Thursday, 5 December 2019

Questions (408)

Robert Troy

Question:

408. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the reason County Westmeath was not included in the pyrite remediation scheme in 2013 in view of the fact the two bordering counties of Offaly and Meath were included (details supplied). [50670/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Pyrite Resolution Act 2013 provides the statutory framework for the establishment of the Pyrite Resolution Board and for the making of a pyrite remediation scheme to be implemented by the Board with support from the Housing Agency.

The provisions of the Act apply only to dwellings affected by significant damage attributable to pyritic heave consequent on the presence of reactive pyrite in the subfloor hardcore material and not to damage arising in any other circumstance, e.g. such as pyrite in concrete blocks. 

The pyrite remediation scheme is a scheme of “last resort” for affected homeowners who have no other practical option to obtain redress and is limited in its application and scope. The full conditions for eligibility under the scheme are set out in the scheme which is available on the Board’s website, www.pyriteboard.ie.

The scheme is applicable to dwellings, which are subject to significant damage attributable to pyritic heave established, in accordance with I.S. 398-1:2017 - Reactive pyrite in sub-floor hardcore material – Part 1: Testing and categorisation protocol.  In this regard, it is a condition of eligibility under the scheme that an application to the Board must be accompanied by a Building Condition Assessment with a Damage Condition Rating of 2.  Dwellings which do not have a Damage Condition Rating of 2 are not eligible to apply under the scheme.  This ensures that, having regard to the available resources, the focus of the scheme is on dwellings which are most severely damaged by pyritic heave.  I have no proposals to amend this eligibility criterion.

As matters currently stand, the position is that the scheme is based on the information that was available to the Board at the time of its adoption in February 2014 and having regard to the detail set out in the Report of the Pyrite Panel (July 2012). 

The Panel undertook a desktop study, in conjunction with a stakeholder consultation, to establish certain facts in relation to the potential exposure of pyrite in dwellings.  The information was gathered from a number of sources including local authorities, structural guarantee providers, representatives of homeowners, private builders, construction professionals and public representatives and was cross referenced to verify, as far as practicable, its validity.

Seventy four estates were identified to the Pyrite Panel, as possibly having pyrite.  At that time all of these estates were located in the five local authority areas of Dublin City, Fingal, Kildare, Meath and Offaly, although the scheme was subsequently amended in February 2015 in the light of relevant information that emerged in the local authority areas of Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown and South Dublin with regard to pyritic heave in a small number of housing developments, i.e. one development in each of the two local authority areas.

Any proposal to amend the scheme is, in the first instance, a matter for the Pyrite Resolution Board and any such proposal would require detailed consideration of the evidence. The recommendations of the Pyrite Panel, which informed the establishment of the pyrite remediation scheme, were premised on a number of pertinent factors.  I would support the view that similar factors would need to be examined by the Pyrite Resolution Board in advance of extending the scheme to other areas, given the scheme is ultimately one of last resort.

As a minimum, in order to consider the appropriateness or otherwise of amending the scheme, I understand that the Board would require a report addressing the following information:

- the extent and severity of damage to dwellings in the local authority area caused by pyritic heave in the subfloor hardcore;

- verification, if available, that the damage has been caused by pyrite;

- the background to the occurrence of the damage;

- details of any structural warranty policies for the dwellings;

- the history of the estate’s construction, numbers, type of dwellings etc;

- the source of the hardcore supplied to dwellings in the estate; and

- any supporting geological assessments.

In addition to the above, the Board may also make such further enquiries as it considers necessary in order to assist it in considering the matter.  In this regard, it would be advisable for the residents to confirm the nature of the pyrite problems in the area, i.e. do the problems stem from reactive pyrite in the subfloor hardcore material which is giving rise to pyritic heave and consequential significant pyritic damage. 

The Board may be contacted by phone at Lo call 1890 252842 or by email to info@pyriteboard.ie or alternatively at oireachtasinfo@pyriteboard.ie