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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 344-358
 Header Item Local Authority Schemes
 Header Item Energy Efficiency
 Header Item Residential Tenancies Board
 Header Item Water Quality
 Header Item Archaeological Sites
 Header Item Urban Regeneration and Development Fund
 Header Item Pyrite Remediation Programme
 Header Item Regeneration Projects
 Header Item Commercial Rates
 Header Item Youth Homelessness Strategy

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 998 No. 5
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 120 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 344-358

Local Authority Schemes

 344. Deputy John McGuinness Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the status of development plans agreed by local authorities nationally relevant to his Department and planning policy; his Department's approach to these plans regarding the policy objectives and the desire of local councils to have their respective counties developed in a particular way and to guide planners and developers alike; his plans to bring forward a new policy in this area or amend legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28402/20]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien The National Planning Framework (NPF) sits at the top of a hierarchy of statutory spatial development plans, the purpose of which is to ensure the sustainable development of urban and rural areas, secure balanced regional development and to support and co-ordinate proper planning and development throughout Ireland. This national-level planning policy is implemented at the regional level through statutory Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies (RSES) for each of the three Regional Assembly areas.

Further to the NPF, a RSES was prepared by each of the three Regional Assemblies in Ireland, all of which were approved by January 2020. In accordance with Section 12 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 as amended, it is a statutory obligation of each local authority to ensure that the County Development Plan is consistent with the national and regional development objectives of the NPF and the relevant RSES.

Since April 2019, the assessment of all statutory local authority development plans, including variations to development plans and local area plans, is undertaken by the Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR). The oversight role of the OPR includes ensuring that local authority plans are consistent with relevant national and regional policies.

Further to finalisation of the RSESs earlier this year, the County Development Plan review process by local authorities is under way and will continue into 2021, overseen by the OPR. When this process is complete, it will be the first time that there is an integrated hierarchy of statutory spatial plans in Ireland. This is critical to ensuring that development can be supported by the national public capital investment programme, to shape the future pattern and form of development in Ireland.

My Department is currently updating the Development Plan Guidelines for Planning Authorities to assist them with the review of development plans and it is my aim to have draft Guidelines published for public consultation by the end of the year.

Energy Efficiency

 345. Deputy Thomas Gould Information on Thomas Gould Zoom on Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien if a timeframe is in place for the completion of the retrofitting of social housing in view of the urgency of the matter. [25020/20]

 349. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien his plans for the refurbishment and retrofitting of all local authority housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25177/20]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien I propose to take Questions Nos. 345 and 349 together.

The regular management and maintenance of local authority housing stock, is a matter for each relevant local authority, and it is open to each authority to address maintenance or improvements to their housing stock from within their own resources. However, my Department does support local authorities in improving their social housing stock through a range of programmes including energy retrofitting, regeneration and refurbishment works to vacant properties in order to return these to productive use as quickly as possible.

In all cases, the identification of properties for inclusion in any such programmes, is a matter for the local authority.

My Department has operated an Energy Efficiency Retrofitting Programme for local authority social housing since 2013, which has seen over 72,000 social homes insulated to date with funding support of some €151 million. The programme improves the insulation standards and overall energy performance of local authority housing stock, which can benefit those at risk of fuel poverty and also improve the health and comfort of the occupants of local authority homes.

For 2020, the Energy Efficiency Retrofitting programme for social housing has an allocated exchequer budget of €25 million, while a further €20 million is being made available for similar retrofitting of social homes in the midlands as part of the 'Just Transition' programme.

The Energy Efficiency Retrofitting Programme for social housing is open to all local authorities and has been implemented to date in two phases: Phase 1 is classed as a shallow retrofit and aims to ensure that the entire social housing stock has, as a minimum, cavity wall and attic insulation. Phase 2 focuses on the fabric upgrade works to those dwellings with solid/hollow block wall construction and includes the provision of heating upgrades and replacement windows and doors; this is deemed to be a more deep retrofit. In transitioning to the deep retrofit implementation, my Department has requested local authorities to achieve a 'B2' or equivalent building energy rating for their housing stock.

In addition to the Energy Efficiency Retrofitting Programme, energy efficiency improvements have also been incorporated into the approximately 11,000 vacant social housing homes that have been returned to productive use under the Voids Programme since 2014.

As part of the 'Just Transition' proposals for the midlands region, Budget 2020 also made provision for €20 million to fund energy efficiency upgrades to local authority houses in the affected counties as a pilot programme. As well as retrofitting social housing stock in the midlands, the programme also aims to create opportunities for retrofitting of private housing with support from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI).

This Programme is being developed under a Retrofit Taskforce and has involved my Department working closely with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, the SEAI and the relevant local authorities.

As set out in the Programme for Government, a national retrofitting plan is due to be rolled out in 2021 led by my colleague, the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment. The midlands pilot along with other pilot schemes which are due to commence roll-on in early 2021, will be used to test key elements of the national plan and my Department will work with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment in this work. The targets set within the Climate Action Plan will see 500,000 homes nationally retrofitted by end 2030, including private and social homes.

Residential Tenancies Board

 346. Deputy Verona Murphy Information on Verona Murphy Zoom on Verona Murphy asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the number of staff employed in the Residential Tenancies Board; a breakdown of the sections of the staff within the organisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28436/20]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien The Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) was established as an independent statutory body under the Residential Tenancies Acts 2004-2020, to operate a national tenancy registration system and to facilitate the resolution of disputes between landlords and tenants.

The Clerk of the Dáil requested that arrangements be put in place to facilitate the provision of information by State Bodies to members of the Oireachtas. Following the issue of Circular LG (P)05/16 on 20 September 2016 from my Department, the RTB set up a dedicated email address for this purpose. The RTB may be contacted at OireachtasMembersQueries@rtb.ie to establish the extent to which it may hold the information sought.

Water Quality

 347. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan Information on Cian O'Callaghan Zoom on Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the progress being made on the reduction of lead, pesticides, aluminium, trihalomethanes and cryptosporidium in drinking water; if he has had any engagement with Irish Water regarding its commitment to removing all lead piping in the public water network by 2026; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28511/20]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien Since 1 January 2014, Irish Water has statutory responsibility for all aspects of water services planning, delivery and operation at national, regional and local levels, including the delivery of water services capital infrastructure, while the local authorities remain responsible for private water supplies.

Under the Drinking Water Regulations 2014, as amended, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the supervisory authority for water supplied by Irish Water. The EPA produces an annual Public Supply Drinking Water Report and Private Supply Drinking Water Report, which provides an overview of the quality of drinking water in public and private supplies. The reports are based on the assessment of monitoring results reported to the EPA by Irish Water and the Local Authorities, and on EPA and Local Authority enforcement activities.

The EPA's latest report 'Drinking Water Quality in Public Supplies 2019' published in July, shows that overall our water supplies are safe, with over 99% of water samples complying with safety limits.

While the quality of our drinking water supplies remains very high, the EPA has also set out the risks and challenges that remain. Many of these issues are long-standing and without Irish Water acting to address these issues, we would be in a worse situation.

The report demonstrates the work done in 2019 in key areas such as the National Disinfection Programme, removing THMs (Trihalomethanes), and Cryptosporidium risk assessments, which are vital to ensuring clean, safe drinking water throughout the country. By the end of 2019, Irish Water had assessed 811 of the 864 plants in the National Disinfection Programme and completed upgrades at 230 plants. Work is under way at a further 35 sites.

The report also shows Irish Water's progress in relation to reducing the number of supplies on the Remedial Action List (RAL). The EPA publishes on its website the RAL on a quarterly basis. At the end of July 2020, 52 supplies remain on the RAL which collectively supply water to 1,151,288 consumers.

In relation to the issue of lead, in 2017 Irish Water estimated that lead pipework exists in approximately 180,000 residential properties in Ireland. While there are no lead water mains in Ireland, service connections within properties can contain traces of lead. The vast majority of lead pipes are contained within properties built up to and including the 1970s.

Lead in drinking water is both the responsibility of water suppliers and property owners. Irish Water is responsible for lead pipework in the public water distribution network. This is known as public-side lead. Lead plumbing in buildings and within property boundaries is a matter for the property owner. This is known as private-side lead.

The Government published a National Strategy to Reduce Exposure to Lead in Drinking Water in June 2015. In response to the recommendations of this strategy, Irish Water prepared a detailed Lead in Drinking Water Mitigation Plan to identify measures to mitigate the risks to human health posed by the presence of lead in drinking water. The Plan proposes to remove all public lead service connection pipes over a ten year programme (i.e. by the end of 2026).

Irish Water have also put in place an interim water treatment programme to protect consumers from lead exposure while this replacement programme is implemented. According to the recent EPA report, Drinking Water Quality in Public Supplies 2019, by the end of 2019 17% of all public side lead connections had been replaced.

The Lead Mitigation Advisory Group, which is chaired by officials from my Department, meets regularly to consider and make recommendations on the broader Irish Water Lead Mitigation Strategy and to consider appropriate guidelines and criteria for Irish Water's decision-making process for lead mitigation measures. The most recent of these meetings took place on 23 September 2020.

The new Programme for Government sets out clear and ambitious commitments to ensure that Irish Water accelerates the resolution of schemes on the EPA's Remedial Action List; that lead pipe is removed from water supplies, that the formation of trihalomethanes (THMs) is minimised, and that Irish Water integrates the Drinking Water Safety Plan approach in order to fully protect our water supplies and to direct investment to priority areas.

Given the legacy of underinvestment in water services infrastructure in Ireland, the scale of remedial work necessary in our water system will take a number years and investment cycles to fully resolve. The Government has committed to ambitious funding of Irish Water's capital investment plans for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure on a multi-annual basis. The Government plans to deliver the €8.5 billion funding package committed to in Project Ireland 2040.

Archaeological Sites

 348. Deputy Michael Collins Information on Michael Collins Zoom on Michael Collins asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien if he will support the application for funding under the community monument fund for Togher Castle, Dunmanway, County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28540/20]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien The Community Monuments Fund is a new initiative introduced as part of the July Jobs Stimulus Package. It will invest significant new capital in our valuable archaeological heritage for the conservation, maintenance, protection and promotion of local monuments and historic sites.

  The Community Monuments Fund will:

  - enable conservation works to be carried out on monuments which are deemed to be significant and in need of urgent support;

  - encourage access to monuments and improve their presentation;

  - build resilience in our monuments to enable them to withstand the effects of climate change.

  I am delighted at the welcome and response there has been from local authorities to the new scheme. Working to tight deadlines, authorities from all around the country have submitted a wide range of highly meritorious projects to my Department for support from the €0.9m available for the Community Monuments Fund in 2020. I can confirm that Togher Castle in Dunmanway is the subject of one of a number of applications from Cork County Council.

  My Department is currently assessing the applications received and, mindful of the need to get projects under way as quickly as possible, I expect the results to be conveyed to local authorities very shortly.

  Question No. 349 answered with Question No. 345.

Urban Regeneration and Development Fund

 350. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien when decisions will be made on applications made to the urban regeneration and development fund 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28573/20]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien A second call for proposals under the URDF was launched earlier this year. Seventy six proposals were received, with every local authority submitting at least one application for URDF support.

Because of the nature of the URDF programme the proposals are very complex, and each will require detailed assessment.

The assessment process is presently under way. It is intended that a new tranche of approved proposals, which will augment the existing pipeline of projects from Call 1 and contribute to the achievement of Programme for Government commitments and the objectives of the National Planning Framework and Project Ireland 2040, will be announced later in the year.

Pyrite Remediation Programme

 351. Deputy Cormac Devlin Information on Cormac Devlin Zoom on Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the application process for persons to apply for the defective concrete blocks grant scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28585/20]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien The detailed administration of the Defective Concrete Blocks Grant Scheme, including the assessment, approval and payment of individual grants to applicants, is the responsibility of Donegal County Council and Mayo County Council. Details of the application process in each local authority area can be found at the following links: http://www.donegalcoco.ie/defectiveconcreteblocks/ and https://www.mayo.ie/housing/defective-concrete-blocks-grant-scheme.

  An overview of the application process for the scheme can also be found on my Department's website at the following link: https://www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/publications/files/overview_of_defective_concrete_blocks_scheme.pdf.

Regeneration Projects

 352. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan Information on Maurice Quinlivan Zoom on Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien when refurbishment of houses in the St. Mary's regeneration area will be completed as part of the Limerick regeneration framework implementation plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28599/20]

 353. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan Information on Maurice Quinlivan Zoom on Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien when the community centre in the St. Mary’s regeneration area will be completed as part of the Limerick Regeneration Framework Implementation Plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28600/20]

 354. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan Information on Maurice Quinlivan Zoom on Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien when the refurbishment of houses in the Southill regeneration area will be completed as part of the Limerick regeneration framework implementation plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28601/20]

 355. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan Information on Maurice Quinlivan Zoom on Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien when the refurbishment of houses in the Ballinacurra Weston regeneration area will be completed as part of the Limerick regeneration framework implementation plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28602/20]

 356. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan Information on Maurice Quinlivan Zoom on Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien when refurbishment of houses in the Moyross regeneration area will be completed as part of the Limerick regeneration framework implementation plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28603/20]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien I propose to take Questions Nos. 352 to 356, inclusive, together.

  The detailed advancement of housing and other works under the Limerick Regeneration programme is a matter in the first instance for Limerick City and County Council.

  The Limerick Regeneration Framework Implementation Plan (LRFIP) published in 2013, heralded a move away from demolitions and towards a prioritisation of the refurbishment option along with the delivery of some targeted, high quality, new housing construction with a continued focus on community and economic supports. This has resulted in the completion of several projects to date across the four Regeneration areas of Moyross, Southill, Ballinacurra Weston and St. Mary's Park. The Council has also completed a large number of refurbishments in the "Regeneration" area, with further projects ongoing and works due to commence shortly.

  The LRFIP runs until 2023 and it is envisaged that there will be projects ongoing until this date.

Commercial Rates

 357. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin Information on Eoin Ó Broin Zoom on Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien if businesses that are accessing the commercial rates waiver can continue to do so if they are also on the vacant sites register. [28631/20]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien Local authorities have a statutory obligation to levy rates on any property used for commercial purposes. An initial three-month waiver of rates for businesses forced to close business due to COVID-19, was announced in May. In order to enhance the supports available for enterprise, and in recognition of the fact that not only were many ratepayers forced to close business due to the public health requirements, but many that remained open suffered significant reductions in turnover, the waiver was extended from three to six months, running until 27 September 2020. The categories of eligible enterprise were also expanded somewhat. A 100% waiver was applied to all businesses with the exception of a small number of categories. The rationale for the exclusion of certain categories of ratepayers was that their operations were not as severely impacted by the pandemic, coupled with the need to direct resources appropriately. To support both the local government sector and the ratepayers impacted, €600m has been allocated by Government to fund the cost of the waiver, which took the form of a credit in lieu of rates.

Commercial rates legislation provides for the refund of rates paid on vacant commercial properties in certain circumstances. The Local Government Act 1946 provides that where a property is unoccupied on the date of the making of the rate, the owner becomes liable for rates. However, the owner is entitled to a refund if the property is vacant for specified purposes, these being if the premises are unoccupied for the purpose of additions, alterations or repairs; where the owner is bona fide unable to obtain a suitable tenant at a reasonable rent; and where the premises are vacant pending redevelopment. The collection of rates and the determination of eligibility for a refund in this context are matters for each individual local authority.

A vacant property which has availed of, or is availing of a local authority vacancy refund in 2020, was excluded from the six-month waiver of commercial rates.

Separate to rates legislation, the Urban Regeneration and Housing Act 2015, provides for the vacant site levy. The primary purpose of the levy is to act as an incentive for the bringing forward of vacant under-used sites for development for residential or regeneration purposes. The implementation of the vacant site levy provisions is a matter for each local authority.

Local Authorities can only apply the levy if the criteria set out in the Urban Regeneration and Housing Act 2015 are satisfied i.e. in the case of regeneration land

- the site, or the majority of the site, is vacant or idle, and

- the site being vacant or idle has adverse effects on existing amenities or reduces the amenity provided by existing public infrastructure and facilities (within the meaning of section 48 of the Act of 2000) in the area in which the site is situated or has adverse affects on the character of the area.

The condition where a vacant property is excluded from the six-month waiver relates to vacancy refund provisions under rates legislation rather than whether a property was subject to the vacant site levy and on a vacant sites register.

Youth Homelessness Strategy

 358. Deputy Ged Nash Information on Ged Nash Zoom on Ged Nash asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the measures he has taken to date and the proposed timeframe for the development and completion of a national youth homelessness strategy, as committed to in the programme for Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28664/20]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien Supporting individuals and families facing homelessness is a priority for my Department. The Programme for Government "Our Shared Future" commits to reducing and preventing homelessness and provides detail on how the Government will approach this challenge.

Upon my appointment as Minister, I established a High Level Homelessness Taskforce, to provide a forum for engagement with key organisations working to address homelessness. The Taskforce will input on the implementation of the commitments on homelessness in the Programme for Government. The membership of the taskforce consists of the Chief Executives of the Dublin Region Homeless Executive, Crosscare, Depaul, Focus Ireland, the Peter McVerry Trust, Dublin Simon Community and Threshold. Youth homelessness is one of the issues which is being discussed by the Task Force. I will also be consulting with the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs on the development of this matter and will announce further details on the development of the strategy in due course.


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