Building Regulations Compliance

Question No. 552 answered with Question No. 525.

Question No. 553 answered with Question No. 551.

Questions (551, 553)

Jim Daly

Question:

551. Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the options available to a person (details supplied) to regularise a situation after the commencement of the construction of a dwelling under a valid planning permission which omitted, in error, to submit a commencement notice to the building control authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22805/14]

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Noel Grealish

Question:

553. Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding the acceptance of a commencement notice (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22839/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 551 and 553 together.

A person who intends to carry out building works is required by Article 8 of the Building Control Regulations 1997 to 2014 to give notice in writing of such intention to the local building control authority not less than fourteen days and not more than 28 days before the commencement of the works.

Section 16 of the Building Control Act 1990 makes it an offence for a person to contravene (by act or omission) any requirement of the Act or any requirement of orders or regulations made thereunder. The period in which legal proceedings can take place is limited to five years from the date of the completion of the building or works.

The failure to submit a commencement notice where one is required is a serious matter and may have serious consequences for the development in question. It disables the local building control authority’s ability to fulfil its statutory role in relation to the development. The statutory certificates of compliance introduced on 1 March 2014 refer to the commencement notice and accompanying certified design documentation and cannot therefore cover works which have not been validly commenced. This has implications for an owner’s ability to legally occupy or use a building and may affect the conveyance of the building if it is subject to a commercial transaction.

The statutory powers in relation to this matter rest with the local building control authority which is independent in the use of such powers and I cannot interfere in individual cases. It is open to the owners involved, and any construction professional they may have engaged, to consult with the local building control authority in order to establish what, if any, steps may be open to them at this point.

Question No. 552 answered with Question No. 525.
Question No. 553 answered with Question No. 551.

Housing Issues

Question No. 555 answered with Question No. 525.

Questions (554)

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

554. Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the reason, in the takeover by the council of an estate (details supplied) in County Mayo where a developer has gone out of business, three things are required, namely, signatures, CCTV surveys of underground services and these same surveys as constructed drawings; if this procedure is stipulated by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22860/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

Normally, housing estates which have been completed to the satisfaction of the planning authority in accordance with the permission granted and any conditions attaching to that permission can be taken in charge by the planning authority concerned. Section 180 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 provides that where requested by the majority of the owners of the houses involved, the planning authority shall, as soon as may be, initiate the taking in charge procedures. For this purpose, the signatures of the majority of the owners of the houses in the estate are required.

Circular Letter PD 1/08, issued in February 2008, further elaborates on the procedures and protocols to be adopted by planning authorities in relation to the taking in charge of housing developments. The circular states that the protocols should clearly set out each step in the taking in charge process and the accompanying timeframes, and should also specify the documentation/evidence that will be required from the developer to demonstrate that the development has been satisfactorily completed. A sample list of acceptable evidence in this regard includes, inter alia, the following:

- three copies of “as constructed” drawings of the development,

- a CCTV survey/manhole survey, completed at the developer’s expense, of the collection systems as conditioned in the relevant planning permission, and

- a drainage layout plan of as-constructed sewers.

This Circular was subsequently incorporated into the Guidelines for Planning Authorities on Sustainable Residential Development in Urban Areas (May 2009), issued under section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000.

The list of acceptable documentation/evidence outlined above is a requirement on developers and does not apply in respect of housing estates where the developer is no longer in business and is therefore not in a position to provide the evidence required to demonstrate that the estate has been satisfactorily completed. Where requested to take an estate in charge by the majority of the owners of the houses involved and the developer is no longer in business, it would not be unreasonable to expect that the planning authority would undertake any surveys or assessments necessary to determine if the estate has been satisfactorily completed for taking in charge purposes.

Enquiries have been made of Ballina Town Council in relation to the estate referred to in the Question. I understand that the Council has not to date received a request from the residents of the estate that it be taken in charge by the Council.

Question No. 555 answered with Question No. 525.

Water and Sewerage Scheme Grants

Question No. 557 answered with Question No. 515.

Questions (556)

Denis Naughten

Question:

556. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 44 of 12 March 2014, if he has progressed the group sewerage scheme grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22900/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

As indicated in my reply to Question No. 44 of 12 March 2014, I announced an increase in the grant for group sewerage schemes to €6,500 per house or 75% of the cost of the scheme, whichever is the lesser, in December 2012. The previous rate of grant available was €2,031.58 per house or 75% of the cost of the scheme, whichever was the lesser.

I proposed, in the first instance, to carry out a number of pilot schemes based on the increased grant level. My Department asked local authorities to include in their requests for funding under the 2013 Rural Water Programme proposals for pilot group sewerage schemes which might be viable based on the increased grant. Following an examination of the proposals received, I approved grant assistance towards pilot schemes in nine different counties in 2013.

A review of progress on the selected pilot schemes was carried out earlier this year. Following consideration of this review, I do not see a need to further enhance the group sewerage scheme grant beyond the level I increased it to in December 2012.

Last month, I approved grants totalling over €2.7 million towards proposed new group sewerage schemes under my Department’s 2014 Rural Water Programme. Progress on these schemes is now a matter for the relevant local authorities.

Question No. 557 answered with Question No. 515.

Community Development Projects

Questions (558)

Gerald Nash

Question:

558. Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the reason he has decided that the LCDP measure must go to tender whereas the RDP measure will not; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22920/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The LEADER element of the Rural Development Programme (RDP) is delivered using a Community Led Local Development (CLLD) approach in accordance with EU Regulation 1303/2013. Under the Regulation, Local Action Groups put forward integrated and multi-sectoral local development strategies (LDS) and the Member State then selects robust implementable strategies that will maximise the impact of the funding available to rural areas. My Department will invite the submission of LDSs in accordance with the Regulations in the second half of the year.

As regards the new Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme, which will replace the Local Community Development Programme (LCDP) in accordance with the Public Spending Code, best practice internationally, legal advice and to ensure the optimum delivery of the services to clients, the Local Community Development Committees (LCDCs) being established under the Local Government Reform Act 2014 will procure the new programme locally.

All proposals received will be assessed in accordance with the assessment criteria notified with the tender documentation and the contract or contracts will be awarded on the basis of that assessment. Pobal is assisting my Department and the LCDCs in the preparation of the tender documentation and the assessment criteria.

Housing Issues

Question No. 560 answered with Question No. 515.

Questions (559)

Pádraig MacLochlainn

Question:

559. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the Mica Action Group which is active in County Donegal on the issue of defective blocks used in the building of homes that are leading to large cracks appearing in homes; the steps he has taken on this issue; if he will consider establishing a redress scheme similar to that which has been established for home owners in houses affected by pyrite; if he has taken any steps to ensure the substance in question is no longer present in building blocks to prevent future problems; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22975/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

My Department has recently received correspondence from Donegal County Council in connection with issues raised by the Mica Action Group relating to structural problems in houses in north Donegal which appear to be related to the use of defective blocks in the construction of the houses. I understood that the Mica Action Group met with Council officials in this matter and the Group has also met with a representative of the Pyrite Resolution Board.

While some testing appears to have been carried out on some of the affected dwellings which has indicated that the problem may concern the presence of a contaminant known as Muscovite mica in the concrete blocks, my Department understands that no firm evidence is available to confirm the nature and scale of the problem.

The Building Regulations 1997 set out the legal requirements for the construction of new buildings (including houses), extensions to existing buildings as well as for material alterations and certain material changes of use to existing buildings and are divided in 12 parts (classified as Parts A to M). Technical Guidance Documents (TGDs) are published to accompany each of the parts and provide guidance indicating how the requirements of that part can be achieved in practice. Where works are carried out in accordance with the relevant technical guidance such works are considered to be, prima facie, in compliance with the relevant regulation(s).

Part A of the Second Schedule to the Building Regulations sets out the legal requirements in relation to structure. The accompanying TGD A provides guidance on how compliance can be achieved and, in the context of block work in houses, reference is given to the appropriate masonry design and construction standards. The materials to be used, e.g. concrete blocks, wall ties etc. are required to meet the specified minimum designations, strengths and other qualities, as set out in TGD A and the referenced standards.

Part D sets out the legal requirements for materials and workmanship. It requires that all works must be carried out using “proper materials … which are fit for the use for which they are intended and for the conditions in which they are to be used” and in a workmanlike manner to ensure compliance with the Building Regulations.

Primary responsibility for compliance with the requirements of the Building Regulations rests with the designers, builders and owners of buildings.

Ireland’s national standard I.S. 20:1987 Concrete Building Blocks - Part 1 Normal Density Blocks was the relevant standard for concrete blocks in place from 1987 until 2003 when it was replaced by a harmonised European product standard for concrete blocks - EN 771-3 aggregate concrete masonry units (dense and light weight aggregates). EN 771-3 was published by the National Standards Authority of Ireland on 17 March 2003 and came into effect on 15 October 2003. However, as is normal in such circumstances, the provisions in I.S. 20: Part 1 continued to apply for a period of time (known as the co-existence period) to allow for transition from the national standard to the harmonised European standard.

Harmonised European product standards provide the methods and the criteria for assessing the performance of construction products in relation to their essential characteristics, the harmonised standard includes the technical data necessary for the implementation of a system of assessment and verification of constancy of performance including third party oversight (determined as proportionate to the level of risk involved) which the manufacturer is required to comply with. The National Standards Authority of Ireland has also produced additional guidance to some harmonised European product standards in the form of National Annexes or Standard Recommendations which set out appropriate minimum performance levels for specific intended uses of certain products in Ireland.

Regulation (EU) No 305/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council laying down harmonised conditions for the marketing of construction products and repealing Council Directive 89/106/EEC requires manufacturers to provide robust and reliable information in a consistent way for construction products which are covered by a harmonised standard or a European Technical Assessment. From 1 July 2013, manufacturers of construction products which are covered by harmonised European product standards are required, when placing a product on the market, to make a Declaration of Performance for the product, and to affix the CE mark.

Under the European Union (Construction Products) Regulations 2013 building control authorities have been designated as the principal market surveillance authorities for construction products that fall within the scope of the Construction Products Regulation. Under the Regulations building control authorities have wide-ranging powers to ensure that constructions products placed on the market comply with the requirements set out in the Construction Products Regulation, including the issuing of a notice to require corrective actions to be taken by an economic operator within a specified period of time, and, in the event of a serious risk being identified, to request the Minister to prohibit or restrict a construction product from being made available on the market, to withdraw it from the market or to recall it, or to make its use subject to special conditions as deemed appropriate.

While I fully appreciate and acknowledge the extremely difficult and distressing situations that householders have to deal with when faced with the consequences of the use of defective materials or poor workmanship, in general, building defects are matters for resolution between the contracting parties involved, i.e. the homeowner, the builder, the manufacturer, supplier, quarry owner and/or their respective insurers. In the event that the contracting parties cannot reach a settlement by negotiation the option of seeking redress in the Courts can be considered. I believe that the parties concerned should face up to their responsibilities and take appropriate actions to provide remedies for the affected homeowners.

Question No. 560 answered with Question No. 515.

Shared Ownership Scheme

Questions (561)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

561. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of times keys have been handed back to local authorities in respect of shared ownership loans, affordable loans and other local government accommodation schemes broken down by each local authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23001/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

My Department publishes a wide range of housing and planning statistics, which includes aggregate data relating to voluntary local authority mortgage repossessions broken down by county, although a breakdown by loan type is not available. The statistics are available on my Department’s website at:http://www.environ.ie/en/Publications/StatisticsandRegularPublications/HousingStatistics/FileDownLoad,15295,en.xls by clicking “Local Authority Mortgage repossession data” under the Housing Loans contents.

Septic Tank Inspections

Questions (562)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

562. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if, in the event that a septic tank is reported to the authorities as causing damage to a neighbour’s property by a person whose property is being damaged, an inspection will be carried out on foot of the report. [23004/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

Local authorities carry out inspections of septic tanks and similar systems for a variety of reasons, including water quality issues at drinking water sources or within designated shellfish or bathing water catchments and arising from reports of pollution from members of the public. Separately, inspections are carried out based on the EPA’s National Inspection Plan 2013: Domestic Waste Water Treatment Systems, which uses a risk-based methodology such as densities of individual treatment systems across the numerous hydrological and geological settings in Ireland and the locations of sensitive groundwater or surface water receptors.

Local authorities have all appropriate powers of inspection, investigation and enforcement under the Water Services Act 2007 and under the Local Government (Water Pollution) Acts 1977 and 1990 to protect water quality, public health and the environment from risks posed by failing on-site waste water treatment systems. It is a matter for each local authority to determine the most appropriate course of action when dealing with pollution incidents and related risks to public health and the environment. If necessary, the local authority may consult the EPA and/or the Health Service Executive. Section 70 of the Water Services Act 2007 places a duty of care on the owner of a premises to ensure that their waste water treatment systems are kept so as not to cause, or be likely to cause, a risk to human health or the environment, including waters, the atmosphere, land, soil, plants or animals, or create a nuisance through odours.

Building Regulations Amendments

Questions (563)

Dan Neville

Question:

563. Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government regarding the building control amendment regulations, the specific competencies that were determined as being required to perform the functions and fulfil the roles of assigned certifier under the legislation; when the selected building professionals deemed competent to perform the roles were chosen, noting that the selected professionals do not include all of those listed within the BCA2007, nor are they limited only to those listed within the BCA2007; and if he will consider amending this or other legislation to allow for the inclusion of other qualified and legitimate building professionals who meet the same previously determined competence criteria, in order to allow them to perform the functions and fulfil the roles under the legislation, in the interest of competition and the consumer. [23063/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

New Building Control (Amendment) Regulations have, since 1 March 2014, strengthened the arrangements in place for the control of building activity, by requiring greater accountability in relation to compliance with Building Regulations in the form of statutory certificates of design and construction, lodgement of compliance documentation, mandatory inspection during construction and validation and registration of statutory certificates. The statutory certificates of compliance must be signed by a registered professional i.e. a person who is included on the statutory registers of architects or building surveyors maintained in accordance with Parts 3 and 5 respectively of the Building Control Act 2007 or on the register of chartered engineers established under the Institution of Civil Engineers of Ireland (Charter Amendment) Act 1969. Architects, Building Surveyors and Chartered Engineers are the construction professions typically involved in the design of construction works in Ireland and reference to these professions in regulation is entirely appropriate. Inclusion on the statutory registers of architects and buildings surveyors is not confined to members of the registration bodies but is open to persons from other professional groupings who can demonstrate that they possess the requisite competence in the design and surveying of buildings. It is also possible to prescribe by regulation further educational bodies and courses that may lead to inclusion on the various registers established under the 2007 Act.

Neither I nor my Department have any role in the assessment or validation of professional qualifications. However, should the Society of Chartered Surveyors of Ireland or the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (who are the statutory registration bodies and competent authorities in relation to building surveyors and architects respectively) determine that the competence of any professional grouping is equivalent to the requirements for inclusion on either register it would fall to me as Minister to bring forward relevant suitable amendments to the Building Control Act 2007.