Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Questions (149)

Joe Higgins


149. Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the specific fire safety building regulations which were not complied with in the case of Priory Hall; and if he will confirm that such breaches of fire safety building regulations do not exist in other housing estates constructed during the building boom, in particular in the nearby Belmayne estate. [44771/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

In late 2008, following a complaint to Dublin Fire Brigade, Dublin City Council became concerned about fire safety issues more generally at Priory Hall and came to regard the buildings as potentially dangerous. Several attempts to have the developer address fire safety concerns were unsuccessful and on 3 December 2009 Dublin City Council delivered a letter by hand to each occupied apartment advising them that Fire Safety Notices had been served on the developer which prohibited the use of the buildings until such time as works specified in the Fire Safety Notices had been completed.

The Housing Department of Dublin City Council subsequently engaged consultant engineers to carry out a detailed investigation of the buildings which identified further and more serious concerns than had been uncovered by any previous inspection. Since that time the local authority has used the statutory powers available to it to pursue compliance with planning permission conditions and with fire safety and building standards requirements, all of which are at issue in relation to Priory Hall. Failure by the developer to honour court undertakings to remedy fire safety defects led to the High Court orders to evacuate the development in October 2011.

With a view to preparing for remediation of the development Dublin City Council last year commissioned a full-scale technical survey of the apartment units at Priory Hall in its ownership in order to identify all necessary remediation works required in order to bring the units into compliance with the current requirements of the building regulations. It is understood that, while the superstructure of the development is sound, significant remediation works are required and will include: replacement or securing of the entire brick façade, stabilisation of certain floors and walls, addressing widespread fire stopping and compartmentalisation defects, correction of stairs, removal of a small number of inner rooms, securing railings and stair rails, adding insulation, and removal of pyritic hardcore in one block. A full-scale technical survey of the remaining units will be necessary before arrangements for re-design and remediation works can be put in place.

In relation to Belmayne my Department understands that Dublin City Council, through Dublin Fire Brigade, was previously notified by the developer of a construction defect affecting 232 properties at the Belmayne Housing Complex. The developer, acting responsibly in consultation with his Fire Engineer, contacted the Local Authority immediately and undertook to carry out remedial works to all of the properties affected. Dublin City Council and the Fire Consultants for the developer agreed on the works necessary to rectify the problem units. The Fire Officer is satisfied that when these remedial works are completed this defect will have been addressed.

My Department understands that remediation work on 225 units has now been completed while 7 units remain to be remediated but the developer has to date been unable to gain access to these properties. The onus in this instance is on the developer to ensure compliance with the requirements of Part B of the Building Regulations and my Department understands that the developer has retained the services of Fire Safety Consultants to carry out inspections of the works during the remediation process.

In relation to the more general issue of building control and fire safety concerns in other developments it is important to note that implementation and enforcement of the building control system is a matter for the local building control authority. My Department has no function in assessing, checking or testing compliance, or otherwise, of specific works or developments. My Department continues, however, to liaise with local authorities in relation to significant building control issues that have arisen in a number of multi-unit developments across the country. I have urged local authorities to continue to use all of the powers currently available to them to address issues of building standards compliance, including in relation to fire safety.