Air Strips Usage

Questions (156)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

156. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he will be willing to consider leasing the air strips in Cluain Leacht an Abba, Cleggan and in Inishbofin to a company or community group which wished to use them for private use only, therefore not requiring the licensing of the air strips for use and their use in a similar fashion to the 110 unlicensed air strips in the country, in view of the tourist potential of the such use of the air strips; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15512/14]

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Written answers (Question to Arts)

As the Deputy is aware, a decision has been made to dispose of the airstrips on Inishbofin and at Cleggan in Co. Galway. My Department is currently assessing the disposal options available to it, including leasing the facilities, and a decision in this regard will be announced in due course. The disposal of the airstrips will be undertaken by way of a public procurement process. The various stipulations, attached to the permissions obtained for these developments, will be fully considered as part of the disposal process.

Inland Waterways Development

Questions (157)

Brendan Smith

Question:

157. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he will provide an update in relation to the proposal to restore the Ulster Canal; when specific funding will be put in place for this major and important development; when the project is likely to proceed to the next stage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15663/14]

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Written answers (Question to Arts)

As the Deputy will be aware, in July 2007 the North/South Ministerial Council (NSMC) agreed to proceed with the restoration of the section of the Ulster Canal between Clones and Upper Lough Erne. The then Government agreed to cover the full capital costs of the project, which were estimated at that time to be of the order of €35m. It was always the intention that the Ulster Canal project would be funded from the Waterways Ireland annual allocations, as agreed through the annual estimates processes in this jurisdiction, as well as the deliberations of NSMC in relation to annual budgets. It was a key consideration throughout the process that the Ulster Canal project would be supported by a significant level of projected income from the commercialisation of certain Waterways Ireland assets. However, the economic downturn has had a negative impact on those plans.

I am continuing to explore all possible options to advance this project within the current fiscal constraints. In this regard, I established an Inter-Agency Group on the Ulster Canal to explore ways to advance the project and to examine possible funding options for it, including existing funding streams and the leveraging of funding from other sources.

The Group comprises County Managers from Monaghan and Cavan County Councils, the Director of Leisure, Development and Arts from Fermanagh District Council, representatives from the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, Fáilte Ireland, Strategic Investment Board, Waterways Ireland and senior officials from the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, Northern Ireland and the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

The Inter-Agency Group has met four times, last meeting on 9 December 2013. The Group continues to examine leveraged funding opportunities for the project. This includes the exploration of EU funding which may be potentially available in the next round of structural funds covering the period 2014 - 2020.

In the meantime, the Ulster Canal project is progressing on an incremental basis. Planning approvals have been received for the project in both jurisdictions. Compulsory Purchase Order land maps are in preparation and consideration is being given to how the construction work and other technical aspects of the project will be structured and the necessary lands secured.

Coastal Erosion

Questions (158)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

158. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he is concerned that Ballinskelligs Castle, County Kerry may be washed into the sea; if he will act on my previous correspondence to initiate a multi-agency approach to safeguard the castle; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15680/14]

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Written answers (Question to Arts)

I understand that the main threat to Ballinskelligs Castle, which is not a national monument in State care, is coastal erosion. Overall policy for coastal protection, including coastal flooding and erosion, is a matter for the Office of Public Works, while the identification and addressing of coastal protection measures in any particular area is a matter in the first instance for the relevant local authority concerned. My Department would be available to offer advice should any proposals for protection works be brought forward.

Broadband Service Provision

Questions (159, 162)

James Bannon

Question:

159. Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the actions he is taking to provide and improve the roll out of broadband services in rural areas of Longford-Westmeath where it is non-existent at present; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15472/14]

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Martin Heydon

Question:

162. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding the provision of broadband in rural areas with specific reference to an area (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15635/14]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 159 and 162 together.

Since market liberalisation in 1999, broadband services are delivered in the first instance through private sector operators. The provision of telecommunications services, including broadband services, is primarily a matter for the service providers concerned who operate in a fully liberalised market, regulated by the independent regulator, the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg). The market 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 in each County can be found on a number of commercial websites as well as the websites of individual commercial operators.

The Government's National Broadband Plan, which I published in August 2012, aims to radically change the broadband landscape in Ireland by ensuring that high speed broadband is available to all citizens and businesses. This will be achieved by providing-a policy and regulatory framework that assists in accelerating and incentivising commercial investment, and a State-led investment for areas where it is not commercial for the market to invest.

Since the publication of the Plan, investments by the commercial sector are underway and in some instances have been accelerated in both fixed line and wireless high speed broadband services. In the fixed line segment of the market, eircom has announced plans to pass 1.4m addresses with its next generation broadband service, with speeds of up to 100Mbps, while UPC has increased its entry level and maximum speeds to 120Mbps and 200Mbps respectively. Mobile operators have also made announcements regarding network upgrades and are rolling out enhanced product offerings. In addition, the recent enactment of legislation to facilitate the ESB's entry into the telecommunications market, either alone or in partnership with another operator, will also help the roll-out of high speed broadband as well as facilitating greater competition in the Irish market.

I am aware of at least one service provider announcing that it will be providing advanced broadband services in a total of 10 locations in County Longford, 19 locations in County Westmeath and 39 locations in County Kildare before July 2016 and my Department will be happy to discuss these further with the Deputies concerned.

Many of these developments have been facilitated through the implementation of measures in the National Broadband Plan, including the conclusion of ComReg's multiband spectrum auction, and the regulatory regime for fixed line Next Generation Access and service bundles. Both of these measures are designed to incentivise the rollout of services by operators.

In tandem with these developments, intensive work, including a comprehensive mapping exercise, continues in my Department in relation to the State-led investment to secure the countrywide introduction of next generation broadband access. In order to progress the State-led investment for areas where it is not commercial for the market to invest, a full procurement process must be designed and EU State Aids approval must be obtained.

Under the national mapping exercise, information has been sought from all undertakings authorised by ComReg in relation to current and planned broadband services, both basic and next generation access (NGA). Mapping data has been submitted to my Department by a total of 23 operators and the process of analysing the data and supporting information is continuing. The mapping data is being assessed on a case-by-case basis, having regard to the EU State Aid Guidelines. When all of the information has been analysed, a clear picture should emerge of coverage throughout all of the country. I expect that this process will be completed later this year, after which it is my intention to publish a map showing existing and planned NGA broadband coverage, along with the Government's proposals for a State-led intervention to roll out high speed broadband across the country. The procurement process for the approved intervention will be carried out in accordance with EU and Irish procurement rules and it is expected that it will be launched later in 2014.

Through the implementation of the National Broadband Plan, I am committed to ensuring that all parts of Ireland have access to high speed broadband, with a view to ensuring that all citizens and businesses can participate fully in, and maximise the benefits of, a digitally enabled economy and society.

Broadband Service Provision

Questions (160)

Billy Timmins

Question:

160. Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding broadband in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15474/14]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The broadband service contracted under National Broadband Scheme (NBS) is a basic, affordable product in keeping with EU State Aid clearance for the Scheme. Under the terms of the contract which my Department has in place with “3”, the NBS service provider, the NBS mobile wireless service is required to offer minimum download and upload speeds of 2.3Mbps and 1.4Mbps respectively, subject to a maximum contention ratio of 18:1. The NBS satellite service, which is utilised in a small number of cases for technical reasons associated with the location of the premises, offers minimum download and upload speeds of 3.6Mbps and 384 kbps respectively, subject to a maximum contention ratio of 48:1.

As regards service quality, my Department has well-established monitoring arrangements in place to ensure that the NBS delivers the minimum specified service or better to all users. The NBS contract guarantees service levels and imposes a service credit regime on “3”, with significant financial consequences in the event that minimum specification service levels are not met. The NBS contract also provides that where NBS customers do not receive the minimum guaranteed service, as set out in the terms and conditions of their contract, they are entitled to service rebates. I note that the person referred to in the Question has contacted 3's customer care centre but is not satisfied with the response received. My Department has a role where customers have fully utilised the established complaints process and consider that their complaint has not been resolved. My officials operate a dedicated NBS mailbox, which NBS customers can contact by email at nationalbroadbandscheme@dcenr.gov.ie, with any comments or complaints they may have about their service. My Department will then liaise with “3” personnel at its Head Office in Dublin to remedy any service performance issues.

Upon receipt of the details outlined in the Question, my officials made contact with this NBS customer and have forwarded the details of the complaint to "3" who will commence an investigation into the issues raised relating to reliability of service. It is, however, noted that the speeds referred to in the Question are well within the contractual specifications of the Scheme. My officials will remain in touch with “3” and the customer with a view to resolving the service issues.

Renewable Energy Incentives

Question No. 162 answered with Question No. 159.

Questions (161)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

161. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the grants available and the plans in place for grants to be given to citizens who purchase and install wood stoves and wood boilers for central heating for domestic use. [15563/14]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The National Renewable Energy Action Plan projects that heat from renewable sources will amount to 12% in the context of achieving our 2020 renewable energy targets. The uptake of the Combined Heat and Power (CHP) capacity under REFIT 3, launched in early 2012, will make a contribution to achieving this, along with migration to renewable heat in response to market forces. The requirements of Part L of the Building regulations are also expected to make a contribution to increasing the uptake of renewable heat. These measures and developments will build on the increases in renewable heat which were achieved by schemes such as the Greener Homes Scheme, the Renewable Heat Deployment Programme (ReHeat) and the CHP Deployment Programme. My Department is also currently finalising a Bioenergy Strategy which will set out the actions required to optimise the contribution that energy from biomass can make to achieving Ireland's 2020 renewable energy targets. Analysis underpinning the strategy suggests that additional, targeted bioenergy measures can have a significant impact in the heat sector and recommendations will shortly be brought forward in this regard.

I do not propose to introduce a grant scheme for the purchase of biomass stoves and boilers.

Question No. 162 answered with Question No. 159.

Unfinished Housing Developments

Questions (163, 164)

Michael Creed

Question:

163. Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the criteria being used by his Department when determining which unfinished estates are to be demolished; the consent required by his Department from the various stakeholders including local authorities, financial institutions, tenants and property owners when considering demolition; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15495/14]

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Michael Creed

Question:

164. Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of unfinished estates that are to be demolished in 2014; the way these estates were selected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15496/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 163 and 164 together.

In Resolving Unfinished Housing Developments Annual Progress Report on Actions to Address Unfinished Housing Developments which was published in November 2013, and which is available on the website of the Housing Agency, http://www.housing.ie/Our-Services/Unfinished-Housing-Developments, it is apparent that there is a cohort of, mainly unoccupied, housing developments that do not appear to have long term prospects for resolution because they are in weak market areas, poorly configured and in a state of deterioration which the bond will not cover.

The National Co-ordination Committee on Unfinished Housing Developments, which I chair, established a Technical Group to oversee the development of a strategy for residual developments and, acknowledging that these sites are privately owned, to work with stakeholders who own and / or manage the sites.

Financial institutions have indicated that around 40 developments or parts of developments are currently likely to be returned to greenfield condition. However, this figure may vary over time as the financial institutions assess each loan on a case-by-case basis and decide an appropriate course of action. For client confidentiality reasons the locations of the developments considered at this stage most likely to be candidates for clearance cannot be disclosed.

Unless there are compelling reasons, primarily relating to public safety, the decision to clear all or part of an unfinished housing development is a matter for the owner/developer or funder acting in possession, usually acting through a receiver, and in the context of implementing a site resolution plan agreed with the l local a authority. Therefore, clearance is an intrinsic part of the asset management and disposal process by owners/developers/funders and will not normally require State intervention or funding.

The National Co-ordination Committee will continue to liaise with key stakeholders in monitoring progress in this area, including opportunities to address this cohort of developments through the normal resolution process where possible.