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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 201-210
 Header Item Local Authority Services
 Header Item Housing Issues
 Header Item Wild Atlantic Way Project
 Header Item Greenways Funding
 Header Item Urban Renewal Schemes
 Header Item Rail Network Expansion
 Header Item Public Transport
 Header Item Value for Money Reviews

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 900 No. 1

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Written Answers Nos. 201-210

Local Authority Services

 201. Deputy Brendan Smith Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly if he will given further consideration to a request (details supplied) from Ballybay and Clones Municipal District; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44420/15]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Alan Kelly): Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly The provision and maintenance of public lighting is the responsibility of each individual local authority. Local authorities receive income from a variety of sources including grants from Central Government, Local Property Tax (LPT) proceeds, commercial rates and other locally-raised charges.

It is a matter for each local authority to determine its own spending priorities, including funding towards the provision and maintenance of public lighting, in the context of the annual budgetary process having regard to both locally identified needs and available resources. Those local authorities that voted to reduce LPT rates locally must accept the effect of that reduction on local service provision. I note that Monaghan County Council (MCC) has decided to reduce the local rate of LPT by 7.5% for 2016, which will have the effect of reducing the funds available to the Council by €278,664 in 2016.

Housing Issues

 202. Deputy Róisín Shortall Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly if he is aware of reports of land hoarding taking place in the Dublin area in respect of land zoned for housing, if this is a factor in the depressed supply of housing, why he wrote to the chief executives of the four Dublin local authorities in June 2015, advising them not to rezone any further land for housing; and if he will review this advice. [44422/15]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Alan Kelly): Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly I refer to the reply to Question No 157 of 11 November 2015 which sets out the position in this matter.

  I am not aware of reports of land hoarding referred to by the Deputy and, furthermore, I have not at any time directed the Dublin local authorities not to rezone additional lands for housing. However, Minister of State Coffey and I jointly wrote to the Chief Executives of the four Dublin Local Authorities on 10 June 2015 in the context of their role in preparing and finalising the development plans for their areas.

  At that time my Department’s analysis and that of the Dublin Housing Supply and Co-ordination Task Force was that there was sufficient supply of land to meet immediate housing requirements and that proposals to zone any additional residential land would have to be strongly evidentially grounded and consistent with core strategies. We also strongly encouraged the four Dublin local authority Chief Executives and Councils to focus around practical measures that can be adopted in their development plan preparation and implementation processes to boost housing supply and ensure that good quality housing in suitable locations is available at affordable prices.

  I firmly believe that increasing supply is key to addressing the range of housing issues we face today. The First Report of the Dublin Housing Supply and Coordination Task Force concluded that across the four Dublin authorities there is land immediately available with planning permission for development of 12,785 houses and 7,925 apartments, equating to circa. three years supply. A further 25,507 units were deemed permissible in the immediate to short term. A further study of additional zoned residential lands that could be brought on stream by the Task Force has identified specific infrastructural interventions to facilitate additional housing supply in the Dublin Region.   

  Therefore, a considerable array of work has been undertaken in identifying and profiling the availability of key sites and their current activity status across Dublin, all of which is accessible to the public on my Department’s website www.myplan.ie

  In addition, and in the context of the Government’s “Stabilising Rents – Boosting Supply” interim package on housing, I have recently announced a range of initiatives to be implemented from January, including a targeted rebate of development contributions in Dublin and Cork for housing supplied under certain price levels, and revised statutory planning guidelines on apartment standards, to be issued under Section 28 of the Planning Act and given legal effect through the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill 2015, which will reduce the cost of apartment building in Dublin City by approximately €20,000 per unit, on average.   

  These measures combined with previous announcements, including streamlined Part V arrangements under the Urban Regeneration and Housing Act 2015 and the commitment by NAMA to fund 20,000 mainly starter homes in the greater Dublin area are visible demonstration of the Government’s commitment to, and investment in, measures that will enhance supply.   

  However, if in the near future a sufficient supply response is not forthcoming from a construction sector that has seen its development contributions substantially reduced or rebated altogether for starter homes, its Part V commitments streamlined and costs of construction reduced as part of new apartment standards, then I will be requesting local authorities to vigorously implement the Vacant Site Levy, which will come into force from 2019 and to take what further steps are possible to ensure the clear housing needs of citizens are met.   

  However, I am confident that as key loan portfolios are divested by financial institutions and receivers and major land banks such as in some of the Strategic Development Zones move into the control of new developers who are suitably financed and attuned to today’s market realities in terms of affordability, supply will recover.

  The Government will remain vigilant in closely monitoring the market response.

Wild Atlantic Way Project

 203. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe the status of an application from Donegal County Council for funding to further develop the potential of Malin Head in County Donegal, Ireland's most northerly point and a key location on the Wild Atlantic Way. [44271/15]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe ​While my Department provides the capital funding for investment in tourism propositions such as the Wild Atlantic Way, it is not directly involved in developing or managing these, as this is an operational matter for the Board and management of Fáilte Ireland. Similarly, the allocation of grant funding is a matter for the board of Fáilte Ireland.

I have referred the Deputy's Question to Fáilte Ireland for direct reply. He should advise my private office if he does not receive a reply within ten working days.

Greenways Funding

 204. Deputy Billy Timmins Information on Billy Timmins Zoom on Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe the various reports and the details and assessment of projects that were submitted for greenway funding, the order of merit they were placed in, the projects that received funding, the amount of funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44282/15]

 205. Deputy Billy Timmins Information on Billy Timmins Zoom on Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe why the application for funding for a greenway project at Blessington in County Wicklow did not receive funding, details of any project that received funding but received lower points in an assessment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44283/15]

 206. Deputy Billy Timmins Information on Billy Timmins Zoom on Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe the funding that was allocated for greenway development that has not been utilised to date, his plans to reallocate this funding to other projects such as the Blessington project in County Wicklow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44284/15]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe I propose to take Questions Nos. 204 to 206, inclusive, together.

​A total of 38 proposals for cycleway/greenway projects were submitted from 28 local authorities to my Department under the National Cycle Network (NCN) Funding Programme 2014 -2016.  These proposals were assessed by an expert assessment team as part of a competitive process.  The outcome was that three projects from Kerry, Galway and Waterford shared in funding of €6.3 million, details of which can be viewed on my Department's Smarter Travel website www.smartertravel.ie. under the subheading National Cycle Network.  

Details of the associated NCN assessment process and results have been uploaded onto my Department's website (www.dttas.ie) following a Freedom of Information request (Ref.FOI20140063).  

A further 11 projects, submitted under the NCN Funding Programme, shared in €10 million funding from the Government Stimulus Package for Infrastructural Development (details attached). The funding for the Stimulus Package used the same scoring system as the NCN but, given the nature of the stimulus package, required projects to be shovel-ready and able to be finished within 12 months. For that reason Blessington did not meet the criteria and was not awarded funding.  I acknowledge that a small number of authorities awarded funding under this package have experienced difficulties in delivering completed projects with the 12 month timeframe.  My officials are dealing with each on a case by case basis.

The further investment in transport package announced last July also directed funding towards greenway infrastructure with Westmeath County Council being awarded €3 million to complete the Athlone to Mullingar Greenway to a high specification. 

The Blessington Greenway proposal submitted under the NCN programme was among a small number of projects which were viewed as high value propositions and which were awarded a high rating by the expert assessment panel. However, for reasons of costing, deliverability, viability or legal issues a number of high scoring projects could not be considered for funding under that tranche.

Currently all Department funding for the delivery of greenways is  fully committed up to 2016, however, my Department will continuing to explore other possible funding streams to assist local authorities in the delivery of greenways for their county.    

I would urge Wicklow Co Council to advance  the Blessington Greenway proposal to the greatest degree possible from own resources, possibly having all design and statutory requirements in place in advance of the next funding so as to be well positioned to compete.

Urban Renewal Schemes

 207. Deputy John Browne Information on John Browne Zoom on John Browne asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe the status of proposals unveiled in the capital investment plan 2016-21 to develop and regenerate Waterford city's north quays and to support tourism in the region, the timeframe for their delivery; the estimated Exchequer funding foreseen for them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44293/15]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe ​I do not have the details requested by the Deputy as these proposals are not included in the Capital Programme of the Department of Transport Tourism and Sport.

I understand, however, that in the context of finalising the capital plan entitled "Building on Recovery: Infrastructure and Capital Investment 2016-2021", there were discussions on proposals to develop and regenerate Waterford City North Quays. I understand that the capital plan contains an undertaking that support will be provided under that Exchequer Programme for the proposed development.

Rail Network Expansion

 208. Deputy Brendan Ryan Information on Brendan Ryan Zoom on Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe the status of the DART interconnector project and the commitment to deliver it; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44294/15]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe I announced on 22 September that the DART Underground project will not proceed as currently designed but will be redesigned to provide a lower cost technical solution. The position in relation to this project remains as set out in my announcement at that time, the full text of which is available on my Department's website at the following link: http://www.dttas.ie/press-releases/2015/statement-minister-donohoe-dart-underground.

Public Transport

 209. Deputy Finian McGrath Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe his views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding a health and safety matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44386/15]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe The ownership and/or planning arrangements relating to the building and works referred to in the correspondence forwarded by the Deputy are not known to my Department. In relation to the bus stop in question (on the kerbside opposite Connolly Station), I recognise that this  bus stop can be very busy with a considerable number of passengers waiting at peak points throughout the day and that the available kerb space is limited.  The National Transport Authority (NTA) has statutory responsibility for securing the provision of bus stops and bus shelters so I have referred the Deputy's question to the NTA for a more detailed reply in relation to the issues raised in relation to this particular bus stop.

The Deputy should advise my private office if he does not receive a reply within ten working days.

Value for Money Reviews

 210. Deputy Shane Ross Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if any of the recommendations outlined in the 2015 value for money and policy review of the Arts Council have been implemented to date; if not, the timeline for such implementation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44364/15]

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys I am committed to ensuring that findings of the report referred to by the Deputy are used to improve access to and support for the arts in Ireland. My Department will build on the already positive engagement with the Arts Council to ensure that the recommendations are delivered.

  This will be done in close consultation with the Arts Council using the normal governance arrangements, including regular liaison meetings and the annual service level agreement, while respecting the statutory independence of the Council in making its funding decisions. Indeed, the Arts Council has already taken on board some of the key recommendations of the report in its recently published strategy "Making Great Art Work", which sets out its plans for leading the development of the arts in Ireland over the next decade. Further information on the strategy is available on the website of the Council at www.artscouncil.ie  .

  This 10 year strategy will be followed by a series of 3-year implementation plans in which the Arts Council has committed to incorporating many of the detailed recommendations of the value for money review.


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