Question No. 148 answered with Question No. 9.

Fire Safety Regulations

Questions (149)

Joe Higgins

Question:

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.

Constitutional Amendments

Questions (150)

Joe Higgins

Question:

150. Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will report on the timeframe for the proposed referendum to reduce the voting age to 16 years. [35073/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

I provided to the Oireachtas, in this House, the Government response to the first report of the Convention on the Constitution. The Government welcomed that report and accepted the main recommendations of the convention in the report. These included a recommendation that the Constitution should be changed to provide for a voting age of 16 years. The Government committed therefore to holding a referendum before the end of 2015 on a proposal to amend the Constitution to provide for a voting age of 16.

We are now proceeding with preparations for bringing forward the relevant legislation and, as I said last July this will include careful examination of the consequences of such a change across the policy spectrum including for the age of majority.

Recycling Policy

Question No. 152 answered with Question No. 18.

Questions (151)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

151. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will consider the introduction of a deposit retention tax for certain metal cans and plastic bottles with the specific focus of reducing littering and environmental pollution; if not, the reason for same; if he has conducted a feasibility study in relation to same; if he will share the findings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44900/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

In June 2012, as part of a commitment in the Programme for Government to examine the introduction of a levy on packaging in conjunction with a waste reduction programme, I initiated a root and branch review of all aspects of the Producer Responsibility Initiative model in Ireland. The aim of the review was to assess the nature and level of the challenges which are currently facing the existing Producer Responsibility Agreements as well as the forthcoming challenges that are expected to arise in the management of various waste streams. My Department also completed a consultation process with stakeholders on this issue.

Following completion of the consultation process and the receipt of the consultant's report, I decided, after careful consideration, not to proceed with the introduction of a packaging levy at this time. The primary reason for my decision is that the introduction of a packaging levy is likely to generate a number of regulatory costs to business and the public sector with few identifiable benefits, given our very successful packaging recovery and recycling performance to date in Ireland. In addition, the consultant's report does not recommend the introduction of a Deposit and Refund scheme as to establish such a scheme is inappropriate, in view of the operation of the existing packaging scheme [Repak] and policies concerning household waste collection, plus the high administrative costs of introducing such a system.

The consultant's report is available on my Department's website and can be accessed at: http://www.environ.ie/en/PublicationsDocuments/FileDownLoad,34038,en.pdf.

Question No. 152 answered with Question No. 18.

Homelessness Strategy

Questions (153)

Alan Farrell

Question:

153. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the preventive measures currently being used to ensure that those who move on from homelessness are able to maintain long-term stable housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44929/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The importance of homeless preventative measures, such as housing advice, advocacy and tenancy support are acknowledged in the homeless strategy, The Way Home: A Strategy to Address Adult Homelessness in Ireland 2008-2013. Early and effective interventions are essential to prevent the occurrence or reoccurrence of homelessness. Wider Government policy initiatives to tackle early school leaving, unemployment, addiction and mental ill-health and supports for vulnerable families will ultimately contribute to a reduction in the number of people becoming homeless. An effective role is also necessary at local level in identifying and addressing the needs of at risk households and groups and encouraging the development of preventative measures on a regional basis.

Earlier in 2013, I published the Government's Homelessness Policy Statement in which I outlined the Government's aim to end long-term homelessness by the end of 2016. The statement emphasises a housing-led approach which is about accessing permanent housing as the primary response to all forms of homelessness, and includes provision for homelessness preventative measures and supports for homeless people with special needs. The availability and supply of secure, affordable and adequate housing is essential in ensuring sustainable tenancies and ending long-term homelessness.

Arrangements have been put in place to provide for the delegation of homelessness funding to the lead housing authority in each of the 9 regions. These arrangements seek to ensure that the measures being pursued by housing authorities reflect the housing-led approach advocated in the policy statement, that actions are in place towards achieving the target of ending long-term homelessness by the end of 2016, and that evidence to support progress will be presented through the reports on the relevant service indicators.

Homelessness Strategy

Questions (154)

Alan Farrell

Question:

154. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to reverse the April 2013 30% increase in the number of persons sleeping rough on the streets of Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44930/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

Traditionally it has been difficult to quantify the number of homeless persons on an on-going basis; this is in part a consequence of the volatility within this cohort of housing need. However, during the course of 2013 the Pathway Accommodation & Support System (PASS), which commenced operation in Dublin in 2011, is being extended nationally. When PASS is fully implemented nationally it will provide good quality, timely data which will allow housing authorities to report in relation to the on-going extent and the dynamics of homelessness as it is addressed.

In advance of the full implementation of PASS the most complete set of data available in relation to homelessness nationally is the Central Statistics Office's special Census report, Homeless Persons in Ireland, which was published on 6 September 2012. This report indicated that a total of 65 individuals were sleeping rough on Census night, 10 April 2011, while identifying a further 3,743 people as housed in accommodation defined as emergency, transitional or long-term. Of the total of 3,808 individuals included in the report, almost 60% were in long-term or transitional housing arrangements.

A count of rough sleepers conducted in April 2013, organised by the Dublin Region Homeless Consultative Forum, found that there was 94 persons confirmed as sleeping rough on the night in question. These rough sleeper figures indicate the significant challenge in dealing with the complexity of the homelessness issue and the difficulties in finding answers to it. Rough sleeping is monitored closely countrywide but particularly in Dublin. The problem of rough sleeping is very limited outside of Dublin, with Cork, Waterford, Limerick and Galway City Councils reporting sufficient bed capacity on a nightly basis and that there is no one sleeping rough due to a lack of a bed. The Dublin Region's Outreach Team works on an on-going basis to engage with all individuals sleeping rough with the specific goal of moving people into accommodation through Dublin City Council's Central Placement Service. Indeed, Dublin City Council recently commenced a public awareness campaign to encourage members of the public to contact the Outreach team about persons sleeping rough with a view to moving people into temporary accommodation and on to independent living.

The priority of this Government is to ensure that homeless people have access to secure, stable, appropriate accommodation. It is not acceptable that people should sleep on the streets of our cities and towns. While the immediate hardship of sleeping rough may be solved through emergency accommodation, this is not a viable long term solution. The recently published Homelessness Policy Statement outlined the Government's aim to end long-term homelessness by the end of 2016. The statement emphasises a housing-led approach which is about accessing permanent housing as the primary response to all forms of homelessness. While it is clear that a proportion of funding must be used to provide sufficient bed capacity to accommodate those in need of emergency accommodation, it is equally important that resources are channelled to deliver more permanent responses in a more focused and strategic way. In the Dublin region in 2012, 879 people moved from homelessness to independent living.

Statutory responsibility in relation to the provision of accommodation and related services for homeless persons rests with the housing authorities. Work continues between central and local government and the voluntary sector to ensure that the considerable monies spent on services for the homeless are effectively and appropriately targeted.