Environmental Impact Statements

Questions (57)

Thomas Pringle

Question:

57. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government in view of the court rejection of the Corrib gas terminal licence application if he will consider a system where environmental impact assessments for planning applications are undertaken independently by local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44804/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) of 3 March 2011 in case C50/09 found that Irish legislation was not fully in conformity with the EIA Directive (2011/92/EU). Specifically, the Court found that in a case where a project requiring EIA required both planning permission and an Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) licence, the fact that Irish legislation did not prevent the Environment Protection Agency from making a licensing decision before the planning permission application was decided, and therefore before the EIA was completed, meant that part of the overall consent for the project (i.e. the licence) was being decided without an EIA being first carried out, contrary to Articles 2 and 4 of the EIA Directive.

In order to comply with the Court ruling it was necessary to make amendments to the Environmental Protection Agency Act, 1992 and the Planning and Development Act, 2000 in relation to the assessment of projects which require both a consent under the Planning and Development Act 2000 and an IPPC licence. These amendments were made in the European Union (Environmental Impact Assessment) (Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control) Regulations 2012, which came into effect on 30 September 2012 (new application for IPPC licences) and the European Union (Environmental Impact Assessment) (Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control) (No.2) Regulations 2012, which came into effect on 15 November 2012 (IPPC licence applications on hands).

I consider that the legislation in relation to the environmental impact assessment of the projects referred to above is now fully compliant with the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive and I have no plans further to amend the legislation in this regard.

Local Authority Housing Mortgages

Questions (58)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

58. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 68 of 16 October 2013, in respect of which a generic reply was received in respect of a specific question, if it is accepted that the role of the local authorities in the context of the determination of eligibility for local authority housing loans differs from that of commercial lending or banking institutions in so far as the local authority is a statutory housing authority with responsibility to meet the housing needs of those eligible under two headings, namely directly built local authority houses and by way of local authority loans; if it is recognised that the activities of the Irish Credit Bureau are effectively frustrating the latter function; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44785/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The reply to Parliamentary Question No. 68 of the 16 of October 2013 sets out the intrinsic role of the Irish Credit Bureau in the local authority loan process, as was requested. It would not be appropriate for me to comment on individual loan applications.

Local authorities have for many years provided housing loan finance to people of limited means and who could not access such finance in the commercial market. One of the qualifying conditions for such local authority loans was the provision of evidence of refusal from two commercial lenders. In extending housing loans, local authorities are as flexible as possible when dealing with borrowers experiencing difficulties servicing those loans.

Housing loans extended by local authorities are based on obtaining matching finance from the Housing Finance Agency which must in turn be serviced by local authorities. Any default on a housing loan exposes the local authority to a drain on its finances in continuing to service loans. In extending loans, it is also critical to ensure that borrowers are capable of servicing the loan sought, thus avoiding the distress which might ensue should the home be repossessed as a result of unsustainability.

The credit guidelines for housing loans, introduced in 2009, were intended to standardise best practice throughout the sector, and apply a transparent and coherent process to the assessment of loans. Central to this was the requirement to have the application subjected to examination by the Irish Credit Bureau, to ensure that each loan was similarly treated and assessed. Anecdotally, loans extended under the guidelines are performing more satisfactorily than those not subjected to these guidelines.

I am satisfied that the guidelines in place, and the checking of applications by the Irish Credit Bureau, represent prudent practice and work in the best interests of borrower and lender alike.

Departmental Expenditure

Questions (59)

Mick Wallace

Question:

59. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government in view of the fact that the European Count of Justice has several cases against Ireland over non-implementation of environmental legislation, the way these will be addressed if the implementation of the capital programme is delayed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44819/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

There are currently two cases in which the Court of Justice of the European Union has delivered judgment in areas for which my Department has responsibility and which involve capital works. These cases relate to implementation of Directives on urban wastewater treatment and waste management.

Water and wastewater schemes and contracts included in my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2010 – 2013, which are being promoted to ensure compliance with EU requirements, have been progressed as expeditiously as possible and continue to be progressed in that manner. From 1 January 2014, Irish Water will take over responsibility for the delivery of water services capital infrastructure and is currently preparing a Capital Investment Plan for 2014 - 2015. I expect that this Plan will include relevant projects from the current Water Services Investment Programme.

Capital expenditure and related efforts to address issues cited in the waste management case will continue in 2014 and no delay is envisaged. At its meeting of 24 April 2012, the Government approved a proposed programme of measures agreed with the European Commission to deal with outstanding issues and agreed to the provision of funds from voted expenditure, as it becomes necessary, to support the work of local authorities and the Environmental Protection Agency in bringing the case and associated matters to conclusion. Voted expenditure will supplement the funding that will continue to be provided from the Environment Fund.

I have prioritised the resolution of issues arising from environmental infringement cases and my Department is working hard to resolve these and other cases as soon as possible.

EU Funding

Questions (60)

Seán Crowe

Question:

60. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if the proposed socioeconomic committee will be the channel for EU funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44812/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

Neither the regulations in respect of, nor the value of, any EU funded local development programmes are agreed at this stage for the next programming round 2014-2020. Consideration of these matters is ongoing and is expected to be finalised in the coming months.

Similarly, implementation arrangements for local development programmes under the new local governance arrangements set out under Putting People First - Action Programme for Effective Local Government, remain under consideration by the Alignment Working Group established to advise and assist my Department in the implementation of the alignment recommendations. The Working Group's considerations are now advanced regarding the optimum programme implementation arrangements under Local Community Development Committees which will be established in each local authority area to have responsibility for planning and oversight of local and community development programmes. It is my intention that Local Community Development Committees will have primary responsibility for co-ordination, oversight and governance of the EU-supported LEADER programme.

Foreshore Licences Applications

Questions (61)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

61. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government with regard to forthcoming amendments to the Foreshore Act if a company (details supplied) will be able to reactivate its previous application for oil exploration in the foreshore or if it will need to commence the process again; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44773/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

There is no provision in the Foreshore Act to allow reactivation of an application. If a licensee surrenders a foreshore licence and subsequently proposes to pursue the same development, a new application is necessary. It is not proposed to alter this position in the Maritime Area and Foreshore (Amendment) Bill, the general scheme of which was approved by Government in July 2013.

Budget Measures

Questions (62)

Martin Ferris

Question:

62. Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his Department carried out any impact assessments in the run up to budget 2014 to ascertain the possible social consequences of spending changes proposed, factoring in the overall economic cost in dealing with such consequences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44838/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Abridged Estimate for my Department, published by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in Expenditure Report 2014, provides €766 million in respect of the programmes and services for which my Department is responsible. These resources are supplemented by €240 million in Exchequer equity investment in Irish Water to fund the water and wastewater capital programme, a further €50 million announced in the Budget to fund infrastructural investment primarily in the housing area, and other resources available from the Local Government and Environment Funds.

The process of framing Budget 2014 involved making difficult choices given the overriding need to make the fiscal adjustments required to support exit from the EU-IMF Programme. The resource allocation assessment and decision-making processes in my Department aimed to ensure that the available resources were allocated in the fairest way possible, while at the same time making the maximum contribution to job creation and economic recovery. Key programmes with significant social impact have been protected to the greatest extent possible. For example, in 2014 there is funding of €79m for Housing Regeneration; €48m for the Local and Community Development Programme; €45m for homeless accommodation; and €2m for employment opportunities for the long-term unemployed.

Homeless Persons Supports

Questions (63)

Sandra McLellan

Question:

63. Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that homelessness charities are not currently funded adequately even to operate at current capacity and that many are experiencing major problems, with volunteers and workers unable to continue working due to increased stress resulting from increased demand and decreased funding. [44844/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

My Department's role in relation to homelessness involves the provision of a national framework of policy, legislation and funding to underpin the role of housing authorities in addressing homelessness at local level. Statutory responsibility in relation to the provision of accommodation for homeless persons rests with the housing authorities. The purposes for which housing authorities may incur expenditure in addressing homelessness are prescribed in Section 10 of the Housing Act 1988.

My Department does not fund any service directly but provides funding to housing authorities towards the operational costs of homeless accommodation and related services under Section 10 of the Housing Act 1988. The bulk of Section 10 funding from my Department goes towards the costs incurred in the provision of accommodation services by the voluntary sector providers who have built up the services over the years. In addition, Section 10 funding is used to support day services such as drop-in centres and food services, as well as outreach services, settlement and tenancy sustainment services and the cost of local authority and voluntary sector staff.

The Section 10 funding provided in 2012 by my Department and through local authorities to wards the costs incurred by voluntary sector providers in providing homeless accommodation and related services is set out in the table below. Housing authorities provide additional funding from their own resources to these providers. Definitive data relating to 2013 funding will not be available until the end of the year.

Section 10 Funding to Voluntary Sector Providers in 2012

Charities

Funding

Simon Communities Ireland

€5,009,583

Focus Ireland

€3,929,768

Crosscare

€2,629,787

St. Vincent de Paul

€2,489,158

DePaul Trust

€2,202,599

Salvation Army

€1,820,893

Peter McVerry Trust

€1,531,796

Novas

€1,919,081

Sophia

€939,55 4

Cope

€829,356

Sonas

€677,294

Cuan Mhuire - Teach Mhuire

€747,401

Sisters of Charity

€252,979

Threshold

€334,382

Merchants Quay Dublin

€800,470

TOTAL

€26,114,101

In addition, details of the funding provided by my Department to organisations tackling the issue of homelessness, under the Scheme to Support National Organisations in 2012, are set out in the following table.

Organisation

2012 - €

Simon Communities of Ireland

90,000

I have no function in relation to the financial viability of homelessness charities.