Broadband Services Provision

Questions (483)

Seán Fleming

Question:

483. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when internet and high speed broadband will be available in all areas in County Laois; the minimum quality of service that will apply; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8826/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

Ireland’s telecommunications market has been liberalised since 1999 and since then has developed into a well-regulated market, supporting a multiplicity of commercial operators, providing services over a diverse range of technology platforms. Details of broadband services available on a County-by-County basis can be found on the website of the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) at www.callcosts.ie. The Government has undertaken a number of initiatives to bring broadband to those parts of the country where operators have been unable to offer services on a commercial basis.

The State only becomes involved in the provision of services in instances of clear market failure, such as in the case of the National Broadband Scheme (NBS). My Department entered into a contract in late 2008 with Hutchison 3G Ireland Ltd (“3”) for the delivery of the NBS. The Scheme offers a basic broadband service, in line with EU State aid clearance, to fixed residences and businesses located within certain designated Electoral Divisions. In County Laois, NBS services are available within 28 of its 98 Electoral Divisions. Under EU State Aid rules, the NBS is prohibited from providing a service in served areas where to do so would give rise to an unacceptable level of market distortion.

The Rural Broadband Scheme (RBS) was launched in 2011 in recognition of the fact that despite the widespread availability of broadband throughout Ireland, there still remained individual premises that were unable to receive broadband provision. This Scheme was aimed at making a basic broadband service available to un-served premises in rural areas, not already covered by the NBS. Commercial service providers were in a position to offer services to almost all applicants under the Scheme who agreed to engage with them, including applicants from County Laois.

In addition to consumer services, there is a State-funded Metropolitan Area Network in Portlaoise. These networks provide high capacity fibre connectivity for businesses and telecoms operators in the region. The combination of private investment and State interventions means that Ireland has met the EU Commission’s Digital Agenda for Europe target of having a basic broadband service available to all areas by 2013, and the focus is now on accelerating the roll out of high speed services.

The Government’s National Broadband Plan, which I published in August last, aims to radically change the broadband landscape in Ireland by ensuring that high speed services of at least 30Mbps are available to all of our citizens and businesses, well in advance of the EU’s target date of 2020, and that significantly higher speeds are available to as many homes and businesses as possible. Specifically, it commits to: 70Mbps to 100Mbps available from the commercial market operators to more than half of the population by 2015, At least 40Mbps, and in many cases faster speeds, to at least a further 20% and potentially as much as 35% of the population, and A minimum of 30Mbps for every remaining home and business in the country.

During the preparation of Ireland’s National Broadband Plan, the commercial market operators indicated that they expect to provide 70Mbps to 100Mbps services to 50% of the population by 2015. The commercial sector is already making these investments in high speed services, particularly in urban and semi-urban areas. The Government is also committed in the Plan to investing in areas where high speed services are not commercially viable and will not be provided by the market.

My Department is making preparations to commence a formal national mapping exercise to identify where the market is expected to succeed and fail in the delivery of high speed broadband over the coming years. This will inform the level of Government interaction that may be required and the areas that need to be targeted for a State-led investment. It will also form a critical input to an EU State Aid application in respect of any State-led intervention. Through the implementation of the National Broadband Plan, we are committed to increasing the availability of next generation speeds significantly, with a view to ensuring that all citizens and business can participate fully in a digitally enabled society. I would reiterate that the Government remains committed to the delivery of the speeds referred to above, to ensure that all parts of Ireland, including County Laois, will have at least 30Mbps connectivity.

Wind Energy Guidelines

Questions (484)

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

484. Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the restrictions that exist in locating wind turbines in areas or habitats in which red grouse live; the scientific basis for the restrictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8049/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Wind Energy Development Guidelines, published by my Department in 2006, provide advice to planning authorities on the consideration of a range of factors relating to wind energy through the development plan process. The guidelines are also intended to ensure a consistency of approach throughout the country in the identification of suitable locations for wind energy development and the treatment of planning applications for such developments. This mapping of suitable locations is carried out through the development plan process which makes very extensive statutory provision for public consultation.

The guidelines state that while the designation of an area for protection of natural or built heritage or as an amenity does not automatically preclude wind energy development, consideration of any such development in or near these areas must be subject to Ireland's obligations under the Habitats Directive, the Birds Directive and the EIA Directive. Clear guidance should be available in development plans on policy and objectives on the natural and built heritage, and the information contained therein on location and status should be accurate and up to date.

Library Projects

Questions (485)

Robert Troy

Question:

485. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will sanction the application for funding by Longford County Council in respect of a new library for Granard, County Longford. [8051/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

Under Section 78 of the Local Government Act 2001, the provision of premises and facilities in the public library service is a matter for each local authority in its capacity as a library authority. My Department provides capital funding towards the provision and refurbishment of new and existing public libraries. In this regard, in 2008 my Department requested library authorities to provide details of priorities for library development within their areas.

In its response, Longford County Council ranked Ballymahon branch library as its main priority, followed by projects at Granard and Edgeworthstown and the provision of a library delivery vehicle. Grant aid of €900,000 was approved and drawn down in respect of the Ballymahon project with the final payment being made in October, 2011. In addition, my Department provided €80,000 for the purchase and fit out of a library vehicle in 2010. Available funding for 2013 is expected to be fully committed to ongoing library projects.

The library service provides very valuable social, educational and cultural services to communities around the country and my Department will continue to work with local authorities to ensure that every effort is made to continue the delivery of appropriate services within budgetary constraints.

Tenant Purchase Scheme Administration

Questions (486)

Robert Troy

Question:

486. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when a new tenant purchase scheme will be introduced to enable local authority tenants purchase their homes and to ensure that any new scheme will not actively discriminate against persons on social welfare payments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8054/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

My Department is currently considering the issues to be addressed in the General Scheme of the forthcoming Housing Bill that may include, among other things, proposals for a new scheme for the sale of local authority houses to tenants, based on the incremental purchase model.

Provisions governing mortgage lending by local authorities are set out under the Housing (Local Authority Loans) Regulations 2009 and associated credit policy. To ensure effective targeting of resources, loan finance continues to be available to first time buyers only. Income limits are also in place, distinguishing between single and dual income households and a maximum loan limit is applied. In assessing loan applications local authorities take account of the household’s ability to finance the loan based on their net household income. While, as a general rule, the credit policy provides that loans are not available to those in receipt of unemployment/social welfare benefits, an exception may be made where there is a primary income of a permanent waged/salaried nature, and where the secondary income is from the Department of Social Protection. In such cases long term social welfare payments can be considered, provided the long term nature of the payment is confirmed. The final decision on whether to grant/refuse an applicant lies solely with the relevant local authority. All local authorities must satisfy themselves on the financial risk they are undertaking.

Water Charges Administration

Questions (487, 495)

Robert Troy

Question:

487. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the way he intends to deal with the water metering of multiple units in a block; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8059/13]

View answer

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

495. Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the measures he has taken to ensure that the application of water charges to those living in apartment blocks reflects their usage of water; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8221/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 487 and 495 together.

The Government considers that charging based on usage is the fairest way to charge for water and it has therefore decided that water meters should be installed in households connected to public water supplies. Irish Water, a new State-owned water company to be established as an independent subsidiary within the Bord Gáis Éireann Group, will be responsible for the domestic water metering programme and for the collection of water charges from households from 2014.

The Government has also decided to assign responsibility for the economic regulation of the water sector, including the setting of charges, to the Commission for Energy Regulation. The primary role of the regulator will be to protect the interests of customers and to ensure a consistent and appropriate level of service is provided to them. As the metering programme will still be underway in 2014, an appropriate approach to charges for both metered and unmetered properties will need to be put in place before then; this will be the subject of a public consultation process this year as part of the regulatory process.

Ministerial Appointments

Questions (488, 489, 490)

Shane Ross

Question:

488. Deputy Shane Ross asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the details of all appointments made by him to all State agencies, commercial bodies and all other appointments made by him since taking office, including the State owned banks and the judiciary. [8118/13]

View answer

Shane Ross

Question:

489. Deputy Shane Ross asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the details of the qualifications of all the appointees made by him to all State agencies, commercial bodies and all other appointments made by him since taking office including the State owned banks and judiciary for the appointments they have accepted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8136/13]

View answer

Shane Ross

Question:

490. Deputy Shane Ross asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of appointees and the percentage of appointments made by him to all State agencies, commercial bodies and all other appointments made by him since taking office including the State owned banks and the Judiciary that were subject to a public applications process. [8154/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 488 to 490, inclusive, together.

Up to 31 December 2012, the latest date for which information is available, the position is as follows:

Agency / Board

Name of Appointee (Chairperson highlighted)

Date of Appointment

An Bord Pleanála

Dr. Mary Kelly (Chairperson)

29/08/2011

An Bord Pleanála

Mr. Conall Boland (Deputy Chairperson)

01/01/2012

An Bord Pleanála

Ms. Mary MacMahon

27/11/2011

An Bord Pleanála

Mr. Michael Leahy

14/05/2012

An Bord Pleanála

Mr. Nicholas Mulcahy

21/05/2012

An Bord Pleanála

Mr. Gabriel Dennison

21/05/2012

An Bord Pleanála

Mr. Paddy Keogh

21/05/2012

Building Regulation Advisory Board

Mr. Aidan O'Connor (Departmental representative)

19/04/2011

Building Regulation Advisory Board

Mr. Paul Kelly

19/04/2011

Building Regulation Advisory Board

Mr. Conor Taaffe

16/06/2011

Dublin Docklands Development Authority*

Dr. Niamh Brennan

01/05/2012

Dublin Docklands Development Authority*

Mr. Niall Coveney

01/05/2012

Dublin Docklands Development Authority*

Mr. Dónall Curtin

01/05/2012

Dublin Docklands Development Authority*

Ms. Yvonne Farrell

01/05/2012

Dublin Docklands Development Authority*

Mr. Mark Griffin (Departmental Representative)

01/05/2012

Dublin Docklands Development Authority*

Mr. Brendan Malone

01/05/2012

Dublin Docklands Development Authority*

Ms. Catherine Mullarkey

01/05/2012

Dublin Docklands Development Authority*

Mr. John Tierney (Chairperson)

01/06/2012

Dublin Docklands Development Authority*

Mr. Gerry Grimes

01/06/2012

Dublin Docklands Development Authority*

Dr. Philip Matthews

01/06/2012

Dublin Docklands Development Authority*

Ms. Lucy McCaffery

01/06/2012

Dublin Docklands Development Authority*

Mr. Charlie Murphy

01/06/2012

Dublin Docklands Development Authority*

Ms. Imelda Reynolds

01/06/2012

Dublin Docklands Development Authority*

Mr. Michael Stubbs

01/06/2012

Dublin Docklands Development Authority*

Mr. Frank Walsh

01/06/2012

Environmental Protection Agency

Ms. Laura Burke (Director General)

08/11/2011

Environmental Protection Agency

Mr. Dara Lynott

12/07/2012

Environmental Protection Agency

Mr. Gerard O'Leary

08/05/2012

Housing Finance Agency

Dr. Michelle Norris (Chairperson)

22/02/2012

Housing Finance Agency

Mr. John Hogan (Department of Finance nominee)

22/02/2012

Housing Finance Agency

Mr. Phillip Nugent (Departmental representative)

22/02/2012

Housing Finance Agency

Ms. Jackie Maguire (CCMA Representative)

13/03/2012

Housing Finance Agency

Mr. Colm Brophy

13/03/2012

Housing Finance Agency

Mr. Michael Murray

13/03/2012

Housing Finance Agency

Mr. Padraic Cafferty

21/03/2012

Housing Finance Agency

Dr. Mary Lee Rhodes

21/03/2012

Housing Finance Agency

Mr. Jim Miley

30/04/2012

Housing Finance Agency

Ms. Michelle Murphy Lawless

30/04/2012

Housing Finance Agency

Mr. Gerry Leahy

30/04/2012

Irish Water Safety

Ms. Breda Collins (Chairperson)

21/11/2011

Irish Water Safety

Mr. John Considine

21/11/2011

Irish Water Safety

Mr. Michael Cuddihy

21/11/2011

Irish Water Safety

Mr. Tom Doyle

21/11/2011

Irish Water Safety

Mr. Brendan McGrath

21/11/2011

Irish Water Safety

Mr. Paul Murphy

21/11/2011

Irish Water Safety

Mr. Seamus O'Neill

21/11/2011

Irish Water Safety

Mr. Martin O'Sullivan

21/11/2011

Irish Water Safety

Ms. Anne Ryan

21/11/2011

Irish Water Safety

Ms. Lola O'Sullivan

21/11/2011

Irish Water Safety

Mr. Christy McDonagh

21/11/2011

Irish Water Safety

Mr. Tim O'Sullivan (Departmental representative)

21/11/2011

Irish Water Safety

Mr. Odran Reid

27/06/2012

Housing and Sustainable Communities Agency

Mr. Rich Howlin (Chairperson)

21/12/2011

Housing and Sustainable Communities Agency

Mr. Eddie Lewis (Departmental representative)

21/12/2011

Housing and Sustainable Communities Agency

Ms. Marie McLaughlin (Department of Public Expenditure & Reform Representative)

21/12/2011

Housing and Sustainable Communities Agency

Mr. Peter Carey County Manager Laois County Council

21/12/2011

Housing and Sustainable Communities Agency

Ms. Ann McGuinness

21/12/2011

Housing and Sustainable Communities Agency

Mr. Dermot Nolan (Department of Public Expenditure & Reform Representative)

21/12/2012

Housing and Sustainable Communities Agency

Mr. John O Connor

21/12/2012

Housing and Sustainable Communities Agency

Mr. Donal McManus

21/12/2012

Housing and Sustainable Communities Agency

Mr. Michael Layde (Departmental representative)

01/08/2012

Local Government Computer Services Board

Mr. Eddie Breen (Chairperson) County Manager Wexford County Council

01/01/2012

Local Government Computer Services Board

Mr. Michael Malone County Manager Kildare County Council

01/11/2011

Local Government Computer Services Board   

 

Mr. Barry Quinlan (Departmental representative)

23/11/2011

Local Government Computer Services Board

Mr. Enda Holland (Department of Public Expenditure & Reform Representative)

22/02/2012

Local Government Management Services Board

Mr. Eddie Breen (Chairperson) County Manager Wexford County Council

01/01/2012

Local Government Management Services Board

Mr. Donal Enright (Departmental representative)

01/11/2011

Local Government Management Services Board

Mr. Michael Malone County Manager Kildare County Council

01/11/2011

Local Government Management Services Board   

 

Mr. Barry Quinlan (Departmental representative)

23/11/2011

Local Government Management Agency**

Mr. Barry Quinlan (Departmental representative)

24/09/2012

Local Government Management Agency**

Mr. Donal Enright (Departmental representative)

24/09/2012

Local Government Management Agency**

Mr. Paul McDonald (Departmental representative)

24/09/2012

Local Government Management Agency**

Mr. Eddie Breen (Chairperson) County Manager Wexford County Council

20/09/2012

Local Government Management Agency**

Mr. Peter Carey County Manager Laois County Council

20/09/2012

Local Government Management Agency**

Mr. Hubert Kearns County Manager Sligo County Council

20/09/2012

Local Government Management Agency**

Mr. Michael Malone County Manager Kildare County Council

20/09/2012

Local Government Management Agency**

Mr. Eddie Sheehy County Manager Wicklow County Council

20/09/2012

Local Government Management Agency**

Mr. John Tierney City Manager Dublin City Council

20/09/2012

Local Government Management Agency**

Mr. Martin Riordan Cork County Manager

18/10/2012

Local Government Management Agency**

Mr. Michael Walsh Waterford City manager

18/10/2012

National Traveller Accommodation Consultative Committee

Mr. Tom Coughlan County Manager Clare County Council

21/12/2011

National Traveller Accommodation Consultative Committee

Ms. Colette Spears

26/06/2012

National Traveller Accommodation Consultative Committee

Mr Jim Ganley (Departmental representative)

31/03/2012

Private Residential Tenancies Board

Mr. Tim Ryan

17/02/2012

Private Residential Tenancies Board

Ms. Tricia Sheehy Skeffington

17/02/2012

Private Residential Tenancies Board

Ms. Paula O’Reilly (Departmental representative)

22/03/2012

Radiological Protection Institute Ireland

Professor William Reville (Chairperson)

16/01/2012

Radiological Protection Institute Ireland

Dr. Paraic James (public servant)

16/01/2012

Radiological Protection Institute Ireland

Dr. Maurice Fitzgerald (Dental Council)

19/10/2011

Radiological Protection Institute Ireland

Dr. Patricia Cunningham (public servant)

20/02/2012

Radiological Protection Institute Ireland

Mr. John O'Dea

30/11/2012

Radiological Protection Institute Ireland

Ms. Darina Muckian

30/11/2012

Radiological Protection Institute Ireland

Ms. Adi Roche

30/11/2012

  

Radiological Protection Institute Ireland

Dr. Patrick Gilligan

30/11/2012

* The board of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority was reappointed from 1 May 2012 and replaced by a new board from 1 June 2012 which will continue in place until 31 December 2013.

** The Local Government Management Agency was established on 1st August 2012 which replaces the Local Government Computer Services Board and the Local Government Management Services Board.

A notice was placed on my Department’s website on 19 July, 2011 seeking expressions of interest, from suitably qualified and experienced persons, for consideration as members or chairpersons of the boards of state bodies under the aegis of my Department. The notice is updated regularly as specific vacancies arise. Vacancies on the boards of other bodies under the Department’s aegis will be notified on the website as they arise. However, expressions of interest can be made at any time and will be kept on file in my Department for consideration as vacancies occur.

All appointments are made in accordance with the appropriate legislation governing appointments to each body. In considering applications due regard is also had to Government policy regarding gender balance on State Boards. A number of different statutory processes are involved in appointments to State boards. In some cases statutory selection procedures must be followed or nominations must be sought from independent nominating panels before appointments are made by the Government or by the Minister. In a number of situations, only some appointments to the body concerned are made by the Minister, or appointments are made with the consent of another Minister.

The Boards of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and An Bord Pleanála are executive in nature and members are employed on a full time salaried basis. Appointments are made taking into account the requirement of the position and the qualifications, experience and expertise of the potential candidates. The following members were appointed to the Board of Pobal, a not-for-profit company under the aegis of my Department, by Government: Mr. Séamus Boland (Chair), Mr. Tommy Maguire, Mr. Liam Keane , Ms. Siobhan McLoughlin , Ms. Jennifer McHugh, Ms. Mari Hurley, Mr. William Cotter, Mr. Gerald Quain, Cllr. John Kelleher, Ms. Ann Costello. Article 3 of the Articles of Association of Pobal requires the nister to consider nominations received from a list of stakeholders and the Social Partners defined by Government in 2005. The list comprises: National Social Partners, Social Partners party to the Sustaining Progress Agreement; and Stakeholders, Area and Community Partnership, County Childcare Committees, and County and City Managers Association. A consultation process was conducted and 22 nominations received from the Stakeholders and the National Social Partners were considered for purposes of the Government appointments to the vacant positions on the board.

Capital Assistance Scheme Funding

Questions (491)

Jim Daly

Question:

491. Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if there is any funding available from his Department to assist a community group (details supplied) with the construction of a settlement of eight housing units for elderly persons to live independently. [8173/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

Under my Department’s Capital Assistance Scheme (CAS), funding of up to 100% of the approved cost is available to Approved Housing Bodies for the provision of accommodation to meet the needs of persons with specific categories of housing need including older people, people with an intellectual, physical or mental health disability, the homeless, returning emigrants and victims of domestic violence etc. My Department’s involvement with the CAS relates primarily to the provision of funds for individual projects. The detailed administration of the scheme, including the appraisal of proposals, the certification that projects comply with the terms and conditions of the funding scheme and the processing of applications for funding, are the responsibility of the relevant local authority. Approvals are largely based on the prioritisation afforded to individual proposals by the local authority in question.

Work is currently underway on preparing the capital allocations under the Social Housing Investment Programme for 2013, including the CAS measure. As part of this process my Department requested local authorities to submit details of their capital requirements for this year in respect of all approved projects and programmes. I will review the potential to invite local authorities to submit new CAS applications in the light of the available finances and the submissions received from local authorities.

Rental Accommodation Scheme Criteria

Questions (492)

Sandra McLellan

Question:

492. Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will have inspectors, independent of local authorities, inspect local authority houses to investigate the number that are up to the 2008 housing regulations and that a grant be made available to upgrade all stock; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8176/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

Minimum standards for rental accommodation are prescribed in the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2008, as amended by the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) (Amendment) Regulations 2009, made under section 18 of the Housing (scellaneous Provisions) Act 1992.

With very limited exemptions these regulations apply to local authority and non-profit approved housing body units as well as private re nt ed accommodation and responsibility for enforcing the 2008 Regulations rests with the relevant local authority. In discharging their responsibilities in relation to the rented sector, authorities have been asked to have regard to the Good Practice Guidelines for Local Authorities on Standards in the Private Rented Sector: Strategic Planning, Effective Enforcement published by the Centre for Housing Research in November 2007, which makes a range of recommendations on matters relevant to inspection procedures such as identifying and targeting inspection requirements. Details of the number of inspections carried out and the amounts paid to each local authority are available on my Department’s website www.environ.ie.

In general, local authorities have significantly expanded their inspection activity with the number of inspections growing from 6,815 in 2005 to 19,820 in 2011. I do not propose to establish an inspection system independent of the local authorities but the quality and the outcomes of the current inspections regime will continue to be kept under review by my Department. With regard to the standard of local authority housing stock, under my Department’s Social Housing Investment Programme, local authorities are allocated funding each year in respect of a range of measures to improve the standard and overall quality of their social housing stock. The programme includes a retrofitting measure aimed at improving the energy efficiency of older apartments and houses by reducing heat loss through the fabric of the building. Over the past two years, the retrofitting measure focussed on improvement works to vacant houses with the objective of returning as many as possible of these dwellings to productive use and combating dereliction and associated anti-social behaviour. Over that period some €52.5 million was recouped to local authorities in respect of improvements carried out to 4,774 dwellings.

Septic Tank Grants

Questions (493, 497)

Paul Connaughton

Question:

493. Deputy Paul J. Connaughton asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if schools who have registered their septic tank or waste water treatment plant will receive a grant if their system requires an upgrade; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8186/13]

View answer

Pat Deering

Question:

497. Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if a commencement date has been set for the septic tank upgrade grant in view of the fact that the current situation is causing uncertainty resulting in very few tanks and systems been sold at this time with a knock on effect on suppliers. [8273/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 493 and 497 together.

The Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012 requires owners of premises connected to domestic waste water treatment systems to register their systems. The requirement to register does not apply to schools. If a school’s treatment system has been registered in error, the person who registered it should apply to the Local Government Management Agency’s central bureau to have the treatment system removed from the register and the registration fee refunded.

I recently announced my intention to introduce a grant scheme to provide financial assistance to households whose septic tanks and other domestic wastewater treatment systems are deemed to require remediation following an inspection under the Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012. The grant scheme will only apply to treatment systems which are the subject of an Advisory Notice issued by a water services authority following an inspection carried out under the 2012 Act and based on the EPA’s risk-based inspection plan. Full details of the grants scheme will be set out in regulations which I will make in advance of inspections commencing later this year.

Social and Affordable Housing Expenditure

Question No. 495 answered with Question No. 487.

Questions (494)

Robert Troy

Question:

494. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will be giving county councils any money this year to purchase homes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8200/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Government’s housing policy statement, published in June 2011, clearly identifies that the priority for Government will be to meet the most acute needs of households applying for social housing support. I am determined to ensure that the social housing programme is framed in a manner which optimises the delivery of social housing and the return for the resources invested. To achieve this it is essential that we tailor the use of available Exchequer supports to prevailing conditions and explore the full range of solutions to address housing needs.

The social housing capital budget has been reduced from €1.535 billion in 2008 to €332.7m in 2012, with an anticipated outturn of some €299m for 2013, and the financial parameters within which we will be operating for the coming years rule out a return to large capital funded construction programmes. Nevertheless, the Government is committed to responding more quickly and on a larger scale to social housing support needs through a variety of mechanisms, including through increased provision of social housing. In spite of the challenging circumstances within which local authorities have been operating, a tentative out-turn in the order of 4,000 housing units was achieved in 2012. Given the current volatility of the market and different challenges to the channels of supply, it is difficult to estimate the likely output of new units for social housing this year. However, it is provisionally estimated that in the region of 5,000 units will be provided for social housing in 2013.

Delivery of social housing will be significantly facilitated through more flexible funding models such as social leasing, but the Government is also committed to developing other funding mechanisms that will increase the supply of permanent new social housing. Such mechanisms will include options to purchase, build to lease and the sourcing of loan finance by approved housing bodies for construction and acquisition.

There is also obvious potential, across a range of housing programmes, for the Government’s objective of sourcing and providing suitable residential units for use as social housing to be aligned with the commercial objectives of the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA). My Department and the Housing Agency are working closely with NAMA with the aim of ensuring that a significant number of housing units are made available in this way by NAMA in the current year and beyond.

Question No. 495 answered with Question No. 487.

Merchandising of Coal

Question No. 497 answered with Question No. 493.

Questions (496)

Joe McHugh

Question:

496. Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide an update on changes in the merchandising of all coals from 1 May 2013; the way these changes will impact on different merchants with different sized turnover and different distribution methodologies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8267/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

The ban on the marketing, sale and distribution of bituminous fuel (or ‘smoky coal ban’ as it is commonly known) was first introduced in Dublin in 1990 in response to severe episodes of winter smog that resulted from the widespread use of smoky coal for residential heating. Air quality monitoring carried out by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shows that the ban has proved very effective in reducing particulate matter and sulphur dioxide levels in Dublin and the ban was subsequently extended to other urban areas. The ban currently applies in twenty cities and towns.

The main legislative provisions that apply inside specified smoky coal ban areas are as follows: a ban on the marketing, sale and distribution of bituminous fuel; requirement to sell smokeless coal in sealed bags with a printed notice; requirement to maintain a register if storing bituminous fuel for the purpose of placing on the market or on sale at a separate location outside the ban area; bituminous fuel can only be transported in minimum quantities of 3 metric tonnes in Dublin or 1 tonne inside other ban areas; and drivers of vehicles transporting bituminous fuel must hold a record detailing the type of fuel on board, who supplied it and where it is being transported to.

On 31 August 2012, following a public consultation process, I gave effect to new consolidating solid fuel regulations, the Air Pollution Act (Marketing, Sale, Distribution and Burning of Specified Fuels) Regulations 2012. Some improved and updated provisions were introduced that will help to ensure that the Regulations remain fit for purpose in safeguarding air quality by limiting harmful emissions of air pollutants arising from the use of residential fuels. These are as follows: most existing smoky coal ban area boundaries were revised to take recent urban development into account; seven new  towns will be added to the ban from May 2013 - Greystones, Letterkenny, Mullingar, Navan, Newbridge, Portlaoise and Wicklow Town; and a prohibition on the burning of bituminous fuel was provided for, to complement the established ban on its marketing, sale and distribution.

The Regulations also require that all bituminous coal sold outside smoky coal ban areas for residential use outside those areas must have a sulphur content of no more than 0.7%. This consolidates the environmental and related human health benefits achieved by an earlier voluntary agreement with the Solid Fuel Trade Group (SFTG), representing the majority of major coal importers.

Coal bagging operators and certain solid fuel suppliers trading in bituminous coal must be registered with the EPA. Those who must register include all fuel wholesalers and distributors of bituminous coal but only those retailers for whom 50% or more of their total annual sales proceeds are from bituminous coal. However all retailers who trade in bituminous coal must ensure that their fuel wholesalers are registered with the EPA and must hold a record to this effect with their supplier's registration number.

The Regulations continue to be enforced by local authority authorised persons. Authorised persons may undertake inspections of premises and vehicles being used for the sale and distribution of solid fuel as well as collect samples. A local authority may bring a prosecution under section 11 of the Air Pollution Act 1987 for breaches of the Regulations. The maximum penalty for breaches of the Regulations is a fine of €5,000 and/or imprisonment for up to six months on summary conviction.

Question No. 497 answered with Question No. 493.

Public Sector Staff Recruitment

Questions (498)

Robert Dowds

Question:

498. Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if there is any recruitment moratorium for fire and emergency services; and if so, whether it is possible to say at what point that moratorium will be brought to an end. [8280/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

The embargo on the filling of posts in the Local Government Service was introduced on 24 March 2009 following a Government Decision to implement savings measures across the wider public service. My Department received a delegated sanction from the Department of Finance in August 2009 for implementation of this general moratorium on the filling of public sector posts across all local authorities.

Under section 159 of the Local Government Act 2001, each County and City Manager is responsible for staffing and organisational arrangements necessary for carrying out the functions of the local authorities for which he or she is responsible. In this regard, it is a matter for County and City managers, in the first instance, to ensure that the reduction in staff numbers is managed so that the appropriate service level is maintained within budgetary and staffing constraints.

Where vacancies arise, local authorities must consider all options for reorganisation and reallocation of work to meet requirements. Any exceptions to the moratorium require sanction from my Department. All staffing sanction requests are examined on a case by case basis having due regard to the continued delivery of key services and the need further to reduce overall staffing levels in the local authority sector. My Department works closely with local authorities to ensure that key posts are filled. In this regard, the majority of the sanctions granted are for the filling of posts in frontline service areas such as fire and emergency services, water services, roads maintenance, housing, community and enterprise, and in relation to capital projects. Of the 585 requests received in respect of Fire and Emergency service posts since 2009, 480 have been sanctioned, 8 have been withdrawn, 3 have been refused and 94 are pending.

In view of the financial position facing local authorities, and the country as a whole, it is necessary to continue to focus on achieving the greatest possible savings. In this context, my Department and local authorities will continue to make every effort to ensure that further efficiencies and savings are attained by the sector while an appropriate level of service to the public is maintained.

Local Authority Housing Provision

Questions (499)

Dessie Ellis

Question:

499. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government in view of the Pullen and others versus Dublin City Council section 62 Judgement, when he intends to bring forward legislation to facilitate local authorities in refusing to house applicants who are involved in drug dealing and severe anti-social behaviour. [8293/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

I am not aware of any court judgement that gives rise to consideration of an amendment of section 14 of the Housing (scellaneous Provisions) Act 1997 , which provides that a housing authority may refuse to allocate, or defer the allocation of, a dwelling to a person on specified grounds, including that the authority considers that the person is or has been engaged in anti-social behaviour or that an allocation to that person would not be in the interest of good estate management. Section 1 of the 1997 Act defines “anti-social behaviour” to include drug dealing and “estate management” to include the avoidance, prevention or abatement of anti-social behaviour.

The court case referred to relates to section 62 of the Housing Act 1966, which sets out the procedure for repossession of a dwelling by a housing authority. Dublin City Council has appealed the High Court ’s 2008 judgement in that case to the Supreme Court. I refer to the reply to Question No. 462 of 12 February 2013, which sets out the position regarding the 2012 Supreme Court judgement in 2 other cases relating to section 62 of the 1966 Act.

Local Authority Housing Waiting Lists

Questions (500, 501)

Dessie Ellis

Question:

500. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of persons currently on the housing waiting list for the Ballymun and Finglas area of Dublin city. [8295/13]

View answer

Dessie Ellis

Question:

501. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of persons currently on housing waiting lists for local authorities across the State; the reason they were assessed as having a housing need; and if he will provide a breakdown by local authority and the number of applicants currently waiting over five years and over ten years respectively. [8296/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 500 and 501 together.

My Department does not hold information on the number of households on local authorities’ waiting lists. This figure continuously fluctuates as households are allocated housing and new households apply for housing support. Detailed information on the latest statutory assessment of housing need which was carried out in March 2011, including a breakdown by authority and category of need, is available on my Department ’ s website – www.environ.ie, or on the Housing Agency’s website at www.housing.ie.

Section 21 of the 2009 Housing Act replaces previous provisions in relation to the statutory assessment of housing need and all housing authorities have been directed to provide a summary report of social housing assessments under this provision as at 30 April 2013. The findings from these summaries will be published in the autumn.

Household Charge Purpose

Questions (502)

Michael McCarthy

Question:

502. Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will stipulate in percentage terms the amount of the revenue raised from the household charge that has gone directly to local authorities for the purposes of local services; if he will provide a breakdown of the total amount of revenue provided to each local authority in respect of the household charge only; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8305/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011 provides the legislative basis for the Household Charge. Under the Act, an owner of a residential property on the liability date is liable to pay the Household Charge, unless otherwise exempted or entitled to claim a waiver. It is a matter for an owner of a residential property to determine liability and pay the Charge. The Local Government Management Agency is administering the Household Charge system on a shared service/agency basis for all county and city councils.

The following table details, as of 14 February 2013, the total Household Charge revenue raised by local authority area. All Household Charge revenues are provided to the local government sector to resource the services the sector provides.

County/City Council

Total Payments

Carlow

1,328,354

Cavan

1,756,719

Clare

3,539,142

Cork City

2,955,028

Cork County

9,980,387

Donegal

4,022,227

Dublin City

14,429,134

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown

6,528,990

Fingal

6,429,989

Galway City

2,190,200

Galway County

4,549,932

Kerry

4,589,784

Kildare

4,778,837

Kilkenny

2,300,250

Laois

1,764,442

Leitrim

965,729

Limerick City

1,479,096

Limerick County

3,349,666

Longf ord

923,860

Louth

2,646,427

Mayo

4,169,009

Meath

4,096,910

Monaghan

1,471,842

North Tipperary

1,883,516

Offaly

1,653,861

Roscommon

1,814,967

Sligo

1,950,541

South Dublin

5,552,614

South Tipperary

2,193,188

Waterford City

1,127,164

Waterford County

1,754,424

Westmeath

2,137,635

Wexford

3,878,197

Wicklow

3,356,084

National

117,548,145

Wastewater Treatment Issues

Questions (503, 504, 505, 506, 507, 524, 525, 526, 527, 528)

Pádraig MacLochlainn

Question:

503. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the date on which Lough Foyle was first designated as coastal waters for the purposes of the EC Urban Waste Water Directive; and the guidelines that were used at the time. [8309/13]

View answer

Pádraig MacLochlainn

Question:

504. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the identification of the outer limits of estuaries here was subject of a report by the Environmental Protection Agency to his Department in 1995 when UK guidelines were accepted in defining Lough Foyle as coastal waters; if his further attention has been drawn to the fact that in the UK this sea classification for the Severn and Humber estuaries was overruled in a judicial review in January 1996 against the UK DoE; and the reasons the EPA has not recategorised Lough Foyle as estuarine waters despite the repeated requests of local residents to do so. [8310/13]

View answer

Pádraig MacLochlainn

Question:

505. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that if Lough Foyle is not reclassified as estuarine waters it will be subsumed into the Water Framework Directive in May of this year; the measures he will take to ensure this does not happen; and the measures he will take to ensure that this reclassification happens in a timely manner prior to final submission for inclusion in the WFD this coming May. [8311/13]

View answer

Pádraig MacLochlainn

Question:

506. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if during discussions between the Irish and British Governments regarding the question of jurisdiction over the Foyle and Carlingford estuaries, if the rules of environmental protection are being built into any proposed agreement; and if any proposed agreement will protect against the use of estuaries for polluting discharges. [8312/13]

View answer

Pádraig MacLochlainn

Question:

507. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views on whether the Ramsar designation for the entirety of Lough Foyle based on the Ramsar Convention would be beneficial for the Lough and its surrounding communities; his plans to ensure this designation is awarded to Lough Foyle; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8313/13]

View answer

Joe McHugh

Question:

524. Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the date on which Lough Foyle was first designated as coastal waters for the purposes of the EC Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive; and the guidelines that were used at that time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8833/13]

View answer

Joe McHugh

Question:

525. Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government with reference to the identification of the outer limits of estuaries in Ireland as a subject of a report by the Environmental Protection Agency to his Department in 1995 in which the UK guidelines were accepted in defining Lough Foyle as coastal waters, and with reference to the UK's sea classification for the Severn and Humber estuaries which was overruled in a judicial review in January 1996 against the UK Department of the Environment and ruled that the proposals were not within the spirit of the directive, the reason the EPA has not revised the classification of Lough Foyle from coastal waters back to the very proper and historically accepted estuarine waters, despite the requests of concerned residents in the Lough Foyle area to do so. [8834/13]

View answer

Joe McHugh

Question:

526. Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views on whether, if the current classification of Lough Foyle as coastal waters is not revoked immediately and returned to estuarine/transitional waters, this contentious classification and therefore the looser environmental protection of the Foyle estuary associated with it, will be subsumed into the Water Framework Directive in May of this year; if he will outline the measures that he will take to ensure this will not happen; if he will ensure that the relevant officials take immediate action to reclassify Lough Foyle as estuarine waters, prior to final submission for inclusion in the WFD in May this year. [8835/13]

View answer

Joe McHugh

Question:

527. Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government with reference to the Ramsar designation for the entirety of Lough Foyle as a recognised and desired objective by the Ramsar Convention and its implications for such designation for both the Lough and its surrounding communities, the action he will take to assist in obtaining this designation for Lough Foyle. [8836/13]

View answer

Joe McHugh

Question:

528. Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government with reference to the ongoing discussions between the UK and Irish governments on the question of jurisdiction over the Foyle and Carlingford estuaries, if the communities around these Estuaries will be assured that rules of environmental protection are built in to any contemplated agreement which will protect against use of these estuaries for polluting discharges, when open water is adjacent, and in particular from diverting polluting discharges away from open water and into the estuarine waters under any circumstances. [8837/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 503 to 507, inclusive and 524 to 528, inclusive, together.

The Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive requires Member States to establish the outer (seaward) limits of estuaries for the purposes of the Directive. In a February 1995 report to my Department, Identification of the Outer Limits of Estuaries in Ireland, the EPA, in consultation with the authorities in Northern Ireland, established the outer limit of the estuary of the Foyle river in that context. The objective criteria used in the establishment of these limits were geomorphic and chemical (i.e. salinity) factors. I understand that alternative criteria were used by the UK authorities in establishing the limits in the Severn and Humber estuaries.

The outer limit of Lough Foyle was subsequently used in the identification of the estuary as a transitional water under the Water Framework Directive and the remaining waters of the Lough outside this boundary as a coastal water, in accordance with the requirements of Regulation 7 of the European Communities (Water Policy) Regulations, 2003. All surface water and groundwater bodies have been classified in accordance with these Regulations which give effect to the Water Framework Directive.

The Water Framework Directive is an overarching Directive that establishes a framework for the management of water resources in the European Union. It requires, inter alia, the achievement of good ecological status in all surface waters, the definition of which includes both transitional and coastal waters. As regards environmental objectives, the Water Framework Directive draws no distinction between transitional waters and coastal waters; there is no question of a looser environmental protection associated with the classification of water bodies as either transitional or coastal waters. The Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive is one of the basic measures of the Water Framework Directive.

Discussions regarding the question of jurisdiction over the Foyle and Carlingford Estuaries are a matter for my colleague the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade. I understand these discussions are ongoing. While resolution of the jurisdictional issues should further assist in the implementation of environmental law, including relevant EU Directives, there is already excellent ongoing cooperation between the authorities in both jurisdictions on matters relating to the environment, many of which are mandated to the North South Ministerial Council established under the British Irish Agreement.

The designation of sites under the Ramsar Convention is a matter for my colleague the nister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. I understand that Ireland currently has 45 designated sites (almost 67,000 hectares) under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance. I also understand that Ireland’s priorities and resources in relation to site designations are currently focused on fully implementing the requirements of the EU Habitats Directive and the EU Birds Directive (EU Nature Directives).