Radon Gas Levels

Questions (564)

Michael McGrath

Question:

564. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to introduce a mandatory radon gas test for all residential property sales; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23113/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The National Radon Control Strategy, which I published on 17 February 2014, was developed by an inter-agency group, and sets out some 48 recommendations, under six thematic areas, with the ultimate aim of reducing the number of radon-related lung cancer cases.

Successful implementation of the National Radon Control Strategy will require action from a range of Government Departments, public bodies and other stakeholders and so will require clear identification of responsibilities, good co-ordination between the various stakeholders and effective monitoring of progress. Accordingly, I have established a National Radon Control Strategy Co-ordination Group, under my Department’s chairmanship and comprising representatives from key Departments and Agencies, to implement and track the key recommendations in the Strategy. This Group will, inter alia: co-ordinate policies and actions on radon across the relevant Departments and agencies, monitor implementation of the Strategy, including reporting annually on progress, and at the end of the 4-year period covered by the action plan, make recommendations to Government on what further actions it considers necessary at that time.

One of the recommendations in the Strategy is that measures be introduced which would require that information on radon testing of a building be passed from the vendor to the purchaser when it is sold. It should be noted that further work is required to determine how such measures would work in practice.

Housing Data

Questions (565)

Michael McGrath

Question:

565. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his Department or any agency under the aegis of his Department has conducted an inventory of unoccupied houses and apartments in Dublin and around the country irrespective of who they are owned by; if not, if there are plans to do so; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23114/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Ninth Annual Report on Service Indicators, published by the Local Government Management Agency in March 2014, which details service indicators in local authorities in 2012, provides a range of information in relation to social housing stock including information in relation to vacant dwellings. Copies of the report are available from the Local Government Management Agency and may be downloaded from their website at the following weblink http://www.lgmsb.ie/sites/default/files/service_indicators_2012_report_for_website_0.pdf.

In the context of submissions received from local authorities in respect of my Department’s capital investment programme for returning vacant local authority houses to productive use, authorities have indicated that there currently are some 3,016 vacant properties across all city and county councils. I recently allocated some €15 million for works to refurbish a total of 952 of these vacant properties. Under the recently announced capital supports for the construction sector, my Department will provide a further €20 million for the refurbishment of vacant units in order that these can be made available as quickly as possible to families on the housing waiting lists.

Last week, I published the Implementation Plan on the State's Response to Homelessness in which the Government's objective of ending involuntary long-term homelessness by the end of 2016 was outlined. Returning vacant properties to productive use is an essential component of the plan. A copy of this plan is available on my Department's website,

http://www.environ.ie/en/DevelopmentHousing/Housing/SpecialNeeds/HomelessPeople. This plan sets out a range of measures to secure a ring-fenced supply of accommodation to house homeless households within the next three years and mobilise the necessary supports. A number of actions are identified in the plan which will ensure that vacant properties are utilised as soon as possible, that a full inventory of such properties is available as well as having a common approach to the future management of these properties.

My Department has no function is relation to the compilation of data on the national housing stock. The CSO publishes a range of data in this regard. The Census figures from 2011 showed that over 230,000 houses and apartments, excluding holiday homes, were vacant at the time. It should be noted however that, as required by the Government’s Construction Strategy, my Department has asked the Housing Agency to lead the development of a National Framework for Housing Supply which will inter alia analyse and report on the matching of housing supply and demand. This process will be placed on a statutory footing and will lead to the preparation of an annual National Statement of Projected Housing Supply and Demand.

Homeless Accommodation Funding

Questions (566)

Michael McGrath

Question:

566. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding an application for capital funding for a major refurbishment and redevelopment of a residential centre for girls, women and children who are homeless in Cork city (details supplied). [23231/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

Last week I announced allocations under my Department’s Capital Assistance Scheme amounting to some €19 million for the delivery, by Approved Housing Bodies, of 187 units of accommodation for persons with specific categories of housing needs. This included an allocation of €2.2 million in respect of the proposed development of 15 units at Edel House, Grattan Street, Cork.

Building Regulations Compliance

Questions (567)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

567. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if having regard to the building control regulations in operation over the past ten years, he is satisfied that the various buildings or heavy structures such as underground car parks or bridges of a pre-cast nature are constructed in such a way as to conform to best practice, stress and load distribution and movement arising from expansion or contraction with particular reference to the strength at an overlapping joint which might erode with the passage of time; if any particular issues in this regard have arisen; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23234/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

Building regulations, which are primarily concerned with the safety and well-being of persons in and around buildings, set down the minimum, legally enforceable standards that must be applied to the design and construction of buildings. The statutory requirements are set out in twelve parts (classified as parts A to M) included under the Second Schedule to the Building Regulations 1997-2013. Technical guidance documents (TGDs) are published to accompany each of the twelve parts in order to demonstrate how the statutory requirements may be achieved in practice.

The twelve parts of the regulations and the accompanying TGDs are subject to review and improvement in the light of on-going technical progress and developments within the construction industry. Part A of the Building Regulations sets out the legal requirements for the structural performance of buildings. It covers issues such as loadings on buildings, ground movements and disproportionate collapse. In particular, the legal requirement at paragraph A1 states : “A building shall be designed and constructed, with due regard to the theory and practice of structural engineering, so as to ensure that the combined actions that are liable to act on it are sustained and transmitted to the ground - (a) safely, and (b) without causing such deflection or deformation of any part of the building, or such movement of the ground, as will impair the stability of any part of another building.”

TGD A provides guidance on how to comply with Part A and currently calls up the harmonised EU structural design codes for building and civil engineering works, known as the Eurocodes. Designs carried out to in accordance with the Eurocodes, and the accompanying National Annexes governing their application in Ireland, will indicate, prima facie, compliance with Part A. Civil engineering structures such as bridges may not come within the scope of the building regulations although they come within the scope of the Eurocodes as mentioned above. National policy in relation to such structures is a matter for the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport and the National Roads Authority.

Responsibility for compliance with the Building Regulations is a matter for the owner, designer and builder of a building. Enforcement of the Building Regulations is the responsibility of individual Building Control Authorities which are empowered to carry out inspections and initiate enforcement proceedings, where considered necessary. I have no direct role in relation to compliance checking or enforcement and my Department is not aware of any concerns along the lines suggested.

The careful selection of competent building professionals and contractors should help to ensure that buildings are designed and constructed in accordance with the Regulations. Where the construction of a building is the subject of a contract between the client and the builder, compliance is also a contractual obligation.

Water Charges Introduction

Questions (568)

Dan Neville

Question:

568. Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if the payment of water charges is the responsibility of the landlord or the tenant of a private house; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23251/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Water Services (No. 2) Act 2013 provides Irish Water with the power to charge customers in respect of the services provided. The Act defines the customer as the occupier of the premises in respect of which the water services are provided. The Act also states that it will be presumed, unless the contrary is proved, that the owner of a premises is also the occupier of the premises.

The charges to be levied by Irish Water shall be specified in a water charges plan which is subject to the approval of the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER). The CER has announced that it will be undertaking a public consultation on the water charges plan to be submitted by Irish Water in June 2014 and will be announcing the approved charges in August 2014. Irish Water will begin charging households for water from 1 October 2014, with the first bills to be issued from January 2015.

Household Charge Administration

Question No. 570 answered with Question No. 525.

Questions (569)

Clare Daly

Question:

569. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the operating costs of the household charge support centre; the functions of the unit in view of the fact that they do not answer their phones and do not reply to e-mails; and the action he will take regarding same. [23254/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011 provided the legislative basis for the Household Charge. Under the Act, an owner of a residential property on the liability date is liable to pay the Household Charge, unless otherwise exempted or entitled to claim a waiver. The Charge has operated on a self-assessment basis with an owner of a residential property determining liability and paying the Charge.

The Household Charge was operational in respect of 2012 only, with arrears and penalties in respect of a 2012 liability being collected by local authorities, assisted by the Local Government Management Agency on a shared services/agency basis up to and including 30 June 2013. Household Charge operational matters are a matter for the relevant local authority or for the Agency.

Household Charge administration costs, recouped by the Agency from the Local Government Fund, have amounted to €9,478,332 from 2012 to date. A provision of €200,000 has been set aside from the Local Government Fund in 2014 in respect of Household Charge administrative costs. As of 1 July 2013, outstanding Household Charge liabilities were increased to €200 and converted to a Local Property Tax liability due on the property; the Revenue Commissioners, who have responsibility for the collection of Local Property Tax, are now pursuing outstanding liabilities.

I understand that the current compliance campaign in relation to outstanding Household Charge liabilities being managed by the Revenue Commissioners has led to an increase in queries from the public and I would encourage householders with unresolved issues to contact the Revenue Commissioners to ensure that their position is regularised as soon as possible. Contact details are available on www.revenue.ie or www.householdcharge.ie.

Question No. 570 answered with Question No. 525.

Comhfhreagras Rannach

Questions (571)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

571. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Comhshaoil, Pobail agus Rialtais Áitiúil an ndearnadh iarratas chuige ar chruinniú thar ceann bhainteoirí feamainne Chonamara; an bhfuil sé sásta casadh le hionadaithe do na bainteoirí feamainne chun cearta bainte feamainne a phlé; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [23316/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

Níl aon chuireadh nó iarrtas chun casadh le bainteoirí feamainne faighte agam. Má fhaighim a leithéid d’iarrtas, beidh mé sásta machnamh a dhéanamh air.

Maidir le cearta bainte feamainne, tá ceadúnas de dhíth ag éinne a bhaineann feamann ón trá. I gcásanna áirithe, tá cearta faoi leith maidir le feamainn san áireamh i mbileoga a bhainneann le cearta talún. Faoi láithear, tá mo Roinn ag machnamh ar an mbealach a nascann na cearta seo leis an Acht um Imeall Trá 1933.

Lease Agreements

Questions (572)

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

572. Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the reason Dublin City Council have not met its responsibilities under the management company agreement and specify the actions it has taken to ensure that the developer and their agent, Ballymun Regeneration, complete the transfer of the leases to Gateway Management Company (details supplied). [23322/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

I refer to the reply to Question No. 461 of 13 May, 2014.

My Department has been advised by Dublin City Council that the developer has confirmed that his Solicitor is in the process of transferring title to the management company and that related matters will be finalised in the short term.

Housing Adaptation Grant Funding

Questions (573)

Dara Murphy

Question:

573. Deputy Dara Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when funding will be released to Cork City Council for adaptation works on local authority houses for persons with a disability in 2014 (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23327/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The management and maintenance of the social housing stock, including the compilation and funding of on-going maintenance programmes and minor adaptation works, is a matter for individual housing 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 (ICRs), before seeking Exchequer funding. My Department recently requested local authorities to report on their ICR-funded housing improvement works programme for 2014 and these returns are currently being examined. Requests for funding for adaptations and extensions to local authority houses will be considered in the light of the available own resources to undertake these works.

Water Services Provision

Question No. 575 answered with Question No. 515.

Question No. 576 answered with Question No. 517.

Questions (574)

Robert Troy

Question:

574. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will investigate the delay to individual waters connections for once off houses and agricultural water supply in Athlone (details supplied). [23328/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

My Department has no role in or responsibility for the provision of individual water connections. Since 1 January 2014, Irish Water has statutory responsibility for all aspects of water services planning, delivery and operation at national, regional and local levels. 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 email at oireachtasmembers@water.ie or by telephone on 1890 278 278.

Question No. 575 answered with Question No. 515.
Question No. 576 answered with Question No. 517.

Planning Issues

Questions (577)

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

577. Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he is satisfied that the current process in regard to objecting to or appealing planning applications is not unfairly weighted against the objecting parties (details supplied). [23400/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

Under Article 69(1) of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001, a planning authority is required - as soon as possible after it is given a copy of an appeal lodged with An Bord Pleanála against a decision of that planning authority - to notify in writing any person who made a submission or observation on the planning application, in accordance with the Regulations. The notification must -

(a) specify the reference number of the Board in respect of the appeal,

(b) specify the date on which the appeal was received by the Board,

(c) state that a copy of the appeal is available for inspection or purchase for a fee not exceeding the reasonable cost of making a copy during office hours at the offices of the planning authority, and

(d) state that submissions or observations in relation to the appeal may be made in writing to the Board within the appropriate period and on payment of the appropriate fee.

The appropriate period is, as specified in section 130 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, 4 weeks beginning on the day of receipt of the appeal by the Board.

The above provisions apply equally to objectors to, and supporters of, a proposed development.

I am not aware that there are any difficulties with the current provisions, but will consider whether any revisions to the provisions might be required in the context of the proposed Planning Bill to be brought forward later this year.

Defence Forces Personnel

Questions (578)

Seán Fleming

Question:

578. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Defence his plans in regard to members of the Defence Force who are being required to leave after 21 years whereas in the past they could stay on for a much longer period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22233/14]

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Written answers (Question to Defence)

The unsatisfactory age and fitness profile of the Permanent Defence Force was an issue of serious concern during the 1990’s and was the subject of severe criticism by a series of external reports, mainly Price Waterhouse Consultants and the Efficiency Audit Group (EAG). One of the key areas identified for urgent action by the EAG was the development of a manpower policy with an emphasis on lowering the age profile of Permanent Defence Force personnel. The EAG’s report was accepted by Government in 1995. In an effort to alleviate the situation, the Government had already decided in 1993 to enlist personnel on a five year contract basis, following consultation with Permanent Defence Force Other Ranks Representative Association (PDFORRA). In 1997 agreement was reached with PDFORRA on a new manpower policy for the Defence Forces. This policy, applying to personnel enlisted after 1 January 1994, provided that service for Private Soldiers would initially be for five years with the option to be extended to a maximum of twelve years, subject to meeting standards of medical and physical fitness and conduct. Longer periods of service were envisaged for Non Commissioned Officers. In 2004 PDFORRA submitted a claim under the Conciliation and Arbitration Scheme for a further review of the terms of service applying to personnel enlisting in the Permanent Defence Force after 1 January, 1994. A set of criteria was agreed with PDFORRA to provide longer careers for those who enlisted post 1 January 1994 while continuing to address the Government’s objective of having an appropriate age profile to meet the challenges of a modern Defence Forces.

The criteria require that any person re-engaging after 12 years service must be able to continue to operate at their current level both at home and overseas on an ongoing basis. Re-engagement is subject to the individual soldier meeting specified criteria in regard to physical fitness, medical category, successful completion of military courses of instruction, service overseas and conduct ratings.

The maximum service period for these personnel is as follows:

- Enlisted Personnel, up to and including the rank of Corporal (and equivalent Naval Service rank), may not serve beyond 21 years service.

- Enlisted Personnel, in the rank of Sergeant (and equivalent Naval Service rank), may be permitted to continue in service up to the age of fifty years.

- Enlisted Personnel in all higher ranks may serve to the age of fifty-six.

With the approach of 2015 the first effects of the agreement, whereby Privates and Corporals may not serve beyond 21 years, will be felt by Permanent Defence Force members in those ranks. A claim has been received from PDFORRA for a further review in relation to this matter. In accordance with normal procedures the Association’s claim is being dealt with under the Conciliation and Arbitration Scheme for members of the Permanent Defence Force. As discussions under the Scheme are confidential to the parties involved, it would not be appropriate for me to comment on the matter at this time, other than to emphasise that in dealing with this issue the manpower and operational needs of the Defence Forces must be the primary consideration.