On 8 February this year, I announced details of the measures being funded through my Department under the Multi-Annual Rural Water Programme 2019-2021. In parallel to the announcement local authorities were invited to submit their bids for the funding schemes or projects in their functional areas, with the deadline for receipt of proposals set as 14 March 2019.
The new multi-annual programme includes Measure 6 – Community Connection (Water and Wastewater) Networks. This new measure facilitates the continued expansion of the coverage of piped water supplies and central wastewater collection systems by extension off the public (Irish Water) network where it is technically and economically viable to do so.
Mayo County Council made a number of bids under Measure 6, including a proposal for the Downpatrick Head Group Water Scheme.
An Expert Panel was put in place to support the evaluation process. In addition to providing an expert perspective, the Panel brought independence, openness and transparency to the bids evaluation process which was done on a national prioritised basis. The Expert Panel’s membership included Departmental, stakeholder and independent representations.
The Expert Panel made recommendations to the Department on the suitability of schemes and projects for funding based on objective criteria, which are set out in the Framework document issued to local authorities when requesting proposals. Nationally local authorities made bids for funding for 41 Community Water Connection projects under measure 6 (a). The Expert Panel concluded that 24 of these bids fulfilled the objective criteria set out in the Framework document and recommended them for funding under the programme.
The Panel, in considering the Downpatrick Head Group Water Scheme bid, concluded that:
'... based on collectively considering the bid for this scheme, against the criteria for the measure in the Framework including the number of houses benefiting (with a low density of houses involved), estimated cost and unit cost per house, this proposed scheme is unviable. The Panel recommends that the local authority engages with the promoters to consider alternative lower cost solutions (e.g. private wells for which, subject to terms and conditions, a separate grant is available)'.
In considering the recommendations of the Expert Panel the Minister accepted these in full when announcing the approvals and allocations under the multi-annual rural water programme on 15 October 2019.
I understand at present, that officials from Mayo County Council are considering alternative options that may assist the Downpatrick Head Group Water Scheme with a substitute solution.