases it is not a question of affordability, which is a key point. Some of those brought to court and fined for illegal dumping have, as litter wardens will say, very expensive vehicles. There is an issue in terms of affordability, on which I hope the Minister has not given up. I hope he can return with a package for low income households.

Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly I concur regarding fly-tipping. It is disgraceful and I agree it is not always done by people from a certain income base. It is a complex issue because of how waste collection services have changed. I have committed to a number of regulatory reforms, of which the Deputy is well aware. July 2015 will be an important month for the household waste collection industry in terms of changes to regulations. It is not an issue on which we have concluded. I expect a report based on the changes I will introduce from a regulatory point of view, and will report that to the Dáil. It is an issue which has not left the agenda.

Written Answers follow Adjournment.

Free Trade Agreements between the European Union and Columbia and Peru: Motion

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton I move:

That Dáil Éireann approves the terms of the Free Trade Agreement between the European Union and its Member States, of the one part, and Colombia and Peru, of the other part, which was signed on 26th June, 2012, and laid before Dáil Éireann on 2nd October, 2014.”

The free trade agreement between the EU and its member states and Columbia and Peru is one of a new generation of agreements between the EU and third parties that includes far-reaching measures on the protection of human rights and the rule of law, as well as commitments effectively to implement international conventions on labour rights and environmental protection.

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