Tenant Purchase Scheme Review

Ceisteanna (509)

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

509. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when planned changes to qualification requirements for the tenant purchase scheme will be announced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40778/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Housing (Sale of Local Authority Houses) Regulations 2015, provide the basis for the Tenant (Incremental) Purchase Scheme for existing local authority houses. 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.

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

I intend to bring a comprehensive package of social housing reform measures to Government in the near future and the relevant recommendations made in the Review of the Tenant Purchase Scheme will be progressed as part of that process. Following consideration of a number of implementation issues arising, in that context, I expect to be in a position to publish the Review.

Wind Energy Guidelines

Ceisteanna (510)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

510. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of the review of the 2006 wind energy development guidelines; when the review will be completed and the new guidelines published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40827/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

My Department is currently undertaking a focused review of the 2006 Wind Energy Development Guidelines in line with the “preferred draft approach” which was announced in June 2017 by the then Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, in conjunction with the then Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment. The review is addressing a number of key aspects including sound or noise, visual amenity setback distances, shadow flicker, community obligation, community dividend and grid connections.

As part of the overall review process, a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) is being undertaken on the revised Guidelines before they come into effect, in accordance with the requirements of EU Directive 2001/24/EC on the assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment, otherwise known as the SEA Directive. SEA is a process by which environmental considerations are required to be fully integrated into the preparation of plans and programmes which act as frameworks for development consent, prior to their final adoption, with public consultation as part of that process.

While the revised draft guidelines had been expected to be published in Quarter 1 2019, some delays to the planned schedule arose, due to the publication of updated World Health Organisation (WHO) noise standards and the need to focus on certain Brexit-related planning issues.

As part of the SEA process, there will shortly be an eight-week public consultation on the revised draft Guidelines, together with the comprehensive environmental report. Finalised Guidelines will be prepared following detailed analysis and consideration of the submissions received during the consultation phase, and the conclusion of the SEA process. My Department is aiming to commence the public consultation in the coming weeks.

When finalised, the revised Guidelines will be issued under section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended. Planning authorities and, where applicable, An Bord Pleanála, must have regard to guidelines issued under section 28 in the performance of their functions generally under the Planning Acts. In the meantime, the current 2006 Wind Energy Development Guidelines remain in force.

Electoral Commission Establishment

Ceisteanna (511)

Frank O'Rourke

Ceist:

511. Deputy Frank O'Rourke asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if progress has been made on the establishment of a national electoral commission, as recommended to oversee the conduct of elections; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40846/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The establishment of an Electoral Commission is a key commitment in the Programme for Partnership Government.

My Department prepared a Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) in respect of the establishment of an Electoral Commission, which was published on 27 December 2018, and followed by a public consultation process. The RIA set out four options, having regard to a commission's legislative status and the functions that might be assigned to it. Responses to the public consultation indicated support for its establishment on a statutory basis, with a phased transfer of existing functions.

The Government approved the establishment of a statutory Electoral Commission on 17 July 2019. The Electoral Commission will bring together several electoral functions in an independent, dedicated public body. It will include a new research and advisory function, which will inform the Government and Oireachtas in their consideration of reform to electoral law.

Work on the drafting of the General Scheme of an Electoral Commission Bill is currently underway in my Department and I anticipate this to be completed by the end of 2019.

Residential Tenancies Board

Ceisteanna (512)

Willie O'Dea

Ceist:

512. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to change the legislation establishing the PRTB that only allows an appeal to the courts on a point of law; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40852/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) was established as an independent statutory body under the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 to operate a national tenancy registration system and to facilitate the resolution of disputes between landlords and tenants. The service provided by the RTB is quasi-judicial and all of their mediators, adjudicators and tribunal members have independent decision-making powers, in the same way as judges have within the Court system. To ensure impartiality, transparency and fairness, adjudicators are independently appointed and they undertake their functions in an autonomous capacity.

Section 123(3) of the Residential Tenancies Acts 2004-2019 states that any of the parties concerned may appeal to the High Court, within the relevant time period, a determination of a Tribunal on a point of law.

The RTB replaces the Courts for the vast majority of landlord and tenant disputes. However, section 182 of the Act provides that if the damages sought in a dispute amount to more than €20,000 or, in the case of rent arrears more than €60,000, the dispute may be referred directly to the Courts.

Prior to 2004, where there was a dispute between a landlord and a tenant, there was no alternative but to go to Court for dispute resolution services. This was costly and time consuming for the parties involved, with the majority of cases taking years to resolve.

Accordingly, I have no plans to change the right of appeal under section 123 of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004.

Fire Stations Upgrade

Ceisteanna (513)

Pat Casey

Ceist:

513. Deputy Pat Casey asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the details of the fire station capital plan and the need to upgrade many fire stations such as Baltinglass; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40907/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The provision of a fire service in its functional area, including the establishment and maintenance of a fire brigade, the assessment of fire cover needs and the provision of fire station premises, is a statutory function of individual fire authorities under the Fire Service Act, 1981. My Department supports fire authorities through setting general policy, providing a central training programme, issuing guidance on operational and other related matters and providing capital funding support for equipment and priority infrastructural projects.

In February 2016, my Department announced a five-year Fire Services Capital Programme with an allocation of €40 million, based on an annual €8 million allocation, to be used for the purchase of fire appliances and specialist equipment, building or upgrading of prioritised Fire Stations, an upgrade of the Communications and Mobilisation system and improvements to Training Centres. The five-year programme proposed the construction/refurbishment of twenty six fire stations. This included sixteen new builds and ten upgrade/refurbishment projects. Details of the programme are available on my Department's website at the following link:

https://www.housing.gov.ie/local-government/fire-and-emergency-management/funding/minister-kelly-announces-new-40-million-euro.

In relation to Wicklow County Council's Fire Service, Balltinglass and Dunlavin Fire Stations were included in a further list of stations which would be considered in annual reviews during the five-year Programme. My Department is awaiting updated cost plans from the Council for the upgrading work to be undertaken at both of these Fire Stations. My Department will consider the proposals upon receipt and will continue working with the Council to progress these projects. In order to maximise the available Capital Programme funding, my Department re-assesses the status of projects in the capital programme on an annual basis, and some flexibility is normally available to advance projects that are ready and that offer best value-for-money taking account of the state of readiness of projects more generally.

Local Government Fund

Ceisteanna (514)

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

514. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the amount allocated to the Local Government Fund in each of the years 2010 to 2018 and to date in 2019; the composition of the fund by income from motor tax, income from the Exchequer and the local property tax in tabular form. [40930/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The accounts of the Local Government Fund, including income and expenditure, are audited by the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General each year. The audited accounts for 2010 to 2018 are available on my Department's website at the following link;

https://www.housing.gov.ie/search/archived/archived/archived/current/type/publications?query=Local%20Government%20Fund%20Accounts.

Information concerning the Local Government Fund for 2019 is contained on page 166 of the Revised Estimates 2019 which is available at the following link;

https://www.gov.ie/pdf/?file=https://assets.gov.ie/5035/201218100533-227c552da63d401ca85493a67c93e5de.pdf#page=1.

At the start of 2018 a number of changes made to the structure of the Local Government Fund took effect. These changes arose from the recommendations of the Report of the Working Group on the Future Funding Model for Irish Water and were consistent with the recommendations of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services. It was agreed that all State funding to Irish Water in respect of domestic water services would be channelled through the Vote of the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, and therefore funded from general taxation.

As the subvention to Irish Water is no longer paid from the Local Government Fund (LGF) a number of consequential changes were also made:

- LPT is now paid directly to the LGF by the Revenue Commissioners;

- Motor tax is now paid into the Exchequer and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (DTTaS) has taken over responsibility for motor tax policy;

- The allocation to DTTaS, to fund regional and local roads and other public transport infrastructure, is now funded directly through the DTTaS Vote; and,

- There is no longer a requirement for a payment to the Exchequer from the LGF.

These changes were introduced by the Water Services Act 2017.

Water Supply

Ceisteanna (515)

Pat Casey

Ceist:

515. Deputy Pat Casey asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if there are grants for water well drilling for domestic houses. [40946/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

There is a grant currently available, which is funded by my Department through the local authorities, for the provision or necessary improvement of an individual water supply in a house. This is more commonly called the individual or private wells grant. The grant, subject to certain conditions, assists households dependent on these supplies with the costs incurred in providing such a supply of water for domestic purposes or rectifying serious deficiencies with an existing supply.

Information on this grant is available from local authorities and from my Department's website at the following link:

www.housing.gov.ie/water/water-services/rural-water-programme/private-wells.

Earlier this year I announced details of the new Multi-annual Rural Water Programme 2019-2021. This included an improved funding scheme for individual wells.

The composition of the new multi-annual programme is based on recommendations from the Working Group that I established in April 2018 to conduct a review of investment needs and rural water services. The changes that I have approved to the individual wells grant scheme are, as follows:

- A maximum grant for rehabilitation works of €3,000, which represents an increase of 47% on the current maximum grant amount;

- Where the local authority agrees that the most appropriate solution is to provide a new well, the maximum grant payable would be €5,000;

- Recognising the role of the grant in improving quality, the water quality treatment element (typically filtration and UV filtration) will qualify for 100% funding up to a maximum of €1,000;

- Up to 85% of other costs would be met, subject to the total combined maximum costs of €3,000 for well rehabilitation or €5,000 for a new well;

- For clarity, applicants would not be able to avail of both grant amounts, so they would not be able to avail of €3,000 for well rehabilitation as well as the €5,000 for a new well.

Work is at an advanced stage of development for the new scheme. I expect that the process will be completed shortly when the necessary regulations dealing with the financial assistance arrangements and related administrative matters are put in place. This will enable a circular letter, terms and conditions, guidance and the application form to issue to local authorities shortly thereafter.

Social and Affordable Housing

Ceisteanna (516)

Pat Casey

Ceist:

516. Deputy Pat Casey asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of the roll out of the affordable housing scheme and serviced sites fund; the number of housing schemes approved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40947/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Part 5 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 was commenced in June 2018 to provide a statutory basis for the delivery of affordable housing for purchase. Regulations in respect of the making of Schemes of Priority were signed on 12 March 2019, and these were issued to local authorities on 22 March 2019. The purpose of a Scheme of Priority is to set out the affordable purchase arrangements at local authority level. This includes the methodology that will be applied by local authorities to determine the order of priority to be accorded to eligible households where the demand for such affordable dwellings exceeds the number available.

In line with the legal requirements of the Affordable Dwelling Purchase Arrangements, further regulations will be put in place over the coming months regarding eligibility and other matters. When the operational procedures for the scheme are finalised, and before dwellings are made available for purchase under the scheme, a programme of communication will be undertaken by my Department and local authorities.

In order to support the delivery of discounted homes to buy or rent, this Government has committed €310 million under the Serviced Sites Fund, from 2019 to 2021, to provide infrastructure to support the delivery of some 6,200 homes. To date, funding of €127 million, in support of 35 projects in 14 local authority areas, has been allocated for infrastructure works on sites that will support the delivery of almost 3,200 homes.

Details of all SSF funded infrastructure projects can be found on the Rebuilding Ireland website at the following links:

https://rebuildingireland.ie/news/minister-murphy-approves-10-local-authority-sites-affordable-housing-serviced-sites-fund/

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

The overall cost and the timing of delivery for these projects is contingent upon the completion of design, planning and procurement in the first instance, and local authorities are working to achieve delivery as quickly as possible.

In addition to making discounted homes available for purchase, the Government is also committed to the development of ‘Cost Rental’ in Ireland. Under the Cost Rental model, rents cover the cost of delivering, managing, and maintaining the homes only, less both the profit margin seen in the private rental sector and any financial supports provided by the State/local authorities. With the resulting rents significantly below market levels, this would mean that many households on moderate incomes will have access to a more affordable and stable form of rental tenure than would otherwise have been the case.

In order to drive delivery, two early mover pilot projects are being advanced, one at Enniskerry Road, in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, and the other at Emmet Road in Inchicore. In tandem with these pilot projects, my Department is developing a national policy approach to Cost Rental for Ireland to ensure future projects can be delivered at a scale and in a manner that will have the desired positive impact on the Irish housing sector.

These new schemes are complemented by other key Government affordability initiatives, including the Rebuilding Ireland home loan and the Help to Buy Scheme. In addition, the Land Development Agency's initial portfolio of sites will have the potential to deliver 3,000 affordable homes and the Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund ( LIHAF) will support more than 2,300 affordable homes on mainly publicly owned lands, while 5,600 further homes will benefit from a LIHAF related cost reduction, some of which have already come on stream.

In overall terms, programmes are in place under which some 18,000 affordable homes or homes with a LIHAF related reduction will be delivered, with 15,000 households already supported under the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan or the Help to Buy Scheme.

Electoral Register

Ceisteanna (517)

Frank O'Rourke

Ceist:

517. Deputy Frank O'Rourke asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if consideration has been given to the establishment of an online voter registration system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40983/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Arising from a commitment in the May 2016 Programme for a Partnership Government to examine the voter registration process, a set of policy proposals was developed, based on the 2016 Report of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Proposed Electoral Commission. The proposals include the provision of online registration as an optional alternative to paper-based registration, as well as: the introduction of a simplified registration process; a move to a rolling register; a reduction in the number of application forms; and the move from household-based to individual registration. Verification of identity through the possible use of Personal Public Service Numbers (PPSNs) is also proposed.

I launched the public consultation phase of the modernisation project in December 2018 and it ran until 15 March 2019. A total of 187 submissions were received from individuals, public representatives, local authorities, political parties and community and voluntary and social organisations. All responses are available on my Department's website and I intend to publish a report on the public consultation very shortly.

The responses to the consultation are informing ongoing work in my Department on various elements of the project, including the provision of an optional online registration facility with secure self-service, and the development of a draft General Scheme of an Electoral (Amendment) Bill. The outcome of the pilot of the voter.ie platform by the Dublin Local Authorities during recent polls, which provided the option of online registration and amendment of details for those with a MyGovID, is also being considered in the context of the wider modernisation project.

Housing Assistance Payment Administration

Ceisteanna (518)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

518. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the average processing time for approving HAP applications; if his attention has been drawn to delays in processing new HAP tenancy applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41000/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Limerick City and County Council provide a highly effective transactional shared service on behalf of all local authorities in the administration of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme. The HAP Shared Services Centre (SSC) manages all HAP related rental transactions for the tenant, local authority and landlord. Once a HAP application has been received and confirmed as valid by the relevant local authority, it is then processed by the HAP SSC. On average, HAP applications are processed by the SSC within 2 working days of receipt. Any rental payment arising for a given month will then be made to a landlord on the last Wednesday of that month.

At the end of Q2 2019, there were more than 48,000 households in receipt of HAP support and over 28,000 separate landlords and agents providing accommodation to households supported by the scheme.

Local Authority Housing Standards

Ceisteanna (519)

Tony McLoughlin

Ceist:

519. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if local authorities will be required to bring new housing stock which they acquire from now on up to BER B2 standard; if so, if his Department will repay to local authorities the cost of necessary works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41004/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

All local authorities are being funded to significantly increase their delivery of social housing as part of Rebuilding Ireland, including through the acquisition of new and previously owned house and apartments. Properties acquired by local authorities for social housing purposes, must comply with building regulations. In that regard, Part L of the Building Regulations will require from 1 November 2019, that where more than 25% of the surface of the building envelope (walls, floor and roof) is renovated, the whole dwelling should achieve the cost optimal level of B2 BER or alternatively, cost optimal equivalent measures should be applied. These requirements will apply to acquisitions of second hand housing for social housing purposes.

In addition, my Department is already funding an Energy Efficiency Retrofitting Programme for local authorities to improve the insulation standards and overall energy performance of their existing social housing stock. This investment is benefitting those at risk of fuel poverty, as well as contributing to Ireland’s carbon emissions reduction and energy reduction targets. Support under this Programme is continuing in 2019, with €25 million available in grant aid to the local authorities.

Local Authority Housing Waiting Lists

Ceisteanna (520)

Stephen Donnelly

Ceist:

520. Deputy Stephen Donnelly asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of persons on each housing waiting list by local authority that are wheelchair users; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41012/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Housing waiting lists are compiled by all local authorities and are based on the identified needs of social housing applicants in their areas. Details on the number of households qualified for social housing support in each local authority area are set out in the statutory Summary of Social Housing Assessments (SSHA), which includes breakdowns by each local authority across a range of categories, including disability. Disability is categorised under four main headings; physical, intellectual, sensory, mental health. Currently, there is no separate breakdown of wheelchair users in the Summary, who are categorised under the physical disability heading.

A breakdown of the four main categories of disability in the most recently published summary, which sets out the position at 11 June 2018, is available in Table A 1.5 of the summary publication, which is available on my Department's website at the following link:

www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/publications/files/summary_of_social_housing_assessments_2018_-_key_findings.pdf.

My Department, in close collaboration with the local authority sector, is working on the provision of a revised social housing application form, which will include a new mechanism to capture a "wheelchair suitable" requirement. It is expected that this work will be completed by the end of 2019.

National Oversight and Audit Commission

Ceisteanna (521)

John Curran

Ceist:

521. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to address the report by the National Oversight and Audit Commission that revealed that eight of 31 city and county councils failed to meet their minimum standards for inspecting new buildings (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41019/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Code of Practice for Inspecting and Certifying Buildings and Works requires local authorities to inspect a minimum of 12-15% of new buildings for which valid commencement notices have been received.

The indication in the National Oversight and Audit Commission (NOAC) report that 8 local authorities did not meet this minimum requirement in 2018 is disappointing. However, it should be noted that between 2015 and 2018, the number of new buildings for which there were valid commencement notices has more than doubled, from 9,438 to 19,808. During this time, the number of inspections has also increased significantly, from 2,555 to 4,648 (representing an 80% increase in inspections). Nationally, in 2018, over 23% of all new buildings with a valid commencement notices were inspected. This demonstrates that the majority of local authorities exceed the minimum 12-15% target.

The need to make further progress in the area of building control has been recognised in the establishment of the National Building Control Office (NBCO), within Dublin City Council, to provide oversight, direction and support for the development, standardisation and implementation of Building Control as an effective shared service in the 31 Building Control Authorities. My Department is working with the NBCO at present on a review of the inspection policy for building control. It is intended that the new policy will position Building Control Authorities to carry out risk-based targeted inspections by making more efficient and effective use of the available resources. Much progress has been made on this review, an inspections protocol and methodology has been developed and a pilot IT system to support inspections has also been developed. The issue of targets and capacity will be considered further in this context of this policy review.

Rental Sector Strategy

Ceisteanna (522)

John Curran

Ceist:

522. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to address the report by the National Oversight and Audit Commissions that revealed low levels of inspection of rental properties (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41021/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Strategy for the Rental Sector, published in December 2016, set out a series of measures to be introduced to ensure the quality of private rental accommodation by strengthening the applicable standards and improving the inspection and enforcement systems. The Strategy acknowledged the overall low rates of inspection of the private rental stock and low rates of compliance, as well as the need for greater consistency in approach to implementation of the regulations across local authorities.

The Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2019 specify requirements in relation to a range of matters, such as structural repair, sanitary facilities, heating, ventilation, natural light and safety of gas, oil and electrical supply. My Department also published a guidance document to assist and support local authorities in implementing these Regulations.

All landlords have a legal obligation to ensure that their rented properties comply with these regulations and responsibility for the enforcement of the Regulations rests with the relevant local authority.

The Rental Strategy recognises the need for additional resources to be provided to local authorities to aid increased inspections of properties and ensure greater compliance with the Regulations. Provision was made for €2.5 million of Exchequer funding to be made available to local authorities in 2018 for this purpose, increasing to €4.5 million in 2019 and increasing further again, under Budget 2020, to €6m next year, with the intention of ultimately achieving a targeted inspection coverage of 25% of rental properties annually by 2021.

In 2018, 28,806 inspections were carried out, including repeat or follow up inspections in some cases. This was a 47% increase on the 19,645 inspections carried out in 2017, and I expect final data for this year to show a further significant increase. My Department will continue to work with local authorities to ensure that momentum is maintained towards the 25% target by 2021.

Arts Centres

Ceisteanna (523)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

523. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the engagement she or her officials have had on a centre (details supplied). [40650/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

The Taoiseach has indicated that a new simplified process is being put in place to ensure certainty over the levels of funding and delivery mechanisms for the centre referred to by the Deputy, which will provide a substantial addition to the cultural offering in Cork City and County when it is complete. Under the new arrangements it is intended that responsibility for oversight of the project will transfer to the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government and discussions in that regard are underway.

National Parks and Wildlife Service

Ceisteanna (524)

Shane Cassells

Ceist:

524. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht further to Parliamentary Question Nos. 260 and 261 of 19 September 2019, the specific case her Department considered an application for an activity requiring consent; and if a copy of the recommendations will be provided to the local group. [40581/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

My Regional and Headquarters staff have checked their files, and the specific case for which my Department has records is an application from Navan Anglers for permission to carry out an Activity Requiring Consent under the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011 on the Boyne Main Channel from Kilcarne Bridge to Navan.

The location in question is located within both the River Boyne and River Blackwater Special Area of Conservation (SAC 002299) and the River Boyne and River Blackwater Special Protection Area (SPA 004232).

No formal recommendation was made in this case as it was felt that further information was required in the form of a Natura Impact Assessment. Having considered the nature of the proposed works and how these might impact on the aquatic species for which the site was designated, as well as the potential impacts involving disturbance of several Alien Invasive Species on site, namely Himalayan Balsam and Japanese Knotweed, the Navan Anglers were advised verbally to contact the Planning Authority (Meath County Council) to determine whether or not planning permission was required for the proposed project.

Community Development Projects Funding

Ceisteanna (525)

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

525. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he has received correspondence from an organisation (details supplied); and if funding will be provided for an upgrade of the facilities. [40642/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

I can confirm to the Deputy that I received a copy of the correspondence referred to on 30 September 2019.

I had previously allocated funding to the relevant Local Authority for the purpose of identifying and developing the facility referred to in the correspondence. However, following an audit of the proposed site carried out on behalf of the Local Authority, the site was deemed unsuitable.

My Department has since received an application for funding from the Local Authority in order to identify a more suitable site for the provision of the new facility. I have asked my officials to review the application in the context of the funding available for capital projects and the various demands on that funding.

I have been informed that a recommendation is being prepared by my officials and I hope, therefore, to be in a position to make a decision on this application shortly.

Departmental Schemes

Ceisteanna (526)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

526. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the funding allocated to the music capital scheme in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019; the amount actually spent under this scheme in each of the years 2016 to 2018, in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40730/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

The following table shows the allocation to and amount spent on the Music Capital Scheme in each of the four years requested by the Deputy. The Scheme is operated by Music Network on behalf of my Department.

In general, allocations are made at the end of a year and are drawn down in the following year. The most recent allocation was made in 2018 and most of this has been drawn down in 2019.

Year

Allocation

Amount Spent

2015

€210,000

€210,000

2016

€210,000

€210,000

2017

€245,500

€209,905

2018

€266,850

€244,629

2019 to date

€265,449

Turf Cutting Compensation Scheme Eligibility

Ceisteanna (527)

Eugene Murphy

Ceist:

527. Deputy Eugene Murphy asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the further information requested from Bord na Móna in respect of a case in which a person (details supplied) has endured ongoing delays receiving arrears under the turf cutting compensation scheme in view of the fact that the person was informed that the assessment was completed and successful and that payments would be backdated to 2011; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40739/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

An application for compensation under the cessation of turf cutting compensation scheme has been received by my Department from the individual referred to in the Deputy’s question. With respect to 53 raised bog special areas of conservation, the qualifying criteria for the scheme are that:

- The applicant must have had a legal interest (ownership or a turbary right (right to cut turf)) in one of these sites on 25 May 2010 and must have had the right to cut and remove turf from the property on that date;

- The applicant must have been cutting turf on the land in question during the relevant five year period (up to 25 May 2010 in respect of the 29 raised bog special areas of conservation nominated for designation between 1997 and 1999);

- The turf resource on the site has not been exhausted; and

- No turf cutting or associated activity is ongoing on the property. Following processing of the application and various correspondence with the applicant and the Deputy, an annual payment under the scheme issued for the year 2019. Applicants are advised when payments issue that my Department continues to check that all of the qualifying criteria of the scheme have been met and further payments are subject to verification by my Department of the relevant details.

Information was requested from Bord na Móna in relation to this application and has now been received. My Department has written to the applicant informing him of his position under the scheme.

Wildlife Control

Ceisteanna (528)

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

528. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if she has established a consultative committee to agree a programme of action in relation to the seagull problem in certain urban areas; the work programme of this committee; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40793/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

A review of the derogation process under Article 9 of the EU Birds Directive was completed by ANIAR Ecology last year. The consultants in their report made a number of recommendations in relation to seagulls including the setting up of a group to agree a programme of action in relation to the seagull situation in the certain urban areas. In line with the recommendations in the consultant’s report, I agreed to the formation of a Consultative Committee, with an independent chair, whose membership includes representatives of the National Parks and Wildlife Service of my Department, Fingal County Council, local community representatives and a conservation group.

The remit of the Consultative Committee is not confined to one particular urban area given the widespread range of seagulls. The Committee has already met and I understand that a further meeting of the Committee will take place in the next few weeks.

Compensation Schemes

Ceisteanna (529)

Jackie Cahill

Ceist:

529. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if she and her officials are examining proposals in relation to a meaningful compensation scheme for farmers affected by designated land; the process involved; the recent meetings with farmer representatives; the timetable for actions in this area; and the status of recent talks with stakeholders on issues (details supplied). [40883/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

In late 2017, at the request of farming representatives, the Government and the organisations involved agreed to review a 2004 agreement, between the Government and farming organisations, with a view to updating it in line with current legislation and practice. Eight meetings have been held to date, the most recent in July 2019. I met the IFA in the last week.

Consultations between my Department, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the farming organisations are ongoing with respect to the finalisation of the revised agreement and it is anticipated that a final meeting of all representatives will be held in the near future.

Farming organisations have for a number of years sought a payment for designation to reflect its effect on land values, separate to any payment for the management of that land (via Agri environment Schemes such as GLAS and the NPWS Scheme). A payment for the provision of ecosystem services has also been sought. In the context of Budget 2020, I will enhance the NPWS Farm Plan Scheme by doubling the funding available to it to €1m.

A landowner must seek and obtain the prior consent of the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht before carrying out certain specified activities in designated areas unless consent falls to another Minister or public authority. If consent is refused, the refusal letter will set out the reason(s) for the refusal of consent and provide details of the appeals process. The landowner has a right to appeal this decision to an independent Appeals Officer. A landowner also has a legal right to seek compensation for losses incurred as a result of a refusal of consent by me, as Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. If agreement cannot be reached on the amount of compensation, either party may apply to have the matter determined by arbitration.

The draft agreement with the farming organisations provides for the appointment of an Independent Conciliator and the development of guidelines on the procedure to be operated by the Independent Conciliator. The draft agreement provides that, following a refusal of consent for an activity requiring consent by me as Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, if agreement cannot be reached on an amount of compensation, the landowner may apply to have the matter considered by the Independent Conciliator, who will make a recommendation on the matter to me as Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. If either party is not satisfied with the outcome of the conciliation process, either party may apply to have the matter determined by arbitration. Alternatively, either party may apply directly to have the matter determined by arbitration, without availing of the conciliation process.

The draft Hen Harrier Threat Response Plan (HHTRP) is nearing completion and is currently being refined and updated as necessary by my Department in consultation with stakeholders. It is necessary to consider the draft Plan in light of the Government's Climate Action Plan and I intend to have the draft HHTRP ready for consultation before the end of this year. The draft Plan, when completed, will first be sent to the Consultative Committee and then for wider public consultation.

Ministerial Travel

Ceisteanna (530)

Alan Kelly

Ceist:

530. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the details of her visit to the Irish Arts Centre in New York on 11 January 2019; and if there will be a follow-up on the visit. [40974/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

On 11 January I visited the Irish Arts Center, New York and was given a detailed tour of this important capital development project which will contribute significantly to enhancing Ireland's global presence, in line with Global Ireland 2025. I met with Board members and the executive of the Irish Arts Center to discuss progress on the project and attended an evening event hosted by Paul Muldoon, one of the Cultural Ambassadors I appointed in early January.

The January visit also included a meeting at the Irish Consulate General in New York with Irish Cultural Centres from across the US to discuss the Government’s Global Ireland 2025 initiative and the ambition to double Ireland's Cultural footprint globally.

During a follow up visit on 14 June 2019, which coincided with my participation in a Bloomsday event at the United Nations, I witnessed the placing of the final steel structural beam in the new center. The new facility will provide a modern flagship 21st century platform for established and emerging Irish artists across a range of disciplines to reach New York and U.S audiences, including our large diaspora in the US . I received a further update on progress on the project from the Center's Executive Director on 4 October.

EU Regulations

Ceisteanna (531)

Peter Burke

Ceist:

531. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the status of proposals to ban a substance (details supplied); and her views in relation to same. [41079/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

The Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) was developed under the UN Convention on Migratory Species. Ireland signed up to the Agreement in 2003. The agreement includes a commitment that “Parties shall endeavour to phase out the use of lead shot for hunting in wetlands as soon as possible in accordance with self-imposed and published timetables." This is because there is slow accumulation of lead from shot in wetlands where hunting occurs. The lead is generally harmful in the environment and can also be consumed by wildfowl which often swallow small pieces of hard materials such as gravel and the like, to assist the maceration of vegetable matter in their gizzards.

The European Commission have published an initial draft Regulation for consideration by Member States on the use of lead shot in wetlands following a report on the matter by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). It is my understanding that the proposal, should it ultimately progress into law, would make provision for a lead-in time to facilitate the making of arrangements to source alternatives to lead shot. It is Ireland's understanding the majority of Member States currently have some restrictions on the use of lead shot over wetlands.

My Department is aware that the ban on using lead in gunshot would provide a range of difficulties to transition to new guns/gunshot for many gun owners in Ireland, including farmers and hunters. In those Member States which do have some restrictions, many gun owners already have guns with non-lead shot ammunition. This would not be the case in Ireland where a considerable number of gun owners would have to make alternative arrangements, in many cases to purchase new guns.

Discussions with the REACH Committee (which is within the remit of the ECHA), are ongoing. Ireland is represented on the Committee by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) and will be requesting a lead-in time of sufficient length for the implementation of the Regulation.

Animal Disease Controls

Ceisteanna (532, 534, 535)

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

532. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht her plans to suspend the open season order for hares in view of the recent outbreak of rabbit haemorrhagic disease RHD2 which has been found in at least six counties in approximately 12 rabbits and two hares; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41093/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

534. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht further to that the open seasons order in relation to hares his views on the use of terriers or canine breeds other than beagles, harriers or greyhounds to be involved in the hunting of hares. [41153/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

535. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht further to the open seasons order in relation to hares his views on the hunting of hares by way of regulated coursing at the same location and townland multiple times in the same season. [41154/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 532, 534 and 535 together.

I made the decision in August to suspend the licences issued to the Irish Coursing Club (ICC) on behalf of its affiliated clubs to capture and tag hares for the 2019/20 hare coursing season until a clearer understanding of the extent, spread and implications of the RHD2 virus emerges. Based on what we have been able to establish over the past several weeks, RHD2 appears to be widespread in Ireland. The virus is known to be highly contagious and easily spread and environmental contamination presents significant difficulties in terms of any biosecurity responses.

Netting and collecting hares for coursing meetings has been identified as a significant risk factor in spreading the disease. Accordingly, I have decided to maintain the suspension of the licences issued to the Irish Coursing Club to capture and tag hares for the 2019/20 hare coursing season. This decision will be reviewed on an ongoing basis.

The Open Seasons Order allows for the shooting of hares, coursing of hares at regulated coursing matches and hunting of hares with packs of beagles and harriers between 26 September and 28 February of the following year. While the ICC netting and tagging licences were suspended following the detection of RHD2, Open Coursing and hunting of hares with beagles and harriers is still permissible during the open season. There is no provision for the hunting of hares with other breeds of dog.

I am keeping the matter of the Open Seasons Order under review in the context of the RHD2 virus.

Gaeltacht Policy

Questions Nos. 534 and 535 answered with Question No. 532.

Ceisteanna (533)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

533. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the plans in place for budget 2020 in relation to Irish language and Gaeltacht investment (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41123/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

As the Deputy will be aware, exchequer funding is allocated through the annual budgetary and estimates process.

Total funding for the Irish Language, the Gaeltacht and the Islands for 2020 announced in today’s Budget amounts to almost €58m, up from €55.5m last year and representing an increase of 4%.

Of this, Údarás na Gaeltachta will receive an additional capital allocation of €1m, bringing its core capital allocation to €10m - an increase of over 11% on 2019. This will enable the attraction of additional investment to Gaeltacht areas and support the creation of jobs, whilst also supporting community and language development in the Gaeltacht regions. Údarás na Gaeltachta will also receive an additional €200,000 in current funding for Gaeltacht co-operatives, bringing to over €1m the increases provided to this important sector over the past 5 years. Údarás na Gaeltachta will also have access to additional funding in the event of a no deal Brexit.

An additional €500,000 will go towards the language planning process in 2020. The establishment of Gaeltacht Language Planning Areas is well underway, and the Department expects up to 23 language Plans to be approved under the process before the end of the year. So far, of the 26 Gaeltacht Language Planning Areas, 16 plans have been approved to date. This follows measures announced over the past year to support the language planning process, including additional significant investment to support the early years sector, language transmission in the family setting and the traditional arts.

An additional allocation of €275,000 for 2020 will ensure the continued provision of essential transport services to the islands. This additional allocation follows the recent establishment by Minister of State Kyne of an Inter-Departmental Committee for Island Development.

I am particularly pleased to be in a position to obtain additional current and capital funding for Údarás na Gaeltachta at a time when the work of the organisation will be more important than ever. Budget 2020 has, of course, been framed in the context of an imminent Brexit and the Government has, accordingly, been prudent in its funding decisions. For this year, therefore, we are targeting spending increases carefully, while maintaining services and delivery of ongoing projects and programmes. However, continued investment, in challenging times, in the implementation of the Government’s 20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language underpins the Government’s commitment to the Irish language.

Questions Nos. 534 and 535 answered with Question No. 532.