Section 180 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 provides that where an estate is completed to the satisfaction of the planning authority in accordance with the planning permission (and any conditions attached to the permission) the planning authority must initiate taking in charge procedures as soon as possible following a request to do so by the developer or by the majority of the owners. Similarly, where an estate has not been completed to the standard outlined in the planning permission and the planning authority has not taken enforcement action within seven years of the expiry of the permission authorising the development, section 180 also provides that the planning authority must initiate taking in charge procedures if requested to do so by the owners of the units concerned. The decision as to whether an estate should be taken in charge is ultimately one for the elected members of the planning authority.
Section 180 was amended in the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2010 to provide that a local authority may take in charge an unfinished estate, at the request of the owners of the housing units, at any time after the expiration of the planning permission, in situations where enforcement actions have commenced or where the local authority considers that enforcement action will not result in the satisfactory completion of the estate by the developer. Planning authorities have also been empowered to take in charge part of an estate or some, but not all, of the facilities in an estate.
The Water Services (No. 2) Act 2013 provides for the transfer of responsibility for the provision of public water services from local authorities to Irish Water. In addition, it provides a mechanism whereby water services infrastructure may be transferred by Ministerial Order to Irish Water. Contrary to certain misunderstandings that may exist, there is no specific legal impediment to the taking in charge of water services infrastructure by local authorities. The potential to streamline this process for the future is currently under review.
In Circular Letter PL 21/13 issued by my Department to planning authorities on 30 December 2013 in the light of the transfer of certain statutory water services functions from local authorities to Irish Water with effect from 1 January 2014, it was stated that legislative amendments to further clarify the existing provisions on the taking in charge of housing estates would be made in 2014. As part of this process, my Department will also consider, in consultation with local authorities, whether it is appropriate to make further amendments to section 180 of the Planning and Development Act in relation to the taking in charge provisions generally in the context of the forthcoming Planning Bill, for instance in relation to the time limits for the taking in charge of estates.
In order to clarify the current up-to-date position with regard to the taking in charge of estates, my Department will shortly issue a further circular letter to planning authorities with a view to clearing up any misunderstandings that may exist in this regard.
My Department has no responsibility for, or role to play in, the day to day management, maintenance or operation of water or waste water infrastructure. However, it is aware of problems with some water services infrastructure that was provided by developers and which is not connected to the public network. My Department is currently considering what long-term solutions might be appropriate in such cases.