Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 27 May 2010

Vol. 710 No. 3

Other Questions

Local Authority Loans

Willie Penrose


6 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding the home choice scheme; the funding that was set aside at the set-up of this scheme; the structures that were required to be put in place as a guarantee to deal with possible defaults; if the start-up costs for this scheme were derived from any earlier funding programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22249/10]

More than 1,400 prospective purchasers formally registered interest on the dedicated home choice loan website and to date, 68 applications have been made. Of these, four have been approved, with three of these now drawn down, 36 applications have been turned down, seven have been withdrawn and further information has been sought in respect of 21 applications.

The scheme is demand-led. As such, no budget has been set and no moneys that could be deployed elsewhere have been ring-fenced for the scheme. The extent of the loan book arising will depend solely on the level of demand and loans drawn down.

The scheme is underpinned by rigorous lending criteria to protect the financial position of local authorities as well as prospective first-time buyers. All applications are assessed having regard to an applicant's ability to pay, credit history and all other aspects of the formal lending policy. An applicant's ability to pay is also stress-tested to assess his or her ability to repay at current rates and in the event of significant interest rate rises.

In order to minimise risk and to ensure that the processing of loan applications is carried out on the basis of the fullest available information on the financial standing and general credit-worthiness of applicants, the credit policy includes a requirement to perform credit checks for each application. Credit checks are carried out using information provided by the Irish Credit Bureau. In addition, judgment checks are carried out using information from the Courts Service. These checks are intended to ensure that local authorities are equipped with the fullest information so that they can avoid unnecessarily risky lending while continuing to lend to low-income but credit-worthy households.

As with all other local authority mortgage lending, where a loan stands in default, section 11(10) of Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1992 provides that a local authority may make such monetary arrangements with a borrower as it considers equitable to take account of the particular circumstances of the borrower. My Department issued guidance recently to ensure that cases of local authority mortgage arrears are handled in a manner that is sympathetic to the needs of the particular household, while also protecting the position of the local authority concerned. This guidance is closely based on the statutory code of conduct introduced in February 2009 by the Financial Regulator. However, given the comprehensive nature of the credit policy, I do not anticipate significant difficulties with arrears under the home choice loan scheme.

Costs of approximately €280,000 were incurred in 2009 in establishing the scheme, including the setting up of a central processing unit within the Affordable Homes Partnership, AHP. These costs were met fully from within existing resources within the AHP. It should be noted that a significant element of the staffing costs was incurred in the development of the loan processing model which applies to the home choice loan but which has also now been used in the development of revised systems for processing and credit checking of normal local authority house purchase loan applications under other schemes such as affordable housing, shared ownership, etc.

I thank the Minister of State for his reply. In earlier questions on this matter, the Minister of State said the home choice programme was a response to the credit crunch. We know the credit crunch was caused by a number of factors, one being light touch regulation and over-lending as a result and an over-valuing of property in the property market and loans being granted on the basis that properties would increase in value indefinitely. To qualify for this programme, one has to have received two refusals from two different financial institutions before approaching the local authority. Will the Minister of State agree that this is creating a double jeopardy for borrowers in that they have been refused twice? The most likely reasons for refusals are a person's income being too low or the property being over-valued. The Minister of State is creating a jeopardy for these people by facilitating a situation whereby the local authorities will grant a loan. The Minister of State in his response stated that more than 4,000 people inquired about this scheme and four people have been given approval. Is this approval in full or approval in principle because there is a significant difference?

The departmental website advertises this scheme as not being applicable to the affordable homes programme. Given that local authorities are now selling affordable homes on the open market, is the home choice programme also open to those applicants?

The Deputy has asked a number of questions. I agree the credit crunch was the reason I introduced the home choice scheme because the banks were not lending and the information was that people were finding it difficult to meet the 20% deposit which banks and financial institutions were seeking. With regard to two refusals, this is not a new practice. It is well known to those Members who have served on local authorities that this stipulation applies to all local authority loans since 1987. Therefore, the home choice loan stipulation is no different from any other local authority loan.

The number of prospective purchasers who registered interest is 1,400. Four people have been approved, three people have turned down for loans and further information is being sought from 21 applicants.

With regard to the affordable homes being put on the open market, I made a number of changes to the scheme in recent times, as the Deputy may be aware. It now applies to second-hand homes but I have not extended it to include affordable homes.

I thank the Minister of State. Have the Minister of State and his Department decided to continue with this product, which is a failed product? Any commercial institution would have closed it down immediately after a couple of months, if not within six months. The public is voting with its feet on this issue. They are staying away from it as they are fearful of a repeat of the sub-prime lending issue. I ask the Minister of State to explain the €500 million fund which was earmarked for this product. What is happening that money? Would it not be put to better use in other areas?

I disagree with the Deputy as regards the loan. It is in existence as a safety valve, an alternative for people who cannot get a loan from the financial institutions. There is no great activity in the financial institutions in the granting of loans for house purchase by first-time buyers. On account of the loan being available, it is possible that the financial institutions are prepared to give people loans. As regards the level of activity, since the changes were introduced recently in April, the number of visits to the dedicated website has increased by 154%. New visits represent approximately 80% of all traffic on the website. We know this because of the number of contacts from auctioneers around the country. There is no significant cost involved in providing this loan. I am not prepared to remove it until I am satisfied that the financial institutions are making loans available to the public, especially first-time buyers.

What about the €500 million?

This is demand-led scheme so there is no pot of money, as it were. This money is drawn down from the HFA as required.

The figures speak for themselves. On the affordable homes aspect, I do not know if the Minister of State has made a final decision on whether the scheme will be extended into the area of affordable homes. My advice would be that he should not extend it because there are already two jeopardies in this programme as I have outlined. If local authorities who were trying to get rid of affordable homes were in a position to also finance them, the Minister of State would be creating a third jeopardy.

The loan does not apply to the affordable homes side. People will need to appreciate there are existing annuity loans with local authorities for people in certain categories who do not reach the level of income of those entitled to apply for a home choice loan.

Local Government Elections

Alan Shatter


7 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when he will bring legislation on the setting up of a directly elected mayor for Dublin to the Houses of the Oireachtas; when he expects to hold an election; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22367/10]

Róisín Shortall


43 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for the Environment; Heritage and Local Government when he plans to bring legislation in regard to the direct election of a mayor of Dublin before Dáil Éireann; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22246/10]

I intend to take Questions Nos. 7 and 43 together.

The introduction of a directly elected mayor for Dublin will deliver significantly strengthened leadership for the city and region, with enhanced accountability and a direct connection with the citizen. The mayor will have a powerful role in setting out strategic policy across Dublin and oversight of operational implementation. He or she will also have a strong mandate to integrate the activities of local government and the wider public service in and across Dublin.

The mayor's powers will include the capacity to ensure that activities across the Dublin region's local authorities are consistent with the regional strategic framework. In addition, I have agreed with the Minister for Transport that the mayor will have a strong role in relation to transport planning in Dublin. The mayor will chair a greater Dublin area transport council within the national transport authority, responsible for approving and monitoring the implementation of the key transport plans for Dublin — the greater Dublin area transport strategy and strategic traffic management plan. In doing so the mayor will be well placed to ensure coherence between Dublin's spatial and transport planning. I have this week published additional draft heads of the Dublin Mayor Bill and regional authority on my Department's website.

It is my intention that the election of the mayor will take place this year. The general scheme of the legislation to provide for the mayor was published on my Department's website in February, as an opportunity for further consultation before its finalisation and to facilitate early implementation of the Bill's provisions once enacted. The Bill is currently being drafted by the Parliamentary Counsel as a matter of priority.

I met with representatives of the Opposition parties on 4 March and briefed them on the mayor's functions and responsibilities. My Department is also engaging with the Dublin local authorities to make the necessary practical and operational preparations for the mayor's election and introduction. I look forward to the introduction of the Bill to the Oireachtas as soon as possible.

We have not been given any new information by the Minister. It will be October by the time the legislation is published and brought through the Houses. There will be no mayoral election before the end of October and it will hardly be held in December so that leaves November if the Minister wishes to hold the election this year. Has there been agreement in Government to hold the election this year? The Dublin Chamber of Commerce was initially very positive about the heads of the Bill when published. How does the Minister envisage the relationship between the directly elected Dublin Mayor and the other four local authorities?

The Deputy will know that there is Government agreement because it is set out in the renewed programme for Government.

No, it is not.

It clearly says 2010 there.

As regards the Deputy's other question, I met members of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce and they are the very people who have been calling for quite some time for the introduction of a mayor for the Dublin region. I am happy to be the Minister to deliver that. I wish to engage further with the Dublin Chamber of Commerce to ensure that it meets with its requirements. I understand the chamber sees this as a driving force for a competitive Dublin which can compete with the likes of Munich, Paris or London. We have seen the dynamic effect of having directly elected mayors in those particular regions. That is the most important aspect. We must now see cities as driving forces for the regions themselves. That will be the centrepiece of the White Paper.

The Deputy also asked about the relationship of the mayor with the four local authorities. That was clearly set out in the heads of the legislation.

No, it was not.

We said that the mayor would have an overarching role. It is similar to the relationship that exists in London.

That is different.

The London model has various boroughs with councillors in place and the mayor interacts with them, as well as interacting with an assembly that can question the mayor and hold him to account. The same sort of model will apply here.

In the absence of a specific date, could we end up with a situation where the legislation is going through the House, a date has been decided and the campaign is taking place on the doorsteps at the same time? The Minister is indicating that the election will take place before Christmas. It is quite a big Bill, although only the heads have been completed at this stage. It would be bizarre to debate legislation about a post that has yet to be created while an election is taking place.

Deputy Hogan referred earlier to the local authorities in Dublin. Any new position in politics requires power to be derived from or put into that post. The Bill is unclear as to where those powers will be appropriated from. They can either come from councillors or managers. Can the Minister clarify where he sees those mayoral powers coming from?

I will be very clear about it. I have met with councillors on a number of occasions and I have said that I see the powers coming from the managers. That is clearly the case and I have stated so on a number of occasions.

As to the Deputy's initial point, it is up to the political parties to decide when they want to campaign. They can select their candidates and start campaigning now if they wish. I do not determine the behaviour of political parties or individual candidates, but I do hope that we will get the very best candidates in the field, be they from political parties or independents. I look forward to a stimulating campaign and a good debate about the future of this city.

According to a front page article in the Irish Independent, Fianna Fáil have proposals for a shake-up of local government, including changing the role of local authorities and replacing town councils.

They are at it again.

Has the Minister received a copy of that document or is Fianna Fáil keeping it to itself?

This is about the mayoralty of Dublin. I call an tAire.

I am happy to answer, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle. It shows that the Cabinet committee dealing with the White Paper is active and is doing a lot of work.

It is leaking.

I was intrigued by the story. It is always interesting when one sees one's work being discussed in detail. I cannot comment on whether it is accurate because it is never a good thing to comment on leaks. I can say, however, that the White Paper will be a radical document. It may not find favour with all parties, including councillors, but it will be transformative. It is certainly unprecedented.

If it does not find favour with councillors, it will not affect the Minister.

It will. If one were to go on what Deputy Tuffy has said, we do have quite a number of town councillors. We actually increased the number of town councillors, believe it or not.

It took the Minister a while to dig up that one. He had to dig deep.

Dog Breeding Legislation

Alan Shatter


8 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason for the delay in the progress of the Dog Breeding Establishments Bill 2009 through the Houses of the Oireachtas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22374/10]

The Dog Breeding Establishments Bill 2009 proposes to give statutory effect to the recommendations of the working group that reviewed the management of dog breeding establishments. The working group was set up in September 2004 by the then Minister to consider the regulation of dog breeding establishments and to make recommendations on the proper management of such establishments.

Dog breeding establishments are currently unregulated, save for those which are members of the Irish Boarding Kennels and other similar groups and which submit to a form of self-regulation. The recommendations of the working group were submitted to the Minister in August 2005.

The Dog Breeding Establishments Bill 2009 defines a dog breeding establishment as a premises with not less than six bitches of four months or older which are capable of breeding. The Bill proposes that all dog breeding establishments be required to register with the relevant local authority, and that they pay a registration fee and meet a minimum set of veterinary, welfare and other standards.

The Bill has completed Committee Stage in the Seanad, where it was initiated on 18 December 2009. During this time, meetings have taken place between senior officials of my Department and the Irish Greyhound Board, the Irish Coursing Club, the Dogs' Trust, the Irish Kennel Club and other stakeholders to discuss their concerns. I expect Report and Final Stages to be taken in the Seanad shortly, after which the Bill will begin the legislative process in the Dáil, subject to the Dáil's Order of Business.

Regulations will be introduced following enactment of the Bill, which will set out the detailed requirements that dog breeding establishments will have to meet to comply with the legislation. The draft regulations will be subject to consultation with the interested parties.

I am satisfied with that reply.

A few weeks ago, the joint Oireachtas committee had a meeting on this matter, with an extensive debate. There were significant contributions from the Minister's partners in Government who had quite a lot to say about the legislation. Has the Minister received the transcripts of that committee meeting? Does he propose to table any amendments on Report Stage in the Seanad, given the contributions made at the committee by his Government colleagues?

I should advise the House that once another House is seized of the Bill it is not up to this House to discuss the Upper House's handling of it. However, I am sure the Minister will answer the question in general terms.

I am happy to do so. It is certainly my intention to introduce amendments, but the question is whether we will do so in the Seanad, or whether we can do it in this House on Committee Stage. I think it is probably better if we do it in this House and then go back to the Seanad. I have listened very carefully to the contributions that were made by Deputies in all parties. It is interesting that this piece of legislation has given rise to quite a lot of debate. It is really extraordinary when one thinks of it.

It is extraordinary.

European Court Rulings

Noel Coonan


9 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reply that he has issued in response to the recent threat of fines from the EU Commission for failure to adhere to European Court of Justice rulings concerning illegal developments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22355/10]

I presume the question refers to European Court of Justice cases C215-06 and C66-06, both of which relate to the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive and which are the subject of letters of formal notice from the Commission to which the Irish Government will shortly be responding.

In relation to case C215-06, the ECJ ruled, in June 2008, that the Irish retention permission system did not comply with the EIA Directive. In response to the judgment, amendments are being made in the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill 2009, which is to be enacted this summer, to remove the possibility of retention for EIA development, other than in exceptional circumstances, and to abolish the seven year rule for enforcement action in respect of extractive industry EIA development. Pending enactment of the amending legislation, my Department issued a circular letter to planning authorities and An Bord Pleanála in October 2008, outlining the approach to be taken in dealing with retention applications for EIA developments in the interim. I understand the circular has been effective in preventing applications for retention of EIA-type developments being accepted by planning authorities since its publication.

In case C66-06, in November 2008 the ECJ found that Ireland's system of screening projects to assess the requirement to carry out EIAs for certain categories of agricultural development was over-reliant on size thresholds and did not take sufficient account of other relevant criteria such as the cumulative effects of development and the location of those developments. In response to the judgment, my Department is proposing to lower the thresholds for affected projects under which an EIA is mandatory, introduce enhanced notification and screening processes for relevant sub-threshold development, and abolish any planning exemptions for relevant projects where an EIA is required.

The ECJ judgment also ruled that the Irish regulations transposing the EIA directive in regard to aquaculture activities were deficient, and this matter is being addressed by my colleague, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

What planning exemptions does the Minister of State propose to bring under the remit of the EIA?

That is a matter for decision under the legislation and the regulations. If Deputy Hogan has any specific ideas he wishes to address to me I would be more than happy to receive them.

I was wondering whether the Minister had given any thought to the necessary exemptions.

I do not have that information to hand.

I am trying to be helpful. Perhaps we can deal with the matter under the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill 2009, which is going through Committee Stage. Perhaps at that stage the Minister of State could supply us with the information on what he has in mind. We could discuss the scope of the EIA to which the Minister of State referred during the course of the Committee Stage debate.

We can. I can revert to the Deputy on that specific instance. To summarise what we are trying to do with the planning system, we are trying to make it much more rigorous with an impetus from this country and Europe to include environmental impact assessment and development plans so we will have much more certainty within the planning process. That will benefit both the communities and residents but also developers. The more certainty there is in the system, the better the planning system will be for sustainable economic development as well.

When the Minister of State, Deputy Cuffe, was in Opposition he often raised this country's failure to comply with European Union judgments. I would have thought he would be very specific about what needs to be done for us to comply with the three rulings concerned. Even though the Green Party has been in Government for the past three years we are still being hauled over the coals by the European Union for failing to comply with European Court of Justice rulings. In this country we still seem to battle out the EU on its decisions; we do not just comply with them. Does the Minister of State have specific plans to introduce legislation that will address the three cases to which he referred this year?

There is much good news in this. My belief is that since coming into office my colleague, the Minister, Deputy Gormley, has given the highest priority to the transposition and implementation of EU environmental legislation. He has secured the closure of 27 cases in the past two and a half years. Deputy Tuffy might think we are being hauled over the coals on a regular basis but I think we are shaking Commission members by the hand and asking what we can do and what needs to be done.

What about the five rulings?

At an environmental Council meeting in March 2010 the Minister met the current Environment Commissioner, Mr. Potocnik, and reaffirmed this country's commitment on EU compliance. To throw a few more numbers into the mix 33 cases were outstanding when the Minister came into office, but there are now 23. That is a 50% reduction in the number of cases. Deputy Tuffy will be aware from her legal background that one cannot just wave a magic wand and implement compliance overnight. From meeting with the Minister in the past three years I am aware that we have been pulling out all the stops to achieve compliance. In some cases a lengthy legal process has to be gone through and the Attorney General must have oversight and detailed involvement in all of those cases. Good news is emerging. The amount of cases is reducing. In many cases we must seek co-operation across all branches of Government. It is difficult to get the resources. It is difficult in-house but in other Departments it is difficult to find those resources as well. We are doing our best and this is a good news story.

Local Government Reform

Phil Hogan


10 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the local government white paper will be published; when the review group on local government expenditure will report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22385/10]

Emmet Stagg


203 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when he will bring forward the White Paper on Local Government. [22571/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 10 and 203 together.

I published the Green Paper on local government, Stronger Local Democracy — Options for Change, in April 2008. That was followed by an extensive programme of national consultation for purposes of informing the preparation of the White Paper on local government. The environment has altered considerably since April 2008, not least due to the severe economic downturn. Work on the White Paper has also had to have regard to the report of the Commission on Taxation, the Report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes, and the renewed programme for Government.

A dedicated Cabinet committee is finalising the major strategic issues for inclusion in the White Paper, which will be published as soon as possible following the completion of the committee's deliberations. It is essential we get the White Paper right and that it is grounded in today's challenges, contains appropriate ambition and will be readily implementable.

I have put other significant local government initiatives in place in recent months. I established the Limerick Local Government Committee to prepare a report on the most appropriate arrangements for local government for the city and county of Limerick. I have published the general scheme of the legislation to provide for the mayor for Dublin. I also established the Local Government Efficiency Review Group and I have requested that it complete its work by mid-2010. I have asked the group to review the cost base, expenditure and numbers employed in local authorities with a view to reporting on specific recommendations to reduce costs, the effectiveness of particular programmes, optimal efficiency in the way programmes are delivered and any other proposals to enhance value for money in the delivery of services at local level. The group's findings and recommendations will then be considered in the appropriate policy and financial contexts. Collectively, these initiatives will be of great importance to the future of the local government system and its stakeholders.

Is the local government expenditure group another version of the bord snip report? Local authorities are very hard pressed. They have lost many staff and many of them are struggling financially. It would be worrying if the intention were to have a similar type of exercise to the earlier McCarthy report.

If one wants to put it in those terms, I looked at what McCarthy had done and I felt it was necessary to carry out an efficiency review of the local government sector. Deputy Tuffy will have seen the recent reports about the failure to collect commercial water rates. It is absolutely essential that we get the full value for the €11 billion, current and capital, spent annually by local authorities. That must be viewed against the requirement to manage and control overall public spending, having regard to the need to restore balance in the public finances. While much has been achieved to date, such as the new costing system, shared services, and the implementation of a modern financial management system, audit committees and performance indicators, more must be done. The focus will be on current spending by local authorities. The group will address capital expenditure issues to the extent of their impact on current expenditure. I met with the group, whose work is ongoing. It is absolutely vital we deal with this issue because we have had local authorities spending money in the good times but we are no longer in the good times and we have to tighten our belt, not just at central level but at local level as well.

The Minister needs to be careful that he does not wipe them out of existence entirely. They have had to cut their budgets so much that they are really stretched as they try to do important work. I wanted to make that point.

One of the things I did not mention in my response was the introduction for the first time of a tax on second homes. I recall vividly that when it was introduced, Deputies on the Opposition benches said we would be lucky to collect €20 million. In fact, we have collected up to €63 million very quickly. It has worked efficiently. I do not think the local authorities can complain because we have been as generous as we can, in the current circumstances. When the pay reduction was imposed, they were allowed to retain a substantial amount of it.

Some 60% of it.

We have been and will continue to be enormously flexible with the local authorities on every front.

Noise Pollution

Joe McHugh


11 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when legislation will be brought forward to deal with noise pollution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22398/10]

The Government is committed to introducing comprehensive legislation to address noise nuisance. Extensive public consultation was undertaken as part of the preparatory process, during which over 200 submissions were received from the public and key stakeholders. After due consideration of the submissions, the general scheme of a noise nuisance Bill was prepared and approved by the Government in May 2009. At that time, a number of issues that need to be addressed during the drafting of the Bill were identified. My Department, in conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General, is progressing matters in this regard. The Bill is scheduled for publication later this year. Although a wide range of measures are in place to deal with noise from a variety of sources, it is my aim that the new legislation will take a more integrated approach to noise nuisance, for example, through codes of practice for construction, commercial and domestic situations. In addition, measures will be introduced to increase awareness of how noise nuisance can be addressed. I am examining options to strengthen existing local authority powers, including the introduction of a system of fixed payment notices for noise nuisance offences. As things stand, a person experiencing noise nuisance may contact his or her local authority, which may initiate proceedings on grounds of noise nuisance under the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992. The Act provides that any person or group of persons may seek an order in the District Court to have noise giving reasonable cause for annoyance abated. The procedures involved have been simplified to allow action to be taken without legal representation. A public information leaflet outlining the legal avenues available to people experiencing noise nuisance, A Guide to the Noise Regulations, is available on my Department's website, www.environ.ie.

Foreshore Licences

Joe Carey


12 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when he expects to judge on a foreshore licence for the Poolbeg waste to energy facility; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22349/10]

Following the enactment of the Foreshore and Dumping at Sea (Amendment) Act 2009, my Department assumed responsibility on 15 January 2010 for a range of foreshore functions, including all foreshore energy-related developments, including oil, gas, wind, wave and tidal energy developments; aggregate and mineral extraction developments on the foreshore; foreshore projects in respect of port companies and harbour authorities governed by the Harbours Acts 1946, 1996 and 2000; foreshore projects in respect of any other harbour; harbour-related developments intended for commercial trade; and all other foreshore projects other than those relating to aquaculture and sea fisheries.

In accordance with the Foreshore Acts, a lease or licence can be issued if it is in the public interest. At present, the processing of a foreshore application includes assessment of the application by the Department's internal technical advisers and, where necessary, the marine licence vetting committee that advises on scientific matters; consultation with statutory and non-statutory consultees, including relevant Departments and agencies; a period of public consultation, normally of 21 days; valuation of the site to be occupied by the applicant; and other public interest elements that may arise in particular cases.

More than 700 foreshore applications for leases, licences and permits are currently being dealt with by my Department. The applications, which vary greatly in terms of size of infrastructure project and level of complexity, also include a licence application from Dublin City Council for the construction of a water cooling channel to service the proposed waste-to-energy facility at Poolbeg. As the licence application in question is one of a large number at different stages of consideration under the foreshore consent process, my Department will be in contact with Dublin City Council on the matter as soon as possible.

Will the Minister confirm that all the processes have been gone through in this case? If the foreshore licence application is on the Minister's desk, is it now a matter of whether he will accept or reject it? Can he give the House an indication of the timescale within which he will make that decision?

My understanding is that the various processes have not been gone through.

What are they?

As I have said, we have to go through certain processes.

Can the Minister give the House an update on the Poolbeg incinerator report that he commissioned in March of this year? When might it be due?

I understand that the senior counsel is in negotiations with some of the stakeholders to try to get further information. He has told us he requires more time to do that. It is crucial to establish what the waste streams are and what quantities of waste are involved. I understand it has been difficult to get some of the information because it is commercially sensitive. I believe negotiations on the matter are taking place between the senior counsel and some of the key stakeholders at present.

Written Answers follow Adjournment Debate.