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Tuesday, 14 Dec 2021

Written Answers Nos. 262-279

Planning Issues

Questions (262)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

262. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if a county council must erect site notices, display pending documents and applications on their websites for section 254 licences and allow observations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61313/21]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

Under Section 254(7) of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended (the Act), development carried out on public roads in accordance with a licence under section 254 shall be exempted development for the purposes of this Act. Therefore, the normal procedures regarding planning permission do not apply.

It should be noted that this exemption from planning is removed under Section 4(4) of the Act for cases where the proposed development requires Environmental Impact Assessment or Appropriate Assessment. In addition, the exemption is also removed under Section 57 of the Act for cases where development would materially affect the character of a protected structure, or any element of the protected structure which contributes to its special architectural, historical, archaeological, artistic, cultural, scientific, social or technical interest.

In such cases where full planning permission is required, this process would include the erection of site notices, the placing of newspaper advertisements, making planning application documentation available for inspection in planning offices and online, and for the making of submissions by the public.

Defective Building Materials

Questions (263)

John Lahart

Question:

263. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage his plans under the mica redress scheme for houses that are classed as holiday homes but are a semi-detached to a house that is a family home and a principal residence (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61354/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Government agreed an enhanced €2.2bn Defective Concrete Block scheme on 30 November 2021. The comprehensive changes include:

- The current 90% maximum grant will be increased to a 100% grant for all remediation options 1-5

- The maximum grant cap for option 1 (demolition and rebuild) will be increased to €420,000 from €247,500

- The grant calculation methodology will be based on the cost per square foot (psf) of rebuilding the existing home, with costings to be set by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage in consultation with the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland (SCSI). An indicative rate of €145 per square foot is set for the first 1,000 sq foot based on SCSI methodology with a sliding scale thereafter.

- A revised application process will be introduced which will only require the homeowner to submit an initial ‘Building Condition Assessment’ at minimal cost recoupable on entry to the Scheme. The Housing Agency will take over testing, sampling and categorisation of remedial works.

- Alternative accommodation and storage costs are to be included, subject to a maximum of €20,000

- In relation to works carried out under remediation options 2-5, a second grant option, will be available for such a home in the future if blockwork which was not removed as part of the initial remediation work subsequently proves defective in accordance with the IS:465 standard

- A new independent appeals process will be introduced

- The Scheme will be extended beyond the current scope of Principal Private Residences only, to also cover Residential Tenancies Board registered rental properties, subject to the introduction of a clawback mechanism upon re-sale within a set time period depending on the remediation option used. Opportunities for the State to acquire such rental properties for social housing purposes will also be examined.

The priority must be to ensure that homes being occupied as principal private residences are remediated and Government has therefore prioritised owner occupied principal private residences and tenanted rental properties which were RTB registered as at 1 November 2021.

There are no plans to extend eligibility for this scheme beyond those homes identified in the Government decision of 30 November, 2021.

Rental Sector

Questions (264)

Pádraig MacLochlainn

Question:

264. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Housing; Local Government and Heritage if he will extend the rent pressure zones to include electoral areas in County Donegal to reflect the recent sharp increases in rent in some areas of the county and the knock-on impact of the mica defective concrete block crisis. [61373/21]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

Section 24A of the Residential Tenancies Acts 2004, as amended, provides that the Housing Agency, in consultation with housing authorities, may make a proposal to the Minister that an area should be considered as a Rent Pressure Zone. Following receipt of such a proposal, the Minister requests the Director of the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) to conduct an assessment of the area to establish whether or not it meets the criteria for designation and to report to the Minister on whether the area should be designated as a Rent Pressure Zone (RPZ). For the purpose of the Act, ‘area’ is defined as either the administrative area of a housing authority or a Local Electoral Area (LEA) within the meaning of section 2 of the Local Government Act 2001. There is no provision for any other type of area to be designated as a Rent Pressure Zone.

The criteria to be satisfied by an area under section 24A(4) of the Residential Tenancies Act for designation as an RPZ are as follows:

the information relating to the area, as determined by reference to the information used to compile each RTB Rent Index quarterly report, shows that the annual rate of increase in the average amount of rent for that area is more than 7% in each of at least 4 of the 6 quarters preceding the period immediately prior to the date of the Housing Agency's proposal, and

the average rent for the area in the last quarter, as determined by reference to the information used to compile each RTB Rent Index quarterly report, is –

in the case of counties Kildare, Meath and Wicklow or an LEA in any one of those counties, above the average rent in the State, excluding rents in the 4 Dublin Local Authority areas, or

in the case of any LEA outside of the Greater Dublin Area (i.e. Dublin, Kildare, Meath and Wicklow), above the average rent in the State, excluding rents in the Greater Dublin Area.

Each RTB quarterly Rent Index Report includes a summary table of the data used to establish whether each Local Electoral Area fulfils the criteria for designation as a Rent Pressure Zone. This ensures transparency in relation to the position of individual areas in terms of average rent levels and increases.

The RTB Rent Index measures rent increases in LEAs using the 2019 boundaries for these LEAs and there is no specific measure to calculate rental increases broken down to any lower level (i.e. part of an LEA).

The Housing Agency and the RTB will continue to monitor national rents and if any LEA in Donegal meets the designation criteria it will be designated as a RPZ.

Defective Building Materials

Questions (265)

Pádraig MacLochlainn

Question:

265. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the reason the Housing Agency is not being given responsibility for the delivery of the mica and pyrite defective block redress scheme in the west of Ireland from start to finish as it has been with the pyrite remediation scheme. [61374/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

In response to concerns raised by homeowners in Donegal and Mayo regarding the terms of the existing Defective Concrete Blocks Grant Scheme, I established a timebound and representative Working Group to consider and report on the issues. I have acknowledged that the current scheme was challenging for all stakeholders and did not operate as intended for homeowners. I have listened to homeowners and the core issues identified in the report of the Working Group will be addressed through a combination of immediate actions, medium term legislative changes and important research and reviews to encompass ongoing critical research and new learnings.

The Government agreed an enhanced €2.2bn Defective Concrete Block scheme on 30 November 2021. The comprehensive changes which target the core issues include:-

- A revised application process will be introduced which will only require the homeowner to submit an initial ‘Building Condition Assessment’ at minimal cost recoupable on entry to the Scheme. The Housing Agency will take over testing, sampling and categorisation of remedial works.

- The current 90% maximum grant payable will be increased to a 100% grant for all remediation options 1-5

- The maximum grant cap for option 1 (demolition and rebuild) will be increased to €420,000 from €247,500

- The grant calculation methodology will be based on the cost per square foot (psf) of rebuilding the existing home, with costings to be set by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage in consultation with the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland (SCSI). An indicative rate of €145 per square foot is set for the first 1,000 sq foot based on SCSI methodology with a sliding scale thereafter.

- Alternative accommodation and storage costs are to be included, subject to a maximum of €20,000

- In relation to works carried out under remediation options 2-5, a second grant option will be available for such a home in the future if blockwork which was not removed as part of the initial remediation work subsequently proves defective in accordance with the IS:465 standard

- A new independent appeals process will be introduced

- The Scheme will be extended beyond the current scope of Principal Private Residences only, to also cover Residential Tenancies Board registered rental properties, subject to the introduction of a clawback mechanism upon re-sale within a set time period depending on the remediation option used. Opportunities for the State to acquire such rental properties for social housing purposes will also be examined.

The Housing Agency's role in the enhanced scheme will be significant. They will act as agents on behalf of the local authorities. Applications received by a local authority will be referred to the Housing Agency to review the ‘Building Condition Assessment Report’. Once the criteria has been met for entry to the scheme, the Housing Agency will arrange the assessment, testing and categorisation process as required and recommend the appropriate remediation option and grant amount. This approach removes the financial barrier faced by some homeowners and was one of the key issues discussed at the Working Group meetings. It will also give homeowners the flexibility to manage their own projects and allow them to deal directly with their chosen supervising engineer and building contractor.

Wildlife Conservation

Question No. 267 answered with Question No. 266.

Question No. 268 answered with Question No. 266.

Question No. 269 answered with Question No. 266.

Question No. 270 answered with Question No. 266.

Question No. 271 answered with Question No. 266.

Question No. 272 answered with Question No. 266.

Question No. 273 answered with Question No. 266.

Question No. 274 answered with Question No. 266.

Questions (266, 267, 268, 269, 270, 271, 272, 273, 274, 278, 279, 283, 285, 290, 291)

Louise O'Reilly

Question:

266. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he will address a matter (details supplied) with reference to European Court of Justice case C-247/85, Commission v. Belgium, 1985. [61376/21]

View answer

Louise O'Reilly

Question:

267. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he will address a series of matters (details supplied) with reference to European Court of Justice case C-247/85, Commission v. Belgium, 1985. [61377/21]

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Louise O'Reilly

Question:

268. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if his Department and the National Parks and Wildlife Service are primarily responsible for ensuring that the State is compliant with the EU Habitats Directive and the EU Birds Directive in particular the Habitats Directive Articles 2 and 16.1.a, .b and .c and the Birds Directive Articles 2 and 9.1.a. [61378/21]

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Louise O'Reilly

Question:

269. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he will address a series of matters (details supplied) in relation to annual wild birds' derogation declarations. [61379/21]

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Louise O'Reilly

Question:

270. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage his views on whether high density European herring gull colonies have been enabled to proliferate exponentially in urban areas as policy under legal protection administered by his Department and without being subject to management and control in view of the results of the National Survey of Urban Gulls commissioned in May to July 2021 by his Department and the National Parks and Wildlife Service. [61380/21]

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Louise O'Reilly

Question:

271. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage his views on whether freely proliferating high density European herring gull colonies are impacting negatively and seriously on communities in ways that are egregiously antisocial (details supplied); his views on the supporting evidence held by his Department and the National Parks and Wildlife Service on each of these serious concerns; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61381/21]

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Louise O'Reilly

Question:

272. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he will address a series of matters in relation to the birds directive (details supplied). [61382/21]

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Louise O'Reilly

Question:

273. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the meaning of adapt the population in Article 1 of the birds directive in the contexts set out in Article 16.1.c of the habitats directive and Article 2 of the birds directive; and if this legal responsibility placed on member states by the European Commission in the directives includes upwards and downwards adaptation of population numbers as appropriate within the law and prevailing circumstances. [61383/21]

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Louise O'Reilly

Question:

274. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the meaning of, in the interests of public health and public safety, or for other imperative reasons of overriding public interest, including those of a social or economic nature, in Article 16.1.c of the habitats directive; and if he is satisfied that his Department is properly meeting its responsibilities in each of these regards in relation to high density urban seagull colonies. [61384/21]

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Louise O'Reilly

Question:

278. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he will address a series of matters (details supplied) in relation to the results of the National Survey of Urban Gulls commissioned in the period May to June 2021. [61388/21]

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Louise O'Reilly

Question:

279. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he will address a series of matters (details supplied) in relation to the results of the National Survey of Urban Gulls commissioned in the period May to June 2021. [61389/21]

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Louise O'Reilly

Question:

283. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he will address a series of matters (details supplied) with reference to the 2021 National Survey of Urban Seagulls commissioned by his Department and the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Seabird 2000 Census Report 2002. [61393/21]

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Louise O'Reilly

Question:

285. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage his views on whether it is now essential to urgently implement recommendation 8 of the report of his predecessor’s consultative committee on urban seagulls of 17 April 2020 in the interests of public health and safety in line with emphatic legal advices provided to him via the committee in August 2020 and February 2021 and thereby to modify and extend the now five-year-old pilot Balbriggan derogation declaration to other impacted towns and communities in order to legally and properly protect the interests of public health and safety as catered for under Article 9.1.a of the 1979 birds directive and Article 16.1.c of the habitats directive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61395/21]

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Louise O'Reilly

Question:

290. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he will address a series on matters in relation to the urban gull population (details supplied). [61400/21]

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Louise O'Reilly

Question:

291. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the actions he plans to take to protect schools, school children, school staff and school property in the areas in which high density colonies are freely proliferating, for example, Balbriggan, Skerries, Howth and Drogheda as shown in the National Survey of Urban Gulls commissioned by his Department and the National Parks and Wildlife Service in May to June 2021 (details supplied). [61401/21]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 266 to 274, inclusive, 278, 279, 283, 285, 290 and 291 together.

As answered in previous Questions on this issue, my officials are continuing to work on assessing the recommendations of the first interim report of the Consultative Committee on urban gulls, which undertook a review of the issues relating to the impact of gulls in urban areas. My officials have begun the process of engaging with a number of bodies in order to move the recommendations forward.

Further to this, my Department undertook a National Gull Survey in 2021, the results of which will also inform ongoing work with stakeholders and communities to address concerns or conflict issues.

In terms of schools, Section 42 of the Wildlife Acts allows applications to be made to apply for a licence to remove nests and eggs from buildings, on a case by case basis, where serious damage has occurred. A licence may also be applied for under Section 22(9)(d) to take the nests or eggs of protected wild birds for other purposes. Applications are investigated by local staff and recommendations made on the most practical method of stopping or controlling the problem. As the Deputy will also be aware, a pilot derogation declaration is in place for a specified area in relation to the taking of nests and eggs, and my Department is considering the implications of extending same.

My Department is reviewing the Wild Birds Declaration wording in particular around the legal aspects of its implementation.

Question No. 267 answered with Question No. 266.
Question No. 268 answered with Question No. 266.
Question No. 269 answered with Question No. 266.
Question No. 270 answered with Question No. 266.
Question No. 271 answered with Question No. 266.
Question No. 272 answered with Question No. 266.
Question No. 273 answered with Question No. 266.
Question No. 274 answered with Question No. 266.

Wildlife Conservation

Questions (275)

Louise O'Reilly

Question:

275. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage when his Department or the National Parks and Wildlife Service will publish the report of the 2021 National Survey of Urban Gulls commissioned in the period May to June 2021. [61385/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The report was published by my Department last week and is available on the website of the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

2021 Report

Wildlife Conservation

Question No. 277 answered with Question No. 276.

Question No. 278 answered with Question No. 266.

Question No. 279 answered with Question No. 266.

Questions (276, 277, 280, 281, 282, 284, 286, 287, 288, 289)

Louise O'Reilly

Question:

276. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if his Department or the National Parks and Wildlife Service will publish the analysis of the results of the 2021 National Survey of Urban Gulls that it commissioned in the period May to June 2021 in time for its customary annual public consultation on derogation declarations for the 2021-2022 declarations in order that contributors to the public consultation who live in areas impacted by high density urban seagull colonies may be fully informed of the survey results and of derogation options; and if his Department or the National Parks and Wildlife Service will ensure that its analysis of the survey results includes substantive correlation to the first interim and minority reports submitted in April 2020 and the recommendations of the consultative committee on urban seagulls in particular but not exclusively the reports’ recommendations regarding the interests of public health and safety. [61386/21]

View answer

Louise O'Reilly

Question:

277. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if his Department and the National Parks and Wildlife Service will ensure when publishing its analysis of the National Survey of Urban Gulls that it commissioned in the period May to June 2021 that it includes in its analysis particular reference to the evidence it holds on the negative impacts on communities from proliferating high density seagull colonies, the expert advices that it has received via the consultative committee on urban seagulls since 2019, including legal advices and the legitimate interests of public health and safety which can be addressed in derogation declarations. [61387/21]

View answer

Louise O'Reilly

Question:

280. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he will address a series of matters (details supplied) with reference to the 2021 National Survey of Urban Seagulls commissioned by his Department and the National Parks and Wildlife Service. [61390/21]

View answer

Louise O'Reilly

Question:

281. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he will address a series of matters (details supplied) with reference to the 2021 National Survey of Urban Seagulls commissioned by his Department and the National Parks and Wildlife Service. [61391/21]

View answer

Louise O'Reilly

Question:

282. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he will address a series of matters (details supplied) with reference to the 2021 National Survey of Urban Seagulls commissioned by his Department and the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Seabird 2000 Census Report 2002. [61392/21]

View answer

Louise O'Reilly

Question:

284. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he will address a series of matters (details supplied) with reference to the 2021 National Survey of Urban Seagulls commissioned by his Department and the National Parks and Wildlife Service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61394/21]

View answer

Louise O'Reilly

Question:

286. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if the Dublin survey only covered a limited number of areas with reference to the National Survey of Urban Gulls commissioned by his Department and the National Parks and Wildlife Service; and the names of Dublin city districts and suburbs that were actually included in the national survey and the apparently occupied nest totals for each surveyed location. [61396/21]

View answer

Louise O'Reilly

Question:

287. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the locations and suburbs in Dublin that yielded the total of 770 apparently occupied nests with reference to the National Survey of Urban Gulls commissioned by his Department and the National Parks and Wildlife Service and with particular reference to the survey results for Dublin; and if these were actual nest sightings. [61397/21]

View answer

Louise O'Reilly

Question:

288. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he will address a series of matters (details supplied) with reference to the 2021 National Survey of Urban Seagulls commissioned by his Department and the National Parks and Wildlife Service. [61398/21]

View answer

Louise O'Reilly

Question:

289. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he will address a series on matters in relation to the urban gull population (details supplied). [61399/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 276, 277, 280 to 282, inclusive, 284 and 286 to 289, inclusive, together.

My Department undertook the National Urban Gull Survey in 2021 as part of a wider seabird surveying collaboration with the UK known as Seabirds Count. The published report, enclosed for convenience, sets out the spatial focus of the surveys (Figures 2 and 4), including for a number of specific towns. In addition, Dublin City Centre and adjacent coastal suburbs also received additional survey effort.

This has allowed modelling work to be undertaken to derive preliminary estimates of the gull populations in the seven focal towns. This preliminary analysis focused on estimating the size of the breeding gull population, i.e. Apparently Occupied Nests (AON) and enables the quantification of gulls nesting in these towns. This will allow my Department to continue to work with stakeholders and communities with a view to reducing any conflict issues.

The analysis of the Irish and UK data is ongoing for the relevant gull species, as well as for other breeding seabird species; it is intended to derive population estimates at the country scale, for the Seabirds Count publication due in 2023. Comparisons of historical data of Herring Gull populations will be part of the overall analysis and reporting under the Seabirds Count initiative.

The recent European Red List of Birds uses the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria and has classified the extinction risk of Herring Gull at the European level as ‘Least Concern’, an improvement from the previous assessment of ‘Near Threatened'.

2021 National Survey of Urban Gulls

Question No. 277 answered with Question No. 276.
Question No. 278 answered with Question No. 266.
Question No. 279 answered with Question No. 266.
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