Social and Affordable Housing

Question No. 313 answered with Question No. 301.

Questions (312)

Pádraig O'Sullivan

Question:

312. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the social and affordable housing developments under construction across local authorities in Cork city and county; the number of units, location and expected completion date of each in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6687/21]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

My Department publishes comprehensive programme level statistics on a quarterly basis on social housing delivery activity. This data is available to the end of Quarter 3 2020 and data for Quarter 4 2020 is currently being compiled. This data is published on the statistics page of my Department’s website, at the following link: https://www.gov.ie/en/collection/6060e-overall-social-housing-provision/. This provides information for a number of categories of social housing delivery at local authority level, but does not include a breakdown by local electoral area.

My Department has also published the Quarter 3 2020 Social Housing Construction Status Report, which provides details of all social housing developments under construction in each local authority. The report is available at the following link: https://rebuildingireland.ie/news/minister-obrien-publishes-social-housing-construction-status-report-for-q2-2020-2/. The data for Quarter 4 2020 is being compiled and the report will be published as soon as it is available. The timing of completion and tenanting of homes is a matter for each local authority.

Budget 2021 provided €3.3 billion for the delivery of housing. Subject to the impact of the covid related restrictions on the construction sector, the available funding will deliver 12,750 new social homes through build, acquisition and leasing. A major focus of this investment is the delivery of new build, with an overall target of 9,500 new homes, in addition to 800 acquisitions and 2,450 homes to be delivered through leasing programmes.

Funding of €127 million, in support of 35 projects in 14 local authority areas, has been approved in principle for infrastructure works on sites that will support the delivery of almost 3,200 homes over two Serviced Site Fund (SSF) calls. The full details of all 35 SSF projects, 9 of which are in Cork, that have been granted approval in principle, can be found at the following links:

https://rebuildingireland.ie/news/minister-murphy-gives-the-go-ahead-for-ten-local-authority-sites-for-affordable-housing-under-the-serviced-sites-fund/, and

https://rebuildingireland.ie/news/minister-murphy-approves-funding-of-e84m-to-support-delivery-of-1770-affordable-homes-under-the-ssf/.

There is currently one SSF project in Cork under construction, which will be the first SSF project to assist in the delivery of affordable purchase homes. It is expected that the first phase of the Boherboy Road project in Cork City will deliver affordable homes in mid 2021.

Question No. 313 answered with Question No. 301.

Social and Affordable Housing

Questions (314)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

314. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he plans to meet with either Cavan, Monaghan or Meath county councils to discuss the social housing strategies of his Department; the housing targets for new builds in the counties for 2021/2022; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6721/21]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

Since my appointment as Minister, I have met directly with the Chief Executives and Housing Directors of a number of local authorities, as circumstances have allowed and in an appropriate setting, in compliance with Covid restrictions. In that context, I met with the Chief Executive of Meath County Council and members of her housing team on 2 December last, to discuss social housing issues. Their target for 2021 new build delivery is 354 units, however, there may be an impact on delivery against this target arising from the current shutdown in construction activity; this impact is being assessed by my Department and will depend on the duration of the shutdown.

Given the current Covid travel restrictions, I have not been in a position to date to visit Cavan and Monaghan local authorities in person, but I hope to do so when circumstances allow. Their 2021 social build targets are 113 for Cavan and 165 for Monaghan.

I am continuing to meet regularly through video conferencing with representatives of local authorities, Approved Housing Bodies and other stakeholders, to press the advancement of our social housing programme. Social housing build targets for 2022 and beyond will be provided to local authorities as part of the Government’s development of a longer-term housing strategy, based on the Programme for Government committment to increase the social housing stock by more than 50,000.

As well as my own direct contacts with our local authorities, officials of my Department also meet regularly with their local authority counterparts, to examine progress on social housing programmes.

Legislative Measures

Questions (315)

Denise Mitchell

Question:

315. Deputy Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage when the heads of legislation pertaining to directly elected mayors for local authorities will be published. [6733/21]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

At its meeting of 26 January 2021, Government approved the drafting of a general scheme to provide for a directly elected mayor with executive functions for Limerick city and county based on the governance structure recommended in the report of the Implementation Advisory Group established to consider the Directly Elected Mayor with Executive Functions for Limerick.

Government also approved the publication of this report, which is on my Department's website herewith: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/705e2-report-of-the-implementation-advisory-group-established-to-consider-a-directly-elected-mayor-with-executive-functions-for-limerick-city-and-county-appendices/

Included in the general scheme will be an electoral code to facilitate the holding of the first direct election for Mayor in Limerick and provisions to allow for the holding of plebiscites on directly elected mayors in any other local authority area that wants one as outlined in the Programme for Government: Our Shared Future.

My officials are currently drafting the general scheme which I intend to bring back to Government as quickly as possible in the coming weeks seeking approval to draft a Bill. Subject to Government approval, the general scheme will then be submitted to the Oireachtas for pre-legislative scrutiny.

Planning Issues

Questions (316)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

316. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the status of a project (details supplied) in County Cavan; the total investment being requested from his Department in relation to the project; the nature of the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6747/21]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

Cavan County Council submitted an application for funding support for this proposal under Call 2 of the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund.

Seventy six proposals were received under Call 2 of the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund ( URDF), with every local authority submitting at least one application for URDF support.

The assessment process for proposals received under Call 2 is nearing completion, and I intend to soon announce a new tranche of URDF supported proposals, which will augment the existing pipeline of projects from Call 1 and contribute to the achievement of Programme for Government commitments and the objectives of the National Planning Framework and Project Ireland 2040.

Heritage Council

Questions (317)

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

317. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the status of Heritage Council plans to put into operation a collaborative town centre health check for Drogheda and Dundalk and any other towns in County Louth identified at the initial stages; the number of staff that have been provided in County Louth to undertake the operational responsibility for the implication on same. [6750/21]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Collaborative Town Centre Health Check is an initiative of the Heritage Council. Arrangements have been put in place by all bodies under the aegis of my Department to facilitate the provision of information directly to members of the Oireachtas. This provides a speedy, efficient and cost effective system to address queries directly to the relevant bodies. The contact email address for the Heritage Council is oireachtas@heritagecouncil.ie.

Vacant Properties

Questions (318, 320)

Steven Matthews

Question:

318. Deputy Steven Matthews asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he will report on the level of funding remaining to bring further social housing voids back into the housing stock following the announcement at the end of January 2021 on same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6765/21]

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Steven Matthews

Question:

320. Deputy Steven Matthews asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the position regarding the number of remaining voids reported by Wicklow County Council that have not been returned to the public housing stock to date; and if the local authority has estimated the approximate cost for returning these remaining units. [6781/21]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 318 and 320 together.

The management and maintenance of local authority housing stock, including pre-letting repairs to vacant properties, the implementation of a planned maintenance programme and carrying out of responsive repairs, are matters for each individual local authority under Section 58 of the Housing Act 1966. Since 2014, Exchequer funding has also been provided through my Department's Voids Programme to support local authorities in preparing vacant units for re-letting. This funding was introduced originally to tackle long term vacant units and is now more targeted at supporting local authorities to ensure minimal turnaround and re-let times for their vacant stock.

In relation to Wicklow County Council, the local authority recouped €1.314 million of funding in 2020, significantly more than in any previous year. This supported refurbishment works on 110 units.

My Department will continue to support local authorities in their work in this area. As in previous years, Wicklow County Council, along with all local authorities will be asked to make a funding application under the 2021 programme in respect of their vacant stock and funding allocations will issue to all local authorities.

It is also important that local authorities increasingly move toward a preventative maintenance approach to the management of their housing stock and my Department is working with local authorities to this end.

Housing Issues

Question No. 320 answered with Question No. 318.

Questions (319)

Thomas Gould

Question:

319. Deputy Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if there is a legislative basis or Departmental guidelines regarding tenant purchase of housing in cases in which the local authority may still have outstanding debt in relation to the property. [6770/21]

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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, provide the basis for the Tenant (Incremental) Purchase Scheme 2016. The Regulations laid down concern the procedures and guidelines around the sale of a local authority property to a tenant.

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 or properties where the local authority has proposed to carry out reconstruction or improvement works under section 12 of the Housing Act 1988 or for the regeneration of the area in which the house is located.

With regard to the 2016 Scheme, there is no specific reference in the legislation or guidance in relation to cases where the local authority may still have an outstanding debt in relation to the property.

Section 45 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 provides for the sale by local authorities and Approved Housing Bodies of designated new houses to eligible households, subject to specified terms and conditions set down in the Act and the associated Housing (Incremental Purchase) Regulations 2010 . The 2010 Incremental Purchase Scheme and underpinning guidance did provide for some limited tenant purchase in respect of housing which may have had a debt on same as it includes some provision for houses that remained unsold under the affordable housing scheme. However, such housing would have had to have been reserved for sale under the 2010 Scheme to qualify.

It is a matter for each individual local authority to administer these schemes in its operational area in line with the over-arching provisions of the governing legislation for the scheme, and in a manner appropriate to its housing requirements.

Question No. 320 answered with Question No. 318.

An Bord Pleanála

Questions (321)

David Cullinane

Question:

321. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he will review the planning fees for An Bord Pleanála to ensure that all persons have equal access to the planning system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6836/21]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

The fees for making submissions or observations on planning applications and appeals are set at levels intended to prevent frivolous or vexatious submissions, while not acting as a deterrent to persons with genuine concerns or interest in proposed developments from making submissions.

Section 144 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 provides that An Bord Pleanála may determine fees that may be charged, subject to the approval of the Minister, in relation to any matter specified in subsection (1A) of section 144 which covers planning cases that come before the Board. There are equivalent provisions set out in section 103 of the Water Services Act 2007 and section 7A of the Building Control Act 1990.

The relevant statutory provisions also provide that the Board shall review the approved fees from time to time but must undertake a review, based on changes in the Consumer Price Index (CPI), at least every three years and can adjust fees up or down within CPI change limits without the necessity for Ministerial approval.

The Board last completed a CPI Fees review in December 2019, the outcome of which was no change to the existing fee structure. I understand that An Bord Pleanála also completed a general non-CPI fees review in November 2020, and will in due course submit, for my consideration, any proposals arising from that general review.

Without prejudice to the consideration of the latest review, I accept as a general point that the fees for general third-party public participation in the planning system should continue to be calibrated at a level which does not constitute an obstacle to the exercise of the rights of such participation.

Water and Sewerage Schemes

Questions (322, 323)

Martin Browne

Question:

322. Deputy Martin Browne asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if his attention has been drawn to an issue with an estate in County Tipperary in which a leaking sewage system is causing a serious threat to health and is at risk of flowing into a river; if the EPA will investigate the issue given that it has been reported to it on multiple occasions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6858/21]

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Martin Browne

Question:

323. Deputy Martin Browne asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if his attention has been drawn to a case in which Tipperary County Council has been given permission to perform urgent works on a sewerage system in an estate (details supplied) in County Tipperary by the receiver but has refused to do so, creating a situation in which residents are dealing with continuous floods of sewage that also spill onto the public road; and if there are supports available for local authorities to do the work in the interest of public health in circumstances in which a receiver refuses to do necessary maintenance work. [6859/21]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 322 and 323 together.

Primary responsibility for the monitoring, management, protection and improvement of water quality is assigned to local authorities under the Local Government (Water Pollution) Acts and related legislation. The Environmental Protection Agency, through its Office of Environmental Enforcement, exercises general supervision in relation to the performance of these functions by local authorities.

In relation to the issue of potential pollution from the water treatment system, while the incident in question was brought to my Department's attention, I have no direct role in the investigation of specific water pollution issues. However, I understand that a Notice, pursuant to Section 12 of the Local Government (Water Pollution) Acts, requiring measures to be taken to prevent water pollution has recently issued to the responsible persons and that Tipperary County Council are currently awaiting a response. In addition, I understand that the local authority have committed to further engage with the stakeholders involved on receipt of further information.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (324)

Kathleen Funchion

Question:

324. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the protocols in place in all local authority grades regarding Covid-19 when a person is deemed a close contact. [6862/21]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

In relation to the Deputy's query regarding the protocols in place for all local authority grades regarding Covid-19, when a person is deemed to be a close contact, the position is that the protocols and arrangements in place are applicable to all local authority grades. It should be noted that the arrangements in operation for the local authority sector are consistent with public health advice, as publised by the HSE.

County Development Plans

Questions (325)

Eoin Ó Broin

Question:

325. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the reason for the delay in issuing the updated county development plan guidance and the methodology for the housing demand needs assessment to local authorities; his views on whether this delay will have a negative impact on those local authorities that are at an advanced stage in their development plan review; and when both the plan guidelines and the housing demand needs assessment methodology will be complete and issued to local authorities. [6942/21]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

My Department is currently finalising an updated draft of the Development Plan Guidelines to assist local authorities in reviewing their development plans. It has been necessary to first prioritise issuing other Section 28 Guidelines, including with regard to apartment development further to review of co-living. It has also been necessary, given the critical importance of housing, to develop and issue new Section 28 guidance on housing demand and supply, to ensure and consistent and integrated national approach to housing projections at local authority level, in advance of completing and issuing updated county development plan guidance.

In relation to housing demand and supply, the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) published a report on Regional Demographics and Structural Housing Demand at a County Level in December 2020, that has been commissioned as part of my Department’s ongoing research programme with the ESRI. The research provides a robust, up-to-date and independently developed housing demand projection, to inform policy and investment with regard to housing at national and local levels.

The ESRI projection model and paper are now the definitive source of information for Government, in the context of regular and often divergent estimates of housing demand from multiple sources. This research has been applied to underpin both the development plan and housing strategy processes at local authority level and forms the basis on which housing supply target requirements were issued to each local authority as Section 28 guidance, last December.

This comprises the ‘Housing Supply Target Methodology for Development Planning, Guidelines for Planning Authorities’ under Section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 (as amended) to provide a national methodology for each planning authority to estimate an overall housing supply target for their development plan, that is consistent with adopted national and regional growth targets in the National Planning Framework and Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies.

The housing supply target is quantified as an overall number of housing units to be planned for in the development plan process of each local authority. The guidelines issued provide a clear and consistent path for local authorities to progress county and city development plans, particularly in relation to future housing development. My Department continues to actively engage with local authorities on the application of this methodology in relation to individual county/city development plan processes.

National Policy Objective 37 of the National Planning Framework requires that each local authority should undertake a "Housing Need and Demand Assessment" (HNDA), to support the preparation of their statutory housing strategy and their development plan. Work to support the development of the HNDA process is advancing and this work includes the development of a HNDA digital tool that has been piloted with a number of local authorities from November 2020 to date. The outcome of the pilot phase is currently being reviewed in tandem with the update of key input data, and when finalised and rolled out nationally in the coming months, will be accompanied by a methodology in respect of the completion of a Housing Need and Demand Assessment.

It is important from a city and county development plan perspective that the housing demand and supply figures and methodology that were issued as Section 28 guidelines last December, share the same underlying statistical basis with the total housing demand and supply parameters to be used within the HNDA tool at local authority level. The housing supply target and HNDA parameters are therefore consistent.

I am satisfied that given the integrated approach being taken, local authorities have sufficient guidance and support to progress review of their development plans, appropriate to the stage of the process that they are at.

Heritage Sites

Questions (326)

Cormac Devlin

Question:

326. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the status, location and condition of the various Second World War-era lookout posts along the east coast; the efforts being made to preserve these important local historical sites; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6955/21]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

My role with regard to the protection and management of our architectural and archaeological heritage is set out in the provisions of relevant legislation, including the Planning Acts and the National Monuments Acts, as are the roles of local authorities and the responsibilities of owners.

With regard to the safeguarding of protected structures, Part IV of the Planning and Development Act 2000 gives primary responsibility to local authorities to identify and protect architectural heritage by including particular structures on their respective Records of Protected Structures (RPS). Inclusion on the RPS places a duty of care on the owners and occupiers of protected structures and also gives planning authorities powers to deal with any development proposals affecting them.

As Minister, I can make recommendations to planning authorities for buildings and structures to be included on the RPS. These recommendations arise from the survey of the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage (NIAH), which is managed by my Department.

The NIAH completed the survey of the east coast of Ireland in 2010 with the publication of the Survey of County Wexford. No Lookout Posts (LOP) were recorded during the fieldwork and no LOPs are included on the Records of Protected Structures for counties Louth, Dublin, Wicklow or Wexford.

The NIAH intends to revisit counties Louth, Dublin, Wicklow and Wexford when the fieldwork for the first phase of the national survey has been completed with the publication of Dublin City and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown. The surviving LOPs are included among the structures to be surveyed and will be recorded as part of the second phase of the national survey.

My Department provides financial support for the protection of heritage buildings and historic structures through two 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). Details are available on my Department’s website and on the website of each local authority.

While I do not have information on the location of the surviving LOPs, I understand that this information is available on the website of the Military Archives at https://www.militaryarchives.ie/en/collections/reading-room-collections/look-out-post-logbooks-september-1939-june-1945.

Property Registration

Questions (327)

Dara Calleary

Question:

327. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the reason for the delay in processing a land registry issue (details supplied) in County Mayo; if he will accept that this application has been ongoing for an excessively long time; if the application will be expedited; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6964/21]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

I am informed that the Property Registration Authority (PRA) has established a dedicated unit to investigate issues such as the ones highlighted by the Deputy. I understand that the required investigations can take some time to complete; however, the PRA expedites processing where it is notified of urgency relating to a case. I further understand that the specified application has been expedited and will be processed without delay.

Further information in relation to the specific case referred to may be obtained by contacting the PRA's dedicated e-mail address for members of the Oireachtas at reps@prai.ie.

Rent Data

Questions (328)

Rose Conway-Walsh

Question:

328. Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the average rent per student in purpose-built student accommodation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6988/21]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

The information requested is not available in my Department.

The Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) was established as an independent statutory body under the Residential Tenancies Acts 2004-2020, to operate a national tenancy registration system and to facilitate the resolution of disputes between landlords and tenants.

The Clerk of the Dáil requested that arrangements be put in place to facilitate the provision of information by State Bodies to members of the Oireachtas. Following the issue of Circular LG (P)05/16 on 20 September 2016 from my Department, the RTB set up a dedicated email address for this purpose. The RTB may be contacted at OireachtasMembersQueries@rtb.ie to establish the extent to which it may hold the information sought.

Housing Provision

Questions (329)

Martin Kenny

Question:

329. Deputy Martin Kenny asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the reason Sligo County Council has ignored the request by professionals who are providing medical evidence for persons (details supplied) in order that they can be added to the priority housing list in County Sligo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6997/21]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

The allocation of local authority dwellings, including the prioritisation of certain households, is a matter for the local authority concerned, in accordance with their allocation scheme made under section 22 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 and associated Regulations. As Minister I am precluded by housing legislation from intervening in relation to the procedures followed, or decisions made, by local authorities in the provision of social housing support in individual cases.

Home Loan Scheme

Questions (330)

Cathal Crowe

Question:

330. Deputy Cathal Crowe asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the steps he will take in relation the difficulties being experienced by persons (details supplied) in obtaining a Rebuilding Ireland home loan. [7016/21]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan is a Government-backed mortgage for first-time buyers and has been made available nationwide from local authorities from 1 February 2018. The loan can be used both for new and second-hand properties, or to build your own home.

Section 63(3) of the Local Government Act 2001 provides that, subject to law, a local authority is independent in the performance of its functions. Section 6 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 specifically provides that the Minister's power to issue policy directions and guidelines to housing authorities in relation to their housing functions should not be construed as enabling the Minister to exercise any power or control in relation to any individual case with which a housing authority is or may be concerned. I am, therefore, precluded from intervening in relation to individual cases such as this.

The final decision on loan approval is a matter for each local authority and its Credit Committee on a case-by-case basis. Decisions on all housing loan applications must be made in accordance with the statutory credit policy that underpins the scheme, in order to ensure consistency of treatment for all applicants.

Loan applicants who are dissatisfied with a loan application decision of a local authority Credit Committee may appeal that decision to the local authority. Details of the appeals process can be obtained from the relevant local authority. Alternatively they can address the issues raised in their initial loan refusal and apply again once these issues have been resolved, which may be applicable to the situation experienced by persons (details supplied).