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 Header Item Social and Affordable Housing (Continued)
 Header Item Hospital Waiting Lists

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 960 No. 4

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Dessie Ellis: Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis] It is a massive place with beautiful surroundings. It has huge potential and I ask the Minister of State to talk to Fingal County Council to see whether we can get a project and money and see whether it is deliverable.

Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy John Paul Phelan): Information on John Paul Phelan Zoom on John Paul Phelan I thank Deputy Ellis. I am not as familiar as he is with the land around Dunsink, but I know it slightly. The Government recognises the housing affordability pressures faced by many households, particularly in certain parts of the country. It is for this reason that the overarching objective of Rebuilding Ireland is to increase the supply of new homes to 25,000 per annum by 2020. In particular, the aim is to increase the supply of high quality social and affordable homes from State and privately held lands to buy or rent as quickly as possible in areas where demand is greatest.

Critically, €5.35 billion in Exchequer investment has been secured to deliver 47,000 social housing homes through build, refurbishment, acquisitions and leasing over the period to 2021. This level of national funding to implement Rebuilding Ireland's targets means that funding is available to all local authorities to advance their housing delivery. This year, 4,500 new social housing homes will be delivered through new builds, acquisitions and refurbishments, and a significant proportion of these will involve new construction. Taking the Fingal area alone, there are 912 new homes at various stages of the approval process.

With regard to active land management, the Department, working with local authorities and the Housing Agency, has collated details of local authority lands acquired for housing purposes. To this end, details of 1,700 ha of land in local authority and Housing Agency ownership were published in April on the Rebuilding Ireland housing land map, with the aggregate potential to deliver 42,500 homes nationally. All local authorities, including Fingal County Council, are preparing strategic development and management plans for their housing lands, with particular emphasis on prioritising those sites with the most potential to deliver housing at scale in the short to medium term.

I understand that the site in question at Dunsink Lane is not currently part of the housing land map as it includes the former landfill site, and as such was not acquired by the council for housing purposes. However, as part of the active land management process, local authorities have been asked to confirm that the data published on the housing land map is fully up to date, and to ensure that any additional sites suitable for housing are included. This should be an iterative and live process, and as other lands are identified and become available they should be added to the map.

In its county development plan 2017-2023, adopted in March 2017, Fingal County Council recognises the strategic location and development potential of the lands at Dunsink. However, it also notes significant road, wastewater and other infrastructural constraints that require further detailed investigation so as to inform any future decision to zone the overall Dunsink area for a mixed-use urban area. The council has committed to carrying out a feasibility study to identify the necessary physical infrastructure required to realise the full development potential of the wider Dunsink lands and the Department will, of course, be happy to engage with the council as it progresses this work.

Last week the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, announced a second round of the local infrastructure housing activation fund, introduced by the then Minister, Deputy Coveney, a number of years ago. Looking at this for the first time in the past day or so, I see the Dunsink area might be a suitable location for some of this infrastructural funding to be spent. I also note that Fingal County Council has not yet brought forward additional sites for development of social housing at scale. However, there is a site at Wellview in Mulhuddart, which is considered to be the most advanced site of scale in Fingal County Council's housing land portfolio as things stand. The council has flagged that Dunsink is an area of strategic importance for its new development plan, and it is drawing up the strategic plan I mentioned. The Department is engaging with it in this process. In fairness to the point made by the Deputy, it is just over four miles from the city centre. It sounds like an area very suitable for development, but there are a couple of hurdles that the local authority and the Department must overcome first before those decisions can be made.

Deputy Dessie Ellis: Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis What I find very frustrating in all of this is I have been raising this with Fingal County Council for years and we have had study after study. What we are looking at is a new study to see what is suitable. The Minister of State mentioned Dunsink tip head, but that is 200 acres on the opposite side of the road to where we are speaking about, which is 300 acres. This is bigger than the Mulhuddart site. This is a massive amount of land and it is a greenfield area. It is an area where we would not run into the same problems with lot of residents in terms of trying to get planning. For many years we have ignored it. We also have the potential of putting in a lot of projects there, including in the Dunsink tip head area. We have a horse and pony project. We have also spoken about having a track for bikes on it. A raft of amenities can be put in the general area.

The fact this land is available is constantly ignored. It was acquired a number of years ago through a compulsory purchase order as a result of people settling on the land. It is there and ready for people to take advantage of it. We should be saying the infrastructure fund is there and asking the council what it can do and whether it can deliver on this. Can we speed up the process and look at these lands? In one fell swoop we could clear an awful lot of the problems in terms of housing. The delivery of housing on that site alone would be massive. We would have, hopefully, social and affordable housing and affordable rents on the site because it is ideal. They are prime lands with amenities left, right and centre around the area. There is also access to a lot of facilities. It makes it an ideal site.

Deputy John Paul Phelan: Information on John Paul Phelan Zoom on John Paul Phelan I will contact Fingal County Council. I was there a couple of weeks ago in Swords with the manager and senior officials. I will certainly contact them. I was not aware of the full extent of the landholding until this was brought up. There is also, in terms of the planning laws, the necessity for a local area plan to be adopted before the houses can be constructed but that could happen pretty quickly. It is an absolute requirement that local people have a right to have an input into zoning issues in lands in their own area, but that process can happen also. I will speak to the officials in Fingal about where they stand at present with the commitment they have given to the Department to carry out the feasibility study to which I referred earlier, and I will get back to the Deputy.

Hospital Waiting Lists

Deputy Frank O'Rourke: Information on Frank O'Rourke Zoom on Frank O'Rourke I welcome the opportunity to raise this issue to the Chamber again and discuss it with the Minister of State. I discussed a similar issue with her last week. It is important that we make progress on these issues. The length of time that patients wait for adult spinal surgery and orthopaedic surgery is unacceptable. Each time we raise this issue in the Chamber we are given a commitment that it will be dealt with comprehensively and that waiting lists will be reduced, but since I raised this issue previously the waiting lists have gone in the other direction. The issues I will deal with specifically relate to Tallaght hospital and the statistics refer to one particular senior surgeon. The figures are not for a multiple of surgeons, and if they were they would be dramatically worse. These are accurate statistics for the outpatient list of one particular surgeon working directly with Tallaght hospital. At present, he has 500 patients on an outpatient list at Tallaght hospital. Of these, 170 need surgery. In addition to this, he deals with referrals from a hospital in my constituency, Naas General Hospital, which deals with north Kildare in particular. He also deals with referrals coming from other hospitals in Dublin and the midlands. If we were to combine all of these other referrals and the other surgeons, we can appreciate the extent of the list, how long it is and the length of time people wait, which is completely unacceptable.

When I raised this in October last year and again in May this year, and looked for the required and requested investment, I was given a somewhat positive response that it would happen but, unfortunately, I am raising the matter again this evening because no progress is being made.

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