Firstly, I would like to acknowledge the very stressful circumstances which the owners and residents of buildings face when defects occur in their homes.
The Programme for Government sets out a number of commitments in respect of the important policy area of building defects and provides for an examination of defective housing, having regard to the recommendations of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing report, "Safe as Houses".
In this regard, my Department is actively engaging with key stakeholders and I have had several meetings with stakeholder representative groups on this matter over recent months. My Department is currently working to establish the structures to examine the issue of defective housing, this will include apartment buildings, in line with the commitment in the Programme for Government.
I recently appointed Mr Seamus Neely, former Chief Executive of Donegal County Council, to the position of Chair to the independent working group to oversee the effective implementation of the group’s terms of reference which are currently being finalised.
In regard to the issues raised by the Deputy on planning matters, section 30 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 (the Act) precludes me from intervening or commenting on any particular cases either at local authority level or with An Bord Pleanála.
This is particularly relevant to the operation of section 35 of the Act, which relates directly to particular developments or proposed developments which are the subject of a deliberative assessment process. It is a matter solely for a Planning Authority to invoke the operation of Section 35 subject to the requirements set out in legislation.
In relation to the regulation of builders, the Government is committed to placing the Construction Industry Register Ireland, or CIRI, on a statutory footing. CIRI was established on a voluntary basis in 2014 and 798 building and contracting entities are currently included on the register. The voluntary register can be viewed online at the following link: www.ciri.ie/register/.
Government approved the General Scheme of a Bill to place the CIRI on a statutory footing on 30 May 2017, which was referred to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government for pre-legislative scrutiny. The Committee’s report has since been received and my Department is currently working through the Committee’s recommendations. The General Scheme, which was published in 2017, is available on my Department's website at the following link: www.gov.ie/en/publication/3e711-building-control/.
The main objective of the proposed legislation is to develop and promote a culture of competence, good practice and compliance with Building Regulations within the builder community of the construction sector. The establishment of a robust, mandatory, statutory register of builders and specialist contractors is an essential consumer protection measure giving those who engage a registered builder the assurance that they are dealing with a competent and compliant operator. The Bill will also allow for complaints against registered builders to be made on a number of grounds and provides for a range of proportionate sanctions to be imposed after investigation.
This legislation is a key component of the ongoing building control reform agenda, which also includes the amendments made to the Building Control Regulations and the establishment of the National Building Control Office. This agenda provides a comprehensive roadmap for embedding a culture of real compliance within the construction industry.
My Department is working with the Attorney General's Office with a view to achieving publication of the Bill in Q1 of this year.