I propose to take Questions Nos. 1350 and 1351 together.
The National Planning Framework (NPF), published as part of Project Ireland 2040, sets out the Government’s overarching strategic planning approach underpinning the proper planning and sustainable development of urban and rural areas in the period to 2040, including the proper planning and sustainable development of rural towns and villages.
National Policy Objective 15 of the NPF supports the sustainable development of rural areas that have experienced low population growth or decline in recent decades. Furthermore, under National Policy Objective 18b, my Department is committed to developing a programme with local authorities, public infrastructure agencies, such as Irish Water, and local communities for the provision of serviced sites for housing to attract people to build their own homes and live in small towns and villages.
The development of such a programme must take account of lessons learned from experience with so called “Developer Provided Water Services Infrastructure” (DPI), which my Department’s National Taking in Charge Initiative (NTICI) examined and reported on. The report is available on my Department’s website at:
I understand that Irish Water will be bringing forward proposals for a Small Towns and Villages Growth Programme which will support a number of the National Policy Objectives and National Strategic Outcomes under the NPF. The Small Towns and Villages Growth Programme is intended to provide water and wastewater growth capacity in smaller settlements which would not otherwise be provided for in Irish Water’s Investment Plan.
Irish Water is to work with Local Authorities across the country in ensuring the investment is made where it is needed most, aligned to core strategies. I understand that it is proposed that the overall national budget for this Programme by Irish Water would be allocated between counties, based on an identified need against set criteria.
Irish Water is subject to regulation by the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU). The proposals from Irish Water in this regard form part of the submissions from Irish Water to the CRU on its detailed investment plans under the Irish Water Investment Plan 2020 to 2024. These submissions are currently being considered by the CRU and a decision is expected from the CRU in the second half of 2019.
The broad approach outlined in the document “Water Services Guidelines for Planning Authorities” which I published last year in draft format under Section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 (as amended), is that there is effective coordination between planning authorities in their planning functions, Irish Water in its rolling capital investment programmes and local community interests.
The draft Guidelines highlight that it is the policy of Irish Water to facilitate connections to existing infrastructure, where capacity exists, in order to maximise the use of existing infrastructure and reduce additional investment costs; and that there is a general presumption that development will be focused into areas that are serviced by public water supply and wastewater collection networks with the exception of domestic systems for single dwellings. I propose to issue final Guidelines shortly.