Planning Guidelines

Questions (1294)

Verona Murphy

Question:

1294. Deputy Verona Murphy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the exact guidelines as amended that he refers to in SPPR 4 of the urban development and building height guidelines; if the ministerial guidelines are higher policy and are intended to usurp the density provisions of each of the CDPs of each local electoral area; the basis for the stance adopted by An Bord Pleanála in a number of recent decisions that minimum densities in rural locations or greenfield or edge of town and city locations of 35 dph is the correct density; the research and reports upon which he relied in issuing the 2009 guidelines particularly in relation to paragraph 5.11 of those guidelines in relation to density in rural towns; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5024/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Under Project Ireland 2040, including the National Planning Framework (NPF), the Government has taken a lead on moving away from development sprawl to more compact urban growth as a key mechanism to support proper planning and sustainable development as well as action on climate change and congestion. Project Ireland 2040 restates the commitment to implement statutory planning guidelines on Sustainable Residential Development in Urban Areas, published by my Department in 2009.

The Guidelines on Sustainable Residential Development in Urban Areas are specifically referred to in SPPR 4 of the Urban and Building Height Guidelines, published in December 2018. It should be noted that SPPR 4 sets out a specific planning policy requirement in relation to the development of greenfield, or edge of city/town locations, for housing purposes, particularly in relation to appropriate building height, that Planning Authorities are required to follow.

An Bord Pleanála is a statutory independent body and it would be inappropriate for me to make any comment in relation to individual decisions it makes. However, in general, it should be noted that An Bord Pleanála typically upholds national policy where there is divergence apparent in local policy.

The Guidelines on Sustainable Residential Development in Urban Areas generally require densities in the range of 35-50 dwellings per hectare (dph) on outer suburban/greenfield sites. This has been established Government policy for a significant period of time, dating back to 1999. The Guidelines, however, also provide scope for densities below 35 dph on more peripheral sites in smaller towns and villages, in particular to assist in delivering more sustainable alternatives to dispersed urban-generated rural houses.

Given that individual county development plans prioritise key towns, including county towns and many larger towns, for future development with significant population growth targets, achieving densities of 35 dph and over is important. Not achieving such densities means that such towns will become even more spread out and car dependent, with negative implications for tackling climate change and for promoting and sustaining public transport systems or even for the provision of cycling and walking networks.

Moreover, achieving densities of at least 35 dph is essential in catering for the more diverse range of smaller households presenting today, including couples who may wish to downsize, creating the flexibility for households to stay in their neighbourhoods/towns as their housing requirements change. Such densities are achievable through a mix of some individual homes, coupled with a significant level of semi-detached and some terraced housing.

In terms of research, the Guidelines on Sustainable Residential Development in Urban Areas area were issued together with a detailed manual and include a list of relevant documents at Appendix B, available at the following link:

https://www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/migrated-files/en/Publications/DevelopmentandHousing/Planning/FileDownLoad%2C19164%2Cen.pdf

It should also be noted that the 1999 Guidelines on Residential Density for Planning Authorities were based on a detailed research report undertaken by Feargal McCabe Town Planning Consultants and McCrosson O’Rourke Architects.

I am satisfied that the 2009 Guidelines are entirely consistent with supporting the appropriate development of our towns and urban centres in the context of the compact urban growth objective of the NPF.

Housing Assistance Payment Administration

Questions (1295)

Chris Andrews

Question:

1295. Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the actions taken regarding new HAP contracts when landlords are waiting on payment but local authorities are not processing so the tenant is in default; the measures being put in place to safeguard vulnerable tenants and to ensure landlords are receiving payments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5036/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Limerick City and County Council provide a highly effective transactional shared service on behalf of all local authorities in the administration of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme. The HAP Shared Services Centre (SSC) manages all HAP related rental transactions for the tenant, local authority and landlord. Once a HAP application has been received and confirmed as valid by the relevant local authority, it is then processed by the HAP SSC. Any rental payment arising for a given month will then be made to a landlord on the last Wednesday of that month.

Local Authorities and the HAP SSC continue to provide a critical service to all HAP customers. While local authorities are putting in place arrangements to reduce direct contact, because of public health requirements, alternative processes are in place to ensure a HAP service continues to be provided. This is particularly important for those applying for support under Homeless HAP in the current crisis.

Under the HAP scheme, priority is currently being given to HAP set-ups and ensuring that landlords are paid and that HAP tenancies are maintained. HAP applications continue to be received and processed by local authorities, and the HAP Shared Service Centre is continuing to carry out all of the necessary back office activities in setting up HAP tenancies as normal.

HAP application processing times within local authorities may vary. Once a HAP application has been received and confirmed as valid by the relevant local authority, it is entered on the system by the local authority and then submitted for processing and payment by the HAP SSC. If there are delays at the processing stage within a local authority, payment to the landlord will be backdated to the date on which a complete and valid application form was received by the local authority. The landlord is therefore not penalised for any delay.

As at 11 May 2020, a weekly average of 293 HAP tenancies have been set up in 2020, with the most recent 5 week trend data showing a weekly average of 326 tenancies being signed-up. Since 2 March 2020, 2,947 HAP tenancies have been set up, including 456 Homeless HAP tenancies in the DRHE region. Over 76,600 HAP tenancies have been set-up since the Scheme commenced, over 55,300 of which are still active.

Under the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (COVID-19) Act 2020, the Government introduced additional supports and protections for renters, beyond the income supports already agreed with the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. The Act provides for amendments to the Residential Tenancies Acts 2004 to 2019, which will operate for a period of 3 months from 27 March 2020. Provision has also been made for this period to be extended, if the Government considers it appropriate to do so.

A notice of termination cannot be served during the COVID–19 emergency period. All notices of termination which were served before the emergency period are paused and tenants, in general, cannot be obliged to leave their rented accommodation during this time. Similarly, all notices of rent increase which were served before the emergency period and were due to take effect during this period, are paused. While tenants are obliged to pay rent during the COVID – 19 emergency period, landlords are not permitted to increase the amount of rent payable during this period.

Under HAP, a tenant sources his or her own accommodation in the private rented market. The tenancy agreement is between the tenant and the landlord and is governed by the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 -2019. HAP supported tenancies are afforded the same protections available to all private rented tenancies.

Local Authority Contracts

Questions (1296)

Frank Feighan

Question:

1296. Deputy Frankie Feighan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he will take action at Departmental level to enable Sligo County Council to extend the current contract of works currently under way in Sligo town to upgrade O’Connell Street, the urban centre of Sligo and its public realm under Project Ireland 2040 and the urban regeneration fund; if he will take action to allow the council to permit the contractors currently on site to complete these new works on adjoining streets which are set to be upgraded in 2020 through funding from his Department which will ensure that business disruption is kept to a minimum (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5056/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

In June 2018, as part of the first tranche of approvals under the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund, Sligo County Council was approved a provisional allocation of €1,236,000 in respect of its planned O’Connell Street Enhancement project.

While my Department works closely with applicants on the development of their projects, the advancement and completion of each URDF-supported project, including the planning, procurement and timing of related capital works, remains a matter for the contracting authority, in this case Sligo County Council.

Tenant Purchase Scheme

Questions (1297)

Seán Fleming

Question:

1297. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to change the tenant purchase scheme to include a category of tenants (details supplied) that have been excluded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5176/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Tenant (Incremental) Purchase Scheme came into operation on 1 January 2016. The Scheme is open to eligible tenants, including joint tenants, of local authority houses that are available for sale under the Scheme. To be eligible, tenants must meet certain criteria, including having a minimum reckonable income of €15,000 per annum and having been in receipt of social housing support for at least one year.

The Housing (Sale of Local Authority Houses) Regulations 2015 governing the Scheme provide for a number of specified classes of houses to be excluded from sale, including houses provided to local authorities under Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, houses specifically designed for older persons, group Traveller housing and houses provided to facilitate people with disabilities transferring from institutional care to community-based living.

Part V homes are among the classes excluded from the tenant purchase scheme - this is to ensure that homes delivered under this mechanism will remain available for people in need of social housing support, and that the original policy goals of the legislation are not eroded over time. The provisions of Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, are designed to enable the development of mixed-tenure, sustainable communities.

Local authorities may, within the provisions of the Regulations, exclude certain houses which, in the opinion of the authority, should not be sold for reasons such as proper stock or estate management. It is a matter for each individual local authority to administer the Scheme in its operational area in line with the over-arching provisions of the governing legislation, and in a manner appropriate to its housing requirements.

The 2016 Scheme does not extend to houses owned by Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) as the ownership of these properties remains with the AHB concerned. Under the terms of the various funding schemes supporting the delivery of social housing by AHBs, AHBs are the legal owners of the properties and must make them available for social renting for the duration of the mortgage or, as the case may be, the availability agreement.

In line with the commitment given in the Government's Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan on Housing and Homelessness, a review of the operation of the first 12 months of the Tenant Purchase (Incremental) Scheme has been finalised and a full report has been prepared setting out findings and recommendations.

This issue is part of a significant body of work undertaken in my Department in relation to the broader social housing reform agenda. I expect that the review will be published once all the work on these reform measures is completed.

Housing Issues

Questions (1298)

Cian O'Callaghan

Question:

1298. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the steps he is taking to establish a redress scheme to assist homeowners with latent defects for those affected as recommended in the report of the Joint Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government, Safe as Houses?: A Report on Building Standards, Building Controls & Consumer Protection of December 2017; his plans to provide information and advice services to homeowners affected by latent defects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5213/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Safe as Houses report has been considered by my Department, and while I accept many of the principles in it, I believe that the building control reform agenda already well underway provides a comprehensive roadmap for embedding a culture of compliance and accountability within the construction industry and for strengthening the building control framework in Ireland.

The reform agenda includes:

- amendments made to the Building Control Regulations;

- the National Building Control Management Project; and

- the ongoing development of new legislation through the Building Control (Construction Industry Register Ireland) Bill.

Local authorities have extensive powers of inspection and enforcement under the Fire Services Acts 1981 and 2003, the Building Control Acts, the Housing Acts and the Planning and Development Acts. Fire services may inspect buildings in cases of defects or complaints in respect of fire safety. They work with building owners to ensure that immediate risks are addressed and that a plan is put in place, where required, for works to bring buildings into compliance.

In relation to legacy issues generally, I acknowledge the very stressful circumstances which owners and residents face when defects occur in their homes. However, in general, building defects are matters for resolution between the contracting parties involved, that is the homeowner, the builder, the developer and/or their respective insurers, structural guarantee or warranty scheme. The State has no general statutory role in resolving defects in privately owned buildings, including dwellings, nor does it have a budget for such matters. It is not possible for the State to take on responsibility/liability for all legacy issues nor would it send the right message to the industry regarding their responsibility for compliance.

My focus will remain firmly on ensuring the full roll out of the building control reform agenda, to ensure that all those that engaged in the construction sector take their responsibilities seriously and are appropriately held to account. As part of the reform agenda, consumer protection will continue to be my core concern and any proposals in that regard will, of course, be considered.

Protected Disclosures

Questions (1299)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

1299. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of protected disclosures his Department has received since the legislation was introduced; the number of protected disclosures examined to conclusion by year in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5308/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Section 22 of the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 requires each public body to publish an annual report setting out the number of protected disclosures received in the preceding year and the action taken. The annual reports for my Department are available on the Department's website at the following link:

https://www.housing.gov.ie/search/archived/current?query=protected%20disclosure .

Since the introduction of the Act, no protected disclosures have been received from workers of my Department.

As set out in the following table, twelve protected disclosures have been received to date from workers of other bodies in relation to which the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government has legislative functions, as provided for under Section 8 of the Act.

Year

Number of Disclosures from Workers of the Department

Number of Disclosures from Workers of other bodies

2014

0

0

2015

0

1 (Closed)

2016

0

1

2017

0

2

2018

0

4

2019

0

4

2020

0

0

The assessment and, if necessary, investigation of disclosures by workers from other bodies is complex, requiring considerable work with the discloser and the other bodies to facilitate a positive outcome.

Assessments and in most instances significant examinations, have been undertaken on these disclosures. To date, one case from 2015 has been brought to a conclusion, the others remain open.

Housing Estates

Questions (1300)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

1300. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if a decision been made on a developer provided infrastructure application for an estate (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5424/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

In July 2019 my Department launched the multi-annual Developer Provided Water Services Infrastructure Resolution Programme 2019-2021. Bids were sought from local authorities for funding under the programme and the closing date for bids was 18 September 2019. Nineteen local authorities with Developer Provided Water Services Infrastructure in estates in their areas made applications for funding. Kerry County Council included the estate referred to in its application.

My Department has completed a preliminary evaluation and clarification process on the bids received from the local authorities. An Expert Panel, which includes Departmental, stakeholder and independent representation, has been appointed to examine the bids. The Panel have held a number of meetings with a further meeting scheduled for later this month.

The Expert Panel will make recommendations to me on the suitability of projects for funding under the programme. This will be based on criteria set out in the Framework document issued to local authorities when requesting proposals. I expect to be in a position to make an announcement on approvals and allocations once that process is concluded and has been considered in late Q2 2020.

Water Services

Questions (1301)

Francis Noel Duffy

Question:

1301. Deputy Francis Noel Duffy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the preparations made for drought in view of the lack of rainfall in the last period. [5436/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Irish Water has statutory responsibility for all aspects of public water services planning, delivery and operation at national, regional and local levels and has a dedicated Drought Management Team which it activates during periods of shortages and droughts to assess and monitor demand on water supplies. Irish Water has, this week, commenced a public information campaign to urge the public to conserve water in light of the current weather conditions, increased domestic consumption due to people staying at home as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to ensure that public health advice on hand washing is given priority. More information on what is being done and what the public can do to lessen the pressures on water supplies is available at www.water.ie/water-supply/water-shortages/.

More generally, my Department coordinates the national response to severe weather events. This would be relevant during prolonged drought conditions where water supply is significantly impacted upon. In 2018, for instance, my Department convened a cross-departmental group to manage the drought and water supply. My Department will continue to monitor the present situation in consultation with Irish Water.

Local Authority Housing

Questions (1302)

Francis Noel Duffy

Question:

1302. Deputy Francis Noel Duffy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the spending on retrofitting of the current social housing stock. [5450/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

My Department has operated an Energy Efficiency Retrofitting Programme for local authority social housing since 2013. The programme improves the insulation standards and overall energy performance of local authority housing stock, which can benefit those at risk of fuel poverty, as well as contributing to Ireland’s carbon emissions reduction and energy efficiency targets. Since the beginning of the programme, over €151 million of exchequer support has been provided for this work, which has improved the energy efficiency and comfort levels in over 72,000 local authority homes.

For 2020, the Energy Efficiency Retrofitting programme for social housing has an allocated exchequer budget of €25 million, while a further €20 million is being made available for similar retrofitting in the midlands as part of the 'Just Transition' programme.

Departmental Reports

Questions (1303)

Michael McGrath

Question:

1303. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of the progress of the working group established to review sustainable rural housing guidelines following the Flemish Decree; if the reports prepared by it will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5461/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Following engagement between the European Commission and my Department regarding the European Court of Justice ruling in the "Flemish Decree" case, a working group was established to review and, where necessary, recommend changes to the 2005 Planning Guidelines on Sustainable Rural Housing, issued under section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended. The working group comprises senior officials from the Planning Division of my Department and senior officials from the Planning Divisions of local authorities, nominated by the local government sector.

My Department is reviewing the Development Plan Guidelines for Planning Authorities in light of both legislative changes and the introduction of the National Planning Framework (NPF) and Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies. In line with the NPF Objective 37, my Department is also working on guidance on the preparation of Housing Need Demand Assessments, which will inform housing strategies and associated land use zoning policies.

In addition to reviewing the Development Plan Guidelines, my Department is reviewing whether to update the Sustainable Rural Housing Guidelines for Planning Authorities or whether the update would be more appropriately reflected in new guidance on Sustainable Settlements. Such guidance would incorporate both the Sustainable Rural Housing Guidelines for Planning Authorities (2005) and the Guidelines for Planning Authorities on the Sustainable Residential Development in Urban Areas (2009), which encompasses towns and villages, to more appropriately reflect the range of areas and influences and the objectives of the NPF.

I envisage that draft guidance arising from the foregoing work should be available for consideration later in 2020.

Departmental Offices

Questions (1304)

Peter Burke

Question:

1304. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if there are vacancies in the offices of his Department at a location (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5495/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

My Department does not have offices in the locations referred to by the Deputy.

Museum Projects

Questions (1305)

Cian O'Callaghan

Question:

1305. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht her plans for Mariner's Hall on the West Pier, Howth, Dublin 13; if her attention has been drawn to local interest in establishing a maritime museum and experience to record the history of Howth and the seafaring maritime culture and traditions of the area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5208/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Culture)

I understand that the Mariner's Hall is a vacant commercial building on the west pier in Howth, which like other buildings on the west pier is owned by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. I understand , the building has been recently restored by that Department and will be made available for rental in line with the Government procedures for the disposal of State Property. No organisation has formally applied to my Department for funding to assist with the development of a maritime museum.

My Department annually supports a number of ventures in the area of transport heritage, including the National Transport Museum, also in Howth, and Foynes Flying Boat and Maritime Museum and the Maritime Museum in Dun Laoghaire. My Department has also supported transport heritage projects through it's Regional Museums Exhibition Programme and transport heritage festivals through the Small Local Festivals and Summer Schools Scheme. While both Schemes are closed for application for 2020, details may be found on my Department's website at https://www.chg.gov.ie/arts/culturegrants-and-funding/

This link also contains details of funding provided to transport and maritime projects in previous years.

These schemes are in addition to the Capital Support Schemes and funding for Arts and Culture organisations, details of which may be found on my Department' website at

https://www.chg.gov.ie/arts/creative-arts/projects-and-programmes/capital-support-schemes-and-funding-for-arts-and-culture-organisations/

Commemorative Events

Questions (1306)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

1306. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if a location for the An Gorta Mór Ulster NFMD Commemoration 2020 has been selected; her plans and or vision for the commemoration; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3917/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Culture)

As the Deputy will be aware, each year the National Famine Commemoration provides an opportunity for the host community to honour the memory of those who perished or suffered loss during the famine.

As I announced in February it was intended that this year's Commemoration would be held in Buncrana, Co. Donegal. However, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and the associated restrictions on public gatherings it has become necessary to postpone Buncrana's hosting of the ceremony until 2021.

With regard to this year's Commemoration I am pleased to confirm that I will represent the Government at a formal wreath laying ceremony in St. Stephen's Green on this Sunday 17th May. As with the recent Easter and Arbour Hill ceremonies this ceremony will be conducted in accordance with the current COVID-19 guidelines and will not therefore be open to the public.

Calafoirt agus Céanna

Questions (1307)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

1307. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Cultúir, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta cén dul chun cinn atá déanta maidir le forbairt na Cé in Inis Oírr; cén uair atá súil aici deontas a cheadú don obair riachtanach ar an gCé a bhfuarthas cead pleanála di i 2008; agus an ndéanfaidh sí ráiteas ina thaobh. [3949/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Culture)

Mar is eol don Teachta, tá forbairt Ché Inis Oírr san áireamh ar liosta na dtograí atá le forbairt faoi Thionscadail Éire 2040.

Cuirfear an fhorbairt seo chun cinn faoi réir théarmaí an Chód Chaiteachais Phoiblí. Mar chuid den Chód sin, tá oifigigh mo Roinne agus Comhairle Chontae na Gaillimhe ag comhoibriú ar chás gnó i leith an togra a chríochnú faoi láthair.

Agus an chéim sin curtha i gcríoch, déanfar an cás le haghaidh an togra a thabhairt go dtí céim na tairisceana a mheas i gcomhthéacs an airgid atá ar fáil do mo Roinn le caitheamh ar thograí caipitil agus na n-éileamh éagsúla ar an airgead sin.

Calafoirt agus Céanna

Questions (1308)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

1308. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Cultúir, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta cén dul chun cinn atá déanta go dtí seo, i gcomhar le Comhairle Contae na Gaillimhe le tuilleadh forbartha a dhéanamh ar Ché an Chalaidh Mhóir in Inis Meáin; cad iad na céimeanna a gcaithfear dul tríothu chun go gceadófar deontas don obair seo; cén uair atá súil go gceadófar deontas don obair seo; agus an ndéanfaidh sí ráiteas ina thaobh. [3950/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Culture)

Tá forbairt Ché an Chalaidh Mhóir, Inis Meáin san áireamh i Tionscadail Éireann 2040.

Bíonn mo Roinn i dteagmháil le Comhairle Contae na Gailimhe go rialta maidir leis an togra seo agus, ag eascairt as na teagmálacha sin agus mar chuid den mheasúnú ar an togra, tá sé i gceist taighde a choimisiúnú chun samhail ionsamhlúcháin a réiteach a léireoidh na roghanna éagsúla don fhorbairt.

Agus an chéim sin curtha i gcríoch, déanfar an togra a mheas arís faoi théarmaí an Chóid Caiteachais Poiblí agus i gcomhthéacs an airgid atá ar fáil do mo Roinn le caitheamh ar thograí caipitil agus na n-éileamh éagsúla ar an airgead sin.

Departmental Expenditure

Questions (1309)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

1309. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the amount expended on access to online and hardcopy media publications in each of the years 2017 to 2019 and to date in 2020; the breakdown of online and hard copy subscriptions including the publications that her Department subscribes to; if consideration has been given to using a banded set of IP addresses for online subscriptions rather than individual accounts; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4003/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Culture)

The information sought by the Deputy in relation to expenditure on media publications in each of the years 2017 to 2019 and to date in 2020 from my Department's administrative budget is set out below.

The hard-copy media publications to which these subscriptions apply include the Irish Independent, Sunday Independent, Irish Examiner, Sun (Irish edition), Irish Daily Star, Daily Mirror (Irish edition) , Daily Mail (Irish edition),The Herald, Irish Sunday World, Mail on Sunday (Irish edition), Sunday Mirror (Irish edition) ,Sunday Times (Irish edition), Business Post, Irish Times, Phoenix, Irish Farmers Journal and the Economist ). Costs are as follows:

Year

2017

9,867

2018

10,622

2019

11,435

2020

3,458

Total

35,382

Cost of subscriptions to on-line media publications and services

The Department maintains subscriptions to the Irish Times Online, Business Post, Irish Independent, Sunday Independent, The Herald, Sunday World, the Sunday Times and to Press Reader.

Year

2017

1,732

2018

1,776

2019

1,792

2020

1,743

Total

7,043

Cost, including the use of corporate or group subscriptions, is a primary consideration in all decisions related to expenditure on media publications and subscriptions.

Departmental Data

Questions (1310)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

1310. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the top ten websites visited by officials and political staff annually in each of the years 2017 to 2019 and to date in 2020 via hardware provided to them by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4019/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Culture)

While I understand that the ICT Unit of my Department has implemented systems to track and monitor web usage, due to some issues being encountered with the systems in place, I am unfortunately unable to provide the details required. However, these issues are being addressed and all access continues to be logged and I should therefore be in a position to provide such information in the future.

Grant Payments

Questions (1311)

Jennifer Whitmore

Question:

1311. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if grants are available for community choir groups (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4125/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Culture)

Primary support for the Arts is delivered through the Arts Council. Funding for the Arts Council has increased in recent years and now stands at €80.5 million in 2020, and increase of some €5.5m or 7.3% over 2019.

Although there is no funding for choirs available from my Department, the Arts Council funds Sing Ireland (formally known as the Association of Irish Choirs). The Arts Council allocation to Sing Ireland has increased incrementally in the last number of years from €126,000 in 2016, €145,000 in 2017, €156,000 in 2018 and to €179,000 in both 2019 and 2020. Sing Ireland supports organisations around the country, including voluntary and community choirs, through their online and other resources.

The Creative Ireland Programme provides significant support to local authorities to enable them curate a programme of local events and activities each year. Each local authority has complete discretion as to how to allocate this amount once it relates to the cultural sector (the arts, creativity, heritage, history projects, the Irish language, etc.). Some local authorities have used this funding to set up specific local grant schemes or supported specific projects.

The main source of funding for local community events and activities under the Creative Ireland Programme is Creative Communities . In 2019, total funding of €3m was allocated to all 31 local authorities (approximately €96,000 each) to enable them to support an extensive programme of activities, events and initiatives in the county. Each local authority has established a Creative Ireland Co-coordinator and a local Culture Team to manage and allocate this funding in accordance with local needs and in line with their own, individual 5-year Culture and Creativity Strategy. Nearly 1,500 projects were funded nationwide in 2019 covering a broad range of topics including archaeology, architecture, biodiversity, crafts, heritage, drama, dance, literature, music, storytelling and the visual arts.

Wildlife Conservation

Questions (1312)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

1312. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht when a payment under the KerryLIFE project will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4126/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Culture)

The KerryLIFE project has reviewed the payment record for the person and can confirm all payments due to the person to date have been issued. Officials from my Department have conveyed this information to the applicant by phone and in writing.

Grant Payments

Questions (1313)

James Browne

Question:

1313. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the grants available to aid rethatching; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4138/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Culture)

My Department provides financial support for the protection of heritage buildings and historic structures through 2 grant schemes which are, in the main, administered by the Local Authorities. These are the Built Heritage Investment Scheme (BHIS) and the Historic Structures Fund (HSF), both of which accept applications for repairs to thatched buildings.

While the primary responsibility to care for and maintain a protected structure rests with the owner, these schemes invest essential capital in our valuable built heritage and help the owners and custodians of historic structures in every local authority area across the country to safeguard their properties into the future for the benefit of communities.

The Heritage Council, which my Department funds, also provides grants for the protection and preservation of our built heritage, which may include grants for thatching. The announcement of any proposed grant schemes can be found on their website at www.heritagecouncil.ie .

While my Department does not run a funding scheme specifically for thatched structures, the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government administers a grant scheme for the renewal or repair of thatched roofs of owner-occupied houses. Full details are available from their website at www.housing.gov.ie/housing/grantsfinancial-assistance/thatching-grant/thatching-grants.

Turf Cutting

Questions (1314)

Carol Nolan

Question:

1314. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if the protection of the turf cutting tradition will be ensured; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4219/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Culture)

Ireland, like all EU Member States, is bound by the requirements of the Habitats Directive and the Birds Directive. These Directives aim to ensure the protection of habitats and species which have been selected for conservation within special areas of conservation and special protection areas.

Significant efforts have been made by the State to resolve the issue of the protection of Ireland’s raised bog special areas of conservation and natural heritage areas within the framework of the Habitats Directive. This has included the establishment of the Peatlands Council, intensive and on-going engagement with turf cutting interests, the farming community, non-governmental organisations and with the European Commission, as well as the establishment of a long-term compensation scheme for affected turf cutters.

The National Raised Bog Special Areas of Conservation Management Plan 2017–2022 sets out how the raised bog special areas of conservation are to be managed, conserved and restored and how the needs of turf cutters are to be addressed. This plan, as well as the National Peatlands Strategy, recognises that domestic turf cutters have a traditional right to cut turf and that this right is balanced with the conservation objectives for designated raised bogs and the legal obligations on the State.

Historic Structures Fund

Questions (1315)

James Browne

Question:

1315. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the position regarding an application by a person (details supplied) to the historic structures fund; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4248/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Culture)

My Department provides financial support for the protection of heritage buildings and historic structures through 2 grant schemes which are, in the main, administered by the local authorities.

These schemes are the Built Heritage Investment Scheme (BHIS) and the Historic Structures Fund (HSF), both of which accept applications for repairs to thatched buildings. The BHIS provides grant funding of between €2,500 and €15,000 to projects selected by the Local Authorities. The HSF provides grant funding of between €15,000 and €50,000 under Stream 1 and between €50,000 and €200,000 under Stream 2. Under the HSF, projects are short-listed by the Local Authority prior to submission to the Department for assessment. Details of all projects approved will be published on my Department’s website and on each local authority website in due course.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Questions (1316)

Seán Haughey

Question:

1316. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if she will introduce measures to promote the use of moss in city architecture and landscaping in order to tackle climate change in view of the fact that moss absorbs carbon; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4262/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Culture)

Firstly I should clarify that the role of my Department is to support the protection, conservation, and sustainable management of our national built heritage and ensure an appropriate policy and legislative framework is in place to help secure its future. It has no specific role in relation to the promotion of any material or process for furthering these aims.

The Deputy may be aware, however, of the drafting of a new National Policy on Architecture that is being led by my Department with the support of a steering committee including officials from the Office of Public Works, the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, the Department of Education and Skills, The Health Service Executive, the City and County Architects Association, the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland, the schools of architecture and the Irish Architecture Foundation

The proposed new Policy will support long–term planning strategies and will assist in addressing key issues including societal well-being, climate change and urban regeneration. It will provide tools to help us creatively address challenges such as the current public health crisis as well as the need to deliver new homes and neighbourhoods for our growing population, together with the schools, hospitals, workplaces and infrastructure to support the society we aspire to achieve. The adaptation of existing as well as the design of new buildings will be critical to meet the targets set by the Climate Action Plan 2019, including my Department’s Climate Change Sectoral Adaptation Plan for the Built and Archaeological Heritage.

As one of the proposed themes is climate resilience and sustainability the question of ‘greening’ urban areas may be relevant and, while my officials are not aware that moss absorbs more CO2 than other greenery, I would welcome a submission with supporting information on its use as a climate measure. Submissions can be sent to the dedicated email address architecture@chg.gov.ie.

Wildlife Control

Questions (1317)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

1317. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if a decision has been made on an application by a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4389/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Culture)

My Department has received an application from the named person but with a different address in Co. Kerry for a permit under the Wildlife Acts to cull seals due to damage to fishing nets. A response has issued to the applicant.

Waterways Ireland Remit

Questions (1318)

Martin Kenny

Question:

1318. Deputy Martin Kenny asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the reason Waterways Ireland is issuing commercial operating licences to businesses operating on the Shannon navigation in view of the fact there is no mention of a commercial operating licence in the Shannon Navigation Bye-Laws 1992; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4424/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Culture)

Waterways Ireland is responsible for the management, maintenance, development and restoration of the inland navigable waterway system throughout the island, principally for recreational purposes, and is also tasked with the promotion, including marketing and development, of the tourism and commercial potential of the inland waterways for which it has responsibility.

In order to ensure appropriate management of the inland navigable waterways, legislative powers are provided under Bye-Laws.

Bye-Law No. 23 (1) of the Shannon Navigation Bye-Laws, 1992 states that “A person shall not carry on any trade or business in the navigation without the permission of the Commissioners”. Bye-Law No. 24 further empowers the Commissioners of Public Works to grant such permission “subject to such conditions as they consider necessary and specify to the person concerned, and the person concerned shall comply with any such condition. ”

Waterways Ireland have informed me that in order to manage and regulate operations on the Shannon navigation it is necessary to ensure that conditions and regulations are adhered to by commercial operators. This can only be achieved by entering into formal agreements with those commercial operators.

These agreements are in the form of commercial operating licences, which take account of individualised circumstances such as the type, and location of, trade being undertaken. The commercial operating licences provide the necessary conditions to ensure effective management of the inland navigable waterways.

The powers vested in the Commissioners of Public Works under the Shannon Navigation Act, 1990 were subsequently transferred to the Minister for Arts Culture and the Gaeltacht under Statutory Instrument No. 332/1996 and then through Statutory Instrument No. 306/1997 to the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht. The functions of the latter Minster were then transferred to Waterways Ireland pursuant to Section 11(1) of the British Irish Agreement Act, 1999.