End of Life Vehicles Disposal

Questions (167)

Brendan Smith

Question:

167. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the proposals under consideration to change the regulations in relation to end of life vehicles; the stakeholders that have been consulted on the proposed changes; if representatives of the metal processing business have been consulted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18522/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

In June 2012, I initiated a wide-ranging review of the existing Producer Responsibility Initiatives in Ireland. The overall purpose of this review is to assess the nature and level of the challenges which are currently facing the existing Producer Responsibility Agreements , as well as the forthcoming challenges expected to arise in the management of various waste streams.

As part of this review, I published a report on End-of- Life Vehicles (ELVs) in November 2013. The report makes a number of recommendations aimed at improving the structure and environmental outputs of our ELV regulatory regime, including the establishment of a compliance scheme for the sector which should have a specific responsibility for achieving the national End-of-Life Vehicle targets. The report is available on my Department’s website at http://www.environ.ie/en/Environment/Waste/PublicConsultations/#ELVs and was subject to a period of public consultation which expired at the end of January 2014. My Department received 13 submissions from various stakeholders as part of the consultation process , including representatives from the metal processing sector.

It is my intention to establish an ELV Working Group, similar to the current WEEE Batteries Monitoring Group, which will assist my Department in drafting the new Regulations which are required to underpin the regulatory structures recommended in this report.

Water Services Provision

Questions (168, 169)

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

168. Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the reason works have not been carried out pursuant to the Ballina-Knockmore water mains rehabilitation scheme which he approved in the first half of 2013 and for which he allocated funding of approximately €5 million; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18274/14]

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Michelle Mulherin

Question:

169. Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the reason Irish Water has failed to afford the same urgency to the construction of the Ballina Knockmore water mains rehabilitation scheme which was prioritised and approved by him with a grant allocated of €5 million by him in the first half of 2013 in circumstances when businesses and residents in the affected area are experiencing water outages regularly due to the extensive leaks on the system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18275/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Question Nos. 168 and 169 together.

Mayo County Council’s Water Conservation Stage 3 – Watermains Rehabilitation Project – Phase 1, which included the rehabilitation works to the Ballina/Knockmore water mains, was included in my Department’s Water Services Investment Programme 2010 – 2013 as a contract to start.

In February 2012 my Department approved Mayo County Council’s revised proposals for rehabilitation works in Ballina/Knockmore. This approval enabled the Council to advance these works up to, and including, the invitation of tenders , without prior approval being sought from my Department.

In addition, this approval also included advance works at Kiltimagh, which the Council could advance to construction. In December 2012, my Department approved the Council’s budget application for the scheme in the amount of €6.6 million , which included an estimated contract cost of €4.6 million in respect of the Ballina/Knockmore element and €0.8 million in respect of the Kiltimagh advance works.

My Department also approved the inclusion of the Lough Mask Regional Water Supply Scheme – Extension to Kilmaine in the Water Services Investment Programme 2010 – 2013 at a cost of €2.025 million in May 2013. This approval included advance water main rehabilitation works in Kilmaine at a cost of €0.55 million. In July 2013, my Department confirmed that the necessary funding was in place to allow the rehabilitation works element to commence as soon as possible.

I understand that both the advance water mains rehabilitation at Kiltimagh and Kilmaine are substantially complete.

The Council did not submit the necessary documentation in respect of the rehabilitation works at Ballina/Knockmore to my Department seeking confirmation that the necessary funding was in place to enable the Council to complete the tender formalities with the successful tenderer prior to the transfer of responsibilities for the delivery of water services capital infrastructure to Irish Water on 1 January 2014 .

Irish Water is currently preparing a Capital Investment Plan for 2014 – 2016 and this will provide for the transition of projects included in the 2010 – 2013 Water Services Investment Programme and the inclusion of any additional works. Progression of water services capital projects, including rehabilitation works in Ballina/Knockmore , is now a matter for Irish Water.

Irish Water has confirmed to my Department that it has established a dedicated team to deal with representations and queries from public representatives. The team can be contacted via an email to oireachtasmembers@water.ie or by telephone on 1890 278 278.

Water Charges Administration

Questions (170, 180, 181)

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

170. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding water charges in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18309/14]

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Róisín Shortall

Question:

180. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his proposals to introduce a standing charge for water usage irrespective of the amount of water used by that household. [18466/14]

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Róisín Shortall

Question:

181. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will indicate the average charge that can be expected per household for water charges; the average allowance that will apply; and the way the allowance system will operate. [18500/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Question Nos. 170, 180 and 181 together.

The Water Services (No. 2) Act 2013 provides for the transfer of water services functions from the local authorities to Irish Water. The Act provides that Irish Water can collect charges from its customers in receipt of water services provided by it. It also assigns responsibility for the independent economic regulation of Irish Water to the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) .

Domestic water charges will commence with effect from 1 October 2014 and Irish Water will issue the first bills to domestic customers from January 2015. The approach to charging will be outlined by Irish Water in a water charges plan to be submitted by it to the CER in line with the provisions of the Act. The CER will be responsible for approving the water charges plan which will set the approaches to charging domestic and non-domestic customers.

It is understood that t he CER is commencing its public consultation on the approach to the design of domestic water tariffs for both metered and unmetered properties and the approach it is proposing for non-domestic tariffs. The CER will announce its decision on the approved water charges plan, which will include details of the levels of metered, assessed and standing charges, in August 2014.

In making its decision on the approval or otherwise of the first water charges plan, the CER will take into account the decisions made by Government on the funding model for Irish Water, including the funding available for any proposed affordability measures. The Government has committed to the provision of a free allowance, above which charging based on usage would apply. The free allowance and the level of funding to be provided by the Government to Irish Water will have a strong bearing on the net charges to be met by households. Consequently, decisions on these matters will provide greater visibility on the expected level of charges in advance of the final determination of all aspects of the water charges plan by the CER.

The Government has given initial consideration to approaches proposed by me, as Minister, and will further consider these matters over the coming weeks.

Under the European Union (Drinking Water) Regulations 2014, a copy of which is available in the Oireachtas library, suppliers of drinking water are required to ensure that the water supplied is wholesome and clean. Water which is wholesome and clean is defined as water which is free from any micro-organisms and parasites and from any substances which in numbers or concentrations constitute a potential danger to human health, and which meets the quality standards specified in the Schedule to the Regulations. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the supervisory authority with responsibility for monitoring Irish Water’s compliance with these regulations. In the event of non-compliance with the quality standards set out in these Regulations, the water supplier will investigate the cause and, in consultation with the EPA and, if a potential risk to human health may exist, the Health Service Executive, ensure that the appropriate remedial action is taken.

The 2013 Act requires the CER to perform its functions in a manner that best serves the interests of the customers of Irish Water. This is similar to the CER’s statutory role in respect of the gas and electricity sectors. I fully expect that the CER will consider compliance with statutory standards by Irish Water in the discharge of its functions.

Property Tax Exemptions

Questions (171)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

171. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if the residents of unfinished residential housing estates may acquire exemption from liability for local property tax if it is demonstrated that the conditions in the estate have disimproved to a point at which, consistent with the methodology used in the national housing survey, they would have been assessed as exempt at the time the local property tax was introduced; if not, if he intends to rectify this oversight [18315/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

Under Section 10 of the Finance (Local Property Tax) Act 2012 a waiver from liability can arise for properties located in developments prescribed on a list made by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government where the Minister is satisfied that the developments on the list are incomplete to a substantial extent, having regard to the condition of public infrastructure and amenities, including access, water services, public lighting and amenity areas. An exemption from the Local Property Tax applies to developments listed in the Schedule to the Finance (Local Property Tax) Regulations 2013. The list of unfinished housing developments eligible for the exemption was compiled by local authorities utilising the categorisation employed for the purposes of the National Housing Survey 2012. The survey was carried out over the course of summer 2012 by my Department in conjunction with local authorities and the Housing Agency.

Only developments that were deemed by local authorities to be in a “seriously problematic condition”, regardless of whether a developer was on or off site, were included in the Finance (Local Property Tax) Regulations 2013. 

The objective is to eliminate , to the greatest extent possible, the need for Local Property Tax waivers in respect of Unfinished Housing Developments as soon as possible and a number of approaches, as outlined below, have been adopted towards achieving this objective.

The development of Site Resolution Plans (SRPs), agreed between residents, developers, funders and local authority personnel for the finalisation of works on site to render estates as habitable as possible, have been pivotal in resolving a large number of estates. In the 2013 National Housing Survey, of the 1,811 estates inspected, there were 607 in some stage of SRPs. Specifically, 281 were agreed and ready for implementation, 213 had commenced while 113 had been completed. I believe that a continuation of this collaborative approach serves the best interests of all concerned and is an effective tool in the resolution process.

The Public Safety Initiative (PSI), which was launched in March 2011, also provided funding to address immediate public safety issues in unfinished housing developments.  The types of works that have been approved to date under the PSI include the fencing off of unsecured and hazardous areas, capping of pipes, installation of street lighting and other works to secure sites. Under the PSI, my Department has made allocations totalling €4.5m to local authorities from the funding made available. To date, €3.26m has been drawn down.

To assist further in addressing the legacy of unfinished housing developments, Budget 2014 contained a special provision, in the form of a targeted €10m Special Resolution Fund (SRF). The SRF has been proposed to encourage the resolution of the remaining tranche of unfinished developments identified in the National Housing Development Survey 2013 and, particularly, those developments not likely to be resolved in the normal way through solely developer/owner/funder action because of the presence of specific financial barriers. It is envisaged that the SRF should be particularly targeted to address the remaining unfinished developments with residents living in them and, in particular, any developments that local authorities identified, for the purposes of the Local Property Tax waiver, as in a seriously problematic condition. I expect that my Department will be in a position to finalise its consideration of the SRF applications in the very near future. I anticipate that the SRF will enable very substantial progress to be made in resolving as many of the remaining unfinished developments as possible.

The Report, Resolving Unfinished Housing Developments: Annual Progress Report on Actions to Address Unfinished Housing Developments, published in November 2013, is available on the Housing Agency website, at http://www.housing.ie/Our-Services/Unfinished-Housing-Developments.aspx, and appends a Summary Report of the 2013 National Housing Development Survey. The key findings of the survey include: a 56% decrease in the number of remaining unfinished developments and a 72% decrease in the number of vacant units since 2010.

Through the above approaches, supported by the findings of the 2013 National Housing Development Survey, the general trend is towards improvement in the conditions of such developments and the situation should improve further over the lifetime of the SRF. There are no plans to revise the list of developments included in the Schedule to the Finance (Local Property Tax) Regulations 2013, either by removing or adding developments to it, at this time.

Water and Sewerage Schemes Provision

Questions (172)

Derek Nolan

Question:

172. Deputy Derek Nolan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when the upgraded sewage treatment plant will be delivered for a town (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18317/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Athenry Sewerage Scheme was included as two contracts to commence construction in my Department’s Water Services Investment Programme 2010 – 2013. The scheme provides for the upgrade of the network and wastewater treatment plant at an estimated cost of over €11.6 million.

Since 1 January 2014, Irish Water is responsible for the delivery of water services capital infrastructure. It is currently preparing a Capital Investment Plan for 2014 – 2016 that will provide for the transition of projects included in the Water Services Investment Programme 2010 – 2013. The further progression of all water services capital projects, including the Athenry Sewerage Scheme, is now a matter for Irish Water.

Galway County Council submitted a brief for the appointment of Consultants for the Design, Contract Procurement and Construction Stages for the Athenry Sewerage Scheme in November, 2013. However, it was not possible for my Department to finalise its examination of the Council’s submission prior to the transfer of responsibility for the delivery of water services capital infrastructure to Irish Water on 1 January 2014. Irish Water has confirmed to my Department that it has established a dedicated team to deal with representations and queries from public representatives. The team can be contacted via an email to oireachtasmembers@water.ie or by telephone on 1890 278 278.

Housing Adaptation Grant Applications

Questions (173)

Dan Neville

Question:

173. Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18325/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

On 16 January 2014 I announced details of the capital allocations under the suite of Housing Adaptation Grants for Older People and People with a Disability. The schemes are funded by 80% recoupments available from my Department together with a 20% contribution from the resources of the local authority. Every local authority received increased funding for grants compared to the 2013 allocations.

The allocation to Limerick County Council under the grant schemes for 2014 is €1,663,349, of which €332,670 is to be provided from the Council’s own resources. The 2014 allocation to Limerick City Council is €1,198,200, of which €239,640 is to be provided from the City Council’s own resources.

The detailed administration of the schemes, including the assessment, approval and payment of grants to applicants, is the responsibility of the local authority.

In the case of local authority owned properties funding is allocated each year in respect of a range of measures to improve the standard and overall quality of their social housing stock, including the regeneration of large social housing estates and flat complexes, estate-wide remedial works schemes and a range of retrofitting works aimed at improving the fabric and energy efficiency of the properties. The management and maintenance of the social housing stock, including the compilation and funding of on-going maintenance programme and minor adaptation works, is a matter for individual authorities.

Local authorities were advised earlier this year that funding for adaptations and extensions would be considered on a case by case basis. Authorities should, as far as possible, undertake and fund these works from own resources, including from Internal Capital Receipts (ICR’s), before seeking Exchequer funding. My Department will shortly request local authorities to report on their ICR-funded housing improvement works programme for 2014. Requests for funding for adaptations and extensions to properties will be considered in the light of the returns received in this regard.

Community Development Initiatives

Questions (174)

Paul Connaughton

Question:

174. Deputy Paul J. Connaughton asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the funding available to active retirement groups; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18332/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

My Department is responsible for a range of programmes to support communities, including the Scheme to Support National Organisations (SSNO).

The SSNO in the Community and Voluntary sector provides multi-annual funding to national organisations towards core costs associated with the provision of services. Priority is given under the Scheme to supporting national organisations which provide coalface services to disadvantaged target groups. Core funding refers typically to operating costs that will always need to be met, and are fundamental to the organisation's survival. The funding normally covers basic organisational and administrative costs of an organisation, and may include items such as salaries, facilities, equipment, communications, and the direct expenses of day-to-day work. While there is no funding available from my Department for individual, locally-based active retirement groups, the Active Retirement Network Ireland and Age Action Ireland are two of the organisations which are funded under the current Scheme to Support National Organisations. The current Scheme will cease in June 2014, with a new Scheme commencing from 1 July 2014. Applications for this Scheme were received during February 2014 and the assessment process is currently ongoing.

Leader Programme Administration

Questions (175)

Paul Connaughton

Question:

175. Deputy Paul J. Connaughton asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the funding available to towns and villages for village enhancement projects; if plans exist to introduce new funding streams for such projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18336/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

Funding for town and village enhancement projects was available under the LEADER element of the Rural Development Programme 2007-2013. In line with the ‘bottom-up’ approach to rural development, there are 35 Local Action Groups (LAGs) contracted, on my Department’s behalf, to deliver the LEADER elements of the Programme throughout the country. The LAGs are the principal decision-makers in relation to the allocation of project funding which is fully allocated under the current Programme.

I anticipate however, that the LEADER elements of the Rural Development Programme 2014 – 2020 will commence during 2015.