Foreshore Issues

Ceisteanna (281)

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

281. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if his Department has received correspondence from Donegal County Council concerning proposals to install a sculpture on Magheraclogher Beach (details supplied) regarding the relevant foreshore considerations which such a project would entail; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49171/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

To date, no formal application for consent under the Foreshore Acts 1933-2011 has been received. Details on the application process are available on my Department's website at the following link: www.housing.gov.ie/planning/foreshore/applying-consent/consent-process-explained.

Local Authority Funding

Ceisteanna (282)

Tony McLoughlin

Ceist:

282. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of a payment to Sligo County Council (details supplied); if the allocation of additional funding to the council has been approved in order to allow same to appoint a land asset management team and the staffing levels required as outlined to his Department on 11 October 2019; when the funding will be allocated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49183/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

My Department is supporting Sligo County Council to meet the ambitious objectives for Sligo as envisaged in the National Planning Framework. To this end, I visited Sligo earlier this year with a multi-disciplinary team from my Department to meet with a similar delegation from Sligo. The Council has ambitious plans itself and my Department is working with the Council to support their achievement. In this regard, as a follow up to the Sligo meeting, we have put Sligo forward to participate in the Joint Assistance to Support Regions programme, under the auspices of the European Investment Bank, which will, inter alia, help maximise the potential of the €8.5m allocated to Sligo by my Department under the Urban Regeneration Development Fund.

As regards funding, the elected members have direct responsibility for adopting the annual budget, and are democratically accountable for all expenditure by the local authority. It is a matter for Sligo County Council to manage its resources and determine its own spending priorities having regard to needs and available resources. While it is a matter for individual local authorities to manage their own day-to-day finances in a prudent and sustainable manner, my Department works closely with Sligo County Council in relation to both its financial position and overall staffing requirements.

Sligo County Council has a financial plan in place and is working towards financial sustainability. In this context, my Department has supported the Council with an additional annual allocation from the Local Government Fund for the years 2014 to 2019 on the basis that agreed targets in the Plan are met. In March 2014, following a meeting with my Department wherein a draft financial plan was submitted, it was decided to provide Sligo County Council with €250,000. However, in the absence of the detailed plan being finally agreed before the end of 2014 it was not possible to make a further payment to Sligo at that time. Subsequently, the financial plan for the years 2015 - 2019 was agreed in late 2015. Sligo County Council advised my Department in early 2017 that the “revenue cumulative surplus” as profiled in the plan for delivery in the years 2017 onwards was no longer achievable. As a result, the plan was extended, including revised targets, to 2027.

An additional amount of €1 million had been paid for 2015, 2016 and 2017 but the payment for 2018, was reduced to €200k to reflect the reduced surplus that could be achieved in 2017 based on the information available at the time. As the actual 2017 surplus was ultimately higher than was anticipated by Sligo County Council, a higher payment of €700,000 was made by my Department. 

Under section 159 of the Local Government Act 2001, each Chief Executive is responsible for the staffing and organisational arrangements necessary for carrying out the functions of the local authorities for which he or she is responsible.  It is therefore, a matter for each individual Chief Executive to apply for sanction from my Department and, once approved, to recruit and assign staff to specific divisions within their organisation.  Staffing sanction requests are examined on a case by case basis having due regard to the continued delivery of key services in the context of staffing and budgetary constraints. My Department is working with Sligo County Council on the staffing requests mentioned in the question.

Significant additional resources were made available to Sligo County Council in the context of the financial plan, far in excess of additional support to any other local authority. Any further funding for Sligo County Council, will be considered within the overall framework of the Financial Plan. In this regard, Sligo County Council’s audited Annual Financial Statement for 2018 is currently under review in order to determine the amount of the next payment. The allocation that will be due when that review is complete will be for use at Sligo County Council's discretion and can be directed towards the costs of establishing a Land Asset Team, if that is the preferred approach. 

Rental Sector

Ceisteanna (283)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

283. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of rental properties and the number of landlords in the private rental sector in each of the years 2012 to 2018 and to date in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49234/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

My Department does not hold or collate the information referred to in the Question.

The Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) which was established as an independent statutory body under the Residential Tenancies Acts  2004-2019, operates a national tenancy registration system.

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

Local Authority Funding

Ceisteanna (284)

Pat Casey

Ceist:

284. Deputy Pat Casey asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the funding which will be provided to Wicklow County Council in 2020 in lieu of the loss of commercial rates from Irish Water properties; the funding provided to date in 2019; the loss of income incurred; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49255/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Since 2015, all local authorities have been compensated for commercial rates foregone as a result of the decision to make Irish Water non-rateable in 2014. In consultation with the local authority sector, commercial rates are being re-introduced for Irish Water and from next year, Irish Water will pay commercial rates like other utilities and there will no longer be any general need for compensation in lieu of rates. 

Based on the valuation, by the independent Commissioner for Valuation, it is expected that overall, the local government sector should collect a broadly similar amount in commercial rates to that previously provided as exchequer funded water rates compensation. However, due to the distribution of the income from Irish Water commercial rates, on the same basis as other utilities, some local authorities will receive less in commercial rates than they received in compensation, with others receiving more. Of the small number of local authorities negatively impacted, it is accepted that Wicklow County Council would be disproportionately impacted by the level of income reduction in the context of its Budget for 2020.

My Department has monitored the impact of the transition across local authorities and having carefully considered the challenges faced by Wicklow County Council, my colleague, the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government and I have agreed the allocation of financial support to Wicklow County Council in the amount of €300,000.

This level of support will significantly mitigate the impact in 2020. Looking further ahead, it is important that the Council continues to work to achieve savings, efficiencies and improvements in income generation and collection as this funding represents a once off special allocation that will not be repeated in subsequent years. My Department will continue to work with the Council to this end.

Departmental Staff Data

Ceisteanna (285)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

285. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of agency staff hired and-or engaged by his Department in the past five years to date; the cost per year of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49300/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

My Department has not hired or engaged any agency staff in the past 5 years to date.

Housing Assistance Payment

Ceisteanna (286)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

286. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he will publish and-or provide the most recent recommendations made by the HAP practitioners forum to him and his responses to those recommendations over the past two years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49310/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme was rolled out in four waves between September 2014 and March 2017. The nationwide rollout of the scheme was completed with its introduction, on 1 March 2017, to the administrative areas of Dublin City Council, Fingal County Council and Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council.

HAP plays a vital role in housing eligible families and individuals.  At the end of Q2 2019, over 62,700 HAP tenancies had been set-up since the scheme commenced, of which there were more than 48,000 households actively in receipt of HAP support and over 28,000 separate landlords and agents providing accommodation to households supported by the scheme. 

A governance structure was put in place for the implementation of the HAP scheme.  A HAP Oversight Group, co-chaired by the Secretaries General of my Department and the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, was established to oversee the implementation of the scheme.  A Project Board, which reports to the HAP Oversight Group, is responsible for the detailed implementation and delivery of the scheme.

A number of subgroups were established to support the rollout and implementation of the HAP scheme, including an ICT System Subgroup, Communications Subgroup and the HAP Practitioners Forum.

The HAP Practitioners Forum comprises of representatives of all HAP local authorities.  Rather than being a vehicle for making formal recommendations, the forum is a key information exchange and problem-solving group for the HAP project.  The Forum is charged with ensuring that any operational issues arising are discussed and addressed and that there is consistent implementation of the scheme across local authorities.   

The Housing Agency assists in the organisation of meetings of the HAP Practitioners Forum.  The Forum has met on 5 occasions to date:

13 June 2018

21 June 2017

6 December 2016

14 June 2016

23 March 2016

The presentations and discussions that take place at the forum include updates from my Department and the HAP Shared Services Centre, as well as relevant topics such as Standards for Rented Housing Regulations; Place Finder Service; Changes to RTB Legislation; Rent Predictability Measure and transfers from Rent Supplement.

I am satisfied with the governance structures in place to oversee the implementation of the HAP scheme but my Department will keep these under review as part of its wider oversight of the implementation of the Scheme. 

Water Services Funding

Ceisteanna (287)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

287. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when funding will be provided to local authorities for the upgrade of domestic wells; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49358/19]

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.

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.

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.

Information on the existing grant scheme is available from local authorities and from my Department’s website at the link.  This will be updated once the new scheme comes into operation.

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

Homeless Persons Supports

Ceisteanna (288)

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

288. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of free public transport to children in emergency accommodation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49362/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Supporting individuals and families experiencing homelessness is a priority for this Government. Rebuilding Ireland, the Government's Action Plan on Housing and Homelessness includes a range of measures  relating to the provision of emergency accommodation and the range of supports to be provided to households experiencing homelessness.

Under Rebuilding Ireland, my Department is funding an initiative to provide homeless families residing in temporary emergency accommodation in the Dublin Region with access to free public transport for essential school journeys.  The Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) oversees the implementation of this initiative and, working in partnership with the National Transport Authority, has put arrangements in place for the provision of Leap cards to the families concerned.  These Leap cards provide for free public transport for school-going children and accompanying adults, where necessary.

Homeless Persons Supports

Ceisteanna (289)

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

289. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of the pilot project that will be introduced to support the family functioning of homeless families in emergency accommodation by providing off-site or near-site family time, including play, homework, cooking and washing facilities, family support and parent support. [49363/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Supporting families experiencing homelessness is a key priority of Government.  Rebuilding Ireland, the Government's Action Plan on Housing and Homelessness, includes the objective that hotels will only be used in limited circumstances as emergency accommodation for families.  Rebuilding Ireland also sought to ensure that families experiencing homelessness are provided with appropriate emergency accommodation and supports until such time as a home can be secured.  To meet this objective, housing authorities are pursuing the delivery of a range of additional and enhanced family-focused facilities, or family hubs.   

Family hubs offer family living arrangements with a greater level of stability than is possible in hotel accommodation, with the capacity to provide appropriate play-space, cooking and laundry facilities and communal recreation space. This setting also allows for more intensive supports to be provided to families where needed while move-on options to long-term tenancies are identified and secured.  

There are currently 30 hubs operational nationally, offering almost 690 units of family accommodation in urban areas.  There are 23 family hubs in Dublin, two in Kildare and one each in Clare, Cork, Limerick, Louth and Galway.  Further facilities will become operational through the end of 2019 and on an ongoing basis into 2020, details of which will become available as projects are finalised by housing authorities.

Homeless Accommodation Provision

Ceisteanna (290)

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

290. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of a safety guidance and voluntary code for child safety in emergency accommodation. [49364/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Supporting individuals and families experiencing homelessness is a priority for this Government. Rebuilding Ireland, the Government's Action Plan on Housing and Homelessness includes a range of measures relating to the provision of emergency accommodation and the range of supports to be provided to households experiencing homelessness.

Arising out of a commitment made in Rebuilding Ireland, a specific course on child protection was developed in partnership between the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) and Tusla.  The DRHE has been providing Child Protection training to Private Emergency Accommodation staff, which covers their legal responsibilities under child protection legislation, reviewing the reasonable grounds for concern and the thresholds for reporting and reporting concerns where appropriate.  Child protection booklets have been distributed to operators of private emergency accommodation.  Child safety is an integral element of the National Quality Standards Framework for Homeless Services, which is fully operational in Dublin and is being rolled out nationally over a 12-month period from 1 July 2019.

Homeless Accommodation Provision

Ceisteanna (291)

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

291. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of a new facility with accommodation for pregnant women who are homeless. [49365/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

My Department’s role in relation to homelessness involves the provision of a national framework of policy, legislation and funding to underpin the role of housing authorities in addressing homelessness at local level.  Statutory responsibility for the provision of accommodation and related services rests with individual housing authorities.

Rebuilding Ireland, the Government's Action Plan on Housing and Homelessness includes a range of measures to support individuals and families experiencing homelessness. One of the measures is to provide a new facility in the Dublin region for pregnant women who are experiencing homelessness. This facility is now operational and has capacity for up to six women.  In addition, a number of family hubs operating in the Dublin region have accommodation and supports designated for pregnant women.

Homeless Accommodation Provision

Ceisteanna (292)

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

292. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of tenancies provided by housing first teams in Dublin in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date 2019. [49366/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Housing First enables homeless individuals with high levels of complex needs to obtain permanent secure accommodation with the provision of intensive housing and health supports to help them maintain their tenancies.

The National Implementation Plan for Housing First, published in September 2018, which puts the programme on a national footing, is designed to provide this response, by delivering permanent housing solutions and associated supports for rough sleepers and long-term users of emergency accommodation. It extends the delivery of Housing First nationally, with the introduction of targets for each local authority. The Plan includes an overall target of 663 tenancies in the period 2018-2021.  The implementation of the Plan is a joint initiative of the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, the Department of Health, the HSE and the local authorities.

The Housing First programme has been operating in the Dublin region since 2014, following a successful pilot. A total of 34 tenancies were created in 2016, 106 tenancies in 2017, 83 tenancies in 2018 and 94 tenancies up to October 2019.

Following a tendering process by the Dublin Region Homeless Executive, the Peter McVerry Trust will operate this service to deliver a further 400 Housing First tenancies over the next three years.

Capital Assistance Scheme Data

Ceisteanna (293)

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

293. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the specific funding under the capital assistance scheme for AHBs to respond to the accommodation needs of young persons who leave State care in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019. [49367/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Under my Department’s Capital Assistance Scheme (CAS), capital funding of up to 100% of project costs may be advanced by local authorities to Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) to provide housing for specific categories of housing need, which can include persons leaving State care. Under this heading, where a local authority is informed by Tusla that there is a need for accommodation for people aged 18-21 (or up to 23 if in education/training) leaving State care and who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, it may invite AHBs to apply for CAS funding to provide appropriate accommodation.

There is no specific amount of the overall annual CAS allocation ring-fenced for such projects. Instead, my Department provides funding for individual projects as they are advanced by the local authorities on a project by project basis.

Domestic Violence Policy

Ceisteanna (294)

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

294. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of specific policy and procedural guidance to housing authorities with regard to the role they can play to assist victims of domestic violence to secure new, independent tenancies as required. [49368/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

My Department’s role in relation to homelessness involves the provision of a national framework of policy, legislation and funding to underpin the role of housing authorities in addressing homelessness at local level.  Statutory responsibility in relation to the provision of accommodation and related services for homeless persons rests with individual housing authorities.  Responsibility for the provision, funding and oversight of services to support victims of domestic violence, including refuges, rests with Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, under the aegis of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.

In line with commitments made under Rebuilding Ireland, my Department issued guidance in January 2017 to all local authorities in relation to assisting victims of domestic violence with emergency and long-term accommodation needs.  The guidance is also a useful reference for service providers working in the domestic violence services sector, highlighting where they can be of greatest assistance to their clients, covering a range of scenarios that may arise for victims of domestic violence in seeking social housing supports.  These include provisions around the use of the Housing Assistance Payment scheme, or the Rental Accommodation Scheme, where a victim has a joint interest in the family home, or ownership of alternative accommodation, but would otherwise qualify for social housing support.

Housing Agency

Ceisteanna (295)

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

295. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of the housing procurement office in the Housing Agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49369/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Pillar 2 of Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness committed to the establishment of a Housing Procurement Unit within the Housing Agency to provide a procurement centre of excellence and advice to support local authorities and Approved Housing Bodies (ABHs) in the accelerated delivery of their social housing programmes. 

The unit forms part of the professional technical section within the Housing Agency which deals with projects, including the pyrite remediation scheme, and offers procurement advice and services to assist in the delivery of social housing.

The Procurement Unit works closely with the other services within the Agency and also works with my Department, the Office of Government Procurement (OGP), Irish Council for Social Housing, Local Government Management Agency, City and County Mangers Association, the Housing Finance Agency  and others to ensure that information and technical assistance provided is current, accurate, helpful and contributes to housing delivery.

 The Procurement Unit offers the following services:

- Provides procurement and project management advice and support for local authorities and AHBs in the accelerated delivery of their social housing programmes;

- Works with local authorities and AHBs to build their capacity and expertise;

- Co-ordinates and supports project development and project briefs, where requested by local authorities and AHBs;

- Manages the design and tendering processes as required;

- Provides general guidance and advice on social housing delivery;

- Supports the accelerated delivery of social housing programmes.

To date, the unit has managed the tender and appointment of consultant design teams for Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3 Approved Housing Bodies for over 30 housing projects in nine local authority areas. Each tender package was tailored for the specific needs of the client to ensure they get their required services within a procurement process carried out to best practice.

The unit has assisted in procuring design teams for a wide range of projects including a large inner city urban development, refurbishment and conversion of existing buildings, a major 4-storey extension to a sheltered accommodation unit  and the conversion of a rural post-office into housing units.

The unit provides a continued technical service to local authorities and AHBs after the appointment of the design teams and remains available to answer queries and offer independent opinion on issues that may arise and on technical issues arising from the procurement process, irrespective of who carried out the procurement.

The unit is available to work with local authorities and AHBs in the procurement of both consultants and works contractors, with experience of establishing and operating all of the building works contracts within the Capital Works Management Framework (CWMF), including: Frameworks, Employer Design, Contractor Design, Minor Works under Pillar 1, and service agreements for consultancy services contracts under Pillar 2 of the CWMF.

The unit has also experience of alternative procurement processes including competitive dialogue, and has assisted the OGP in setting up frameworks.

Planning Issues

Ceisteanna (296)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

296. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if consideration will be given to a proposal (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49400/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

As indicated in my reply to Question No. 1768 of 16 January 2018, in making a decision on a planning application or appeal, a planning authority or An Bord Pleanála must consider the proper planning and sustainable development of the area concerned while having regard to the provisions of the relevant development plan, relevant Ministerial or Government policies and guidelines, as well as the views of members of the public on the proposed development. 

Public participation is, therefore, a crucial element of all substantive decision-making processes under the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, and is also a requirement under the UN Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation on Decision Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (the Aarhus Convention) and the European Union Environmental Impact Assessment Directive 2011/92/EU in relation to specific types of developments.

It is open to any member of the public to make an observation or submission on a planning application and the planning authority is statutorily obliged to consider such submissions before making a decision on the application.  Persons who make submissions are also entitled to be notified of any significant further information provided to the planning authority by the applicant and to be notified of the authority’s decision on the application.  Furthermore, any person who made a submission on a planning application may appeal the planning authority’s decision on the application to An Bord Pleanála or may make a submission to the Board in relation to an appeal of that decision.

The fees payable by members of the public to participate in the planning decision-making process are set at a level that, as well as contributing towards the cost of processing applications and appeals, discourages frivolous or vexatious submissions without hindering genuine public participation.  In addition, the Board has discretion to dismiss an appeal where it is satisfied that the appeal is vexatious, frivolous or without substance or foundation, or where the appeal is made with the sole intention of delaying development or of securing the payment of money, gifts, considerations or other inducement by any person.

I am satisfied that the current arrangements in relation to public participation in decision-making contribute significantly to the openness and transparency of the planning process and I have no proposals to amend the legislation in this regard.

Residential Tenancies Board

Ceisteanna (297)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

297. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his views on the changes to Residential Tenancies Board rates. [49404/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The amendments to sections 137 and 137A of the Residential Tenancies  Act 2004, as amended, update the RTB tenancy registration fee in the context of the move to annual registration - providing a €40 fee per tenancy registration by private providers and €20 per tenancy registration by an Approved Housing Body (AHB).  Under the new annual registration requirements, a fee can only be charged in respect of the same dwelling once per year and a discounted single registration fee (€170 for a private landlord, €85 for an AHB landlord) can be applied where the same landlord registers up to 10 tenancies of dwellings comprised in the same property.

The key change from the existing tenancy registration fees is that AHBs will be charged fees that are half those applicable to private providers – currently, all landlords pay the same registration fee. The reduction in AHB fees is provided in recognition of the public service that they provide in meeting the housing needs of those in receipt of social housing supports, and of AHBs'  charitable (or similar) status.

The 2019 Act also provides for penalties for late registration of tenancies of €10 for every month, or part thereof, that passes until the tenancy is registered. 

The provisions requiring the annual registration of tenancies are planned for commencement in Q1 2020. Preparations are underway in the RTB to roll out a simple online registration system to cater for annual registration.

Grant Aid

Ceisteanna (298)

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

298. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if there is grant aid available for persons wishing to construct a granny flat at their residence which would enable a young couple to reside in the existing dwelling house and the elderly parents to reside in a new granny flat (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49443/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

There is no grant aid available from my Department for the provision of granny flats. 

My Department does provide funding to local authorities in respect of the Housing Adaptation Grants for Older People and People with a Disability, to assist eligible people in private houses to make their accommodation more suitable for their needs.  The suite of grants includes the Housing Adaptation Grant for People with a Disability, the Mobility Aids Grant and the Housing Aid for Older People, which are 80% funded by the Department, with a 20% contribution from the resources of the local authority.  The scheme is more sharply focused towards lower income households with the greatest needs.  A means test applies to the scheme in order to achieve fairness and value for money in its operation.

The detailed administration of the grants, including the assessment, approval and prioritisation of applications, is the responsibility of the local authorities.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Ceisteanna (299)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

299. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the measures proposed to protect blanket bogs under the land use, land-use change and forestry. [49423/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

Under the EU Land Use and Forestry Regulation for 2021-2030, EU Member States have to ensure that greenhouse gas emissions from land use, land use change or forestry (LULUCF) are offset by at least an equivalent removal of CO2 from the atmosphere during this period. The Regulation implements the agreement between EU leaders in October 2014 that all sectors should contribute to the EU's 2030 emission reduction target, including the land use sector. It is also in line with the Paris Agreement, which points to the critical role of the land use sector in reaching our long-term climate mitigation objectives.

The primary legislation underpinning the protection and conservation of nature in Ireland are the Wildlife Acts 1976 to 2018, the implementation of which falls under the remit of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. The Wildlife Acts afford protection to a range of habitats and species and provide for regulation and control of activities that impinge on biodiversity. The basic designation for wildlife is the Natural Heritage Area (NHA), an area considered important for the habitats present or which holds species of plants and animals whose habitat needs protection.

73 blanket bogs, covering 37,000ha, are designated as NHAs.

The legislative framework in place to protect our natural habitats is further strengthened by the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011 SI No 477/2011, which also falls under the remit of my Department. These Regulations transpose the EU Birds Directive and the EU Habitats Directive into national law, and provide for protection of certain habitats and species across the European Union, giving a framework for specific measures to be taken to target areas of concern in each Member State. The main instruments provided for are the designation of Special Protection Areas (SPA), aimed at the protection of threatened species of birds, and Special Areas of Conservation (SAC), aimed at protecting other animal species and habitats.

Ireland has identified 50 areas as Special Areas of Conservation for the protection of blanket bog. These SACs include lowland and mountain blanket bog areas, predominantly along the western Atlantic seaboard but also widely distributed on upland areas.

The LULUCF Regulation aims to include managed wetlands, such as blanket bogs, in our Greenhouse Gas (GHG) accounting by 2026. To this end, a working group, including representatives from my Department, has been established by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment to formulate how accounting for managed wetlands can be achieved in the context of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and in compliance with the relevant EU legislation.

Greenhouse gas emissions and removals associated with land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF), as reported in Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions inventory prepared by the Environmental Protection Agency, include activities associated with afforestation and forestry harvesting, grassland and cropland management under agricultural use, managed and unmanaged wetlands, and other land-use categories. While such emissions are not currently accounted for in relation to the calculation of compliance with Ireland’s emissions targets in the period to 2020, from 2021 onwards these emissions will be integrated into the EU framework for compliance with national emissions targets.

National Raised Bog Management Plan

Ceisteanna (300)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

300. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the breakdown of the budget 2020 measures for bog restoration and rehabilitation to be funded under just transition; the role her Department plays in co-financing research and EU LIFE projects in the region; and the way in which she intends to engage with academic research in the activity in order to scale up projects to avoid further carbon losses after 2021. [49424/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

A key element of the National Raised Bog Special Areas of Conservation Management Plan 2017-2022, approved by the Government and published by my Department in December 2017, is to maintain active raised bog habitat and restore degraded raised bog habitat to active raised bog habitat.

The national restoration programme for Ireland’s raised bog special areas of conservation and natural heritage areas is contained within this Plan. It was intended to restore all designated raised bogs within 3 cycles, with the first cycle operating for the duration of the Management Plan.

Work on the restoration programme has already begun with a €5.4m project ‘The Living Bog’ which is funded under the EU LIFE 2014-2020 programme. The Department is managing this project and is contributing €1.352m, as well as ecological expertise, with the European Commission providing €4.056m. 

The Living Bog project, which commenced in 2016 and will conclude at the end of 2020, aims to restore the favourable conservation condition and increase the area for active raised bog by 277 hectares on the 12 raised bog special area of conservation project sites in the Border-Midlands-West region.  Restoration works have been completed to date on 6 LIFE project special area of conservation sites. 

In tandem with the LIFE project, the National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department is undertaking restoration works on State owned lands within the designated raised bog network.

The raised bog designated sites restoration programme can now be accelerated due to the announcement in Budget 2020 of €5m for peatlands restoration. This funding will allow for restoration measures to be undertaken on approximately 1,800 hectares in 2020 on up to 9 raised bog designated sites across 7 counties and the installation of an Eddy Covariance Flux tower on a representative bog to directly observe the exchanges of gas, energy, and momentum between the ecosystem and the atmosphere. The flux tower will directly measure the carbon, water, and heat flows between plant communities and the atmosphere. A further 23 raised bog designated sites have been identified for restoration works over the next number of years under the programme.

My Department is part of a consortium with another Government Department, State bodies and other institutions which is considering submitting an EU LIFE programme application in 2020, part of which could include the restoration of a number of raised bogs.

It is also a partner in an Environmental Protection Agency funded project, led by Trinity College Dublin, that is seeking to quantify carbon emissions from raised bogs across a range of degradation conditions and has part-funded an Eddy Covariance Flux tower at Clara Bog Special Area of Conservation. The Department has also funded the installation of hydrometric stations to measure dissolved carbon in water at this site.

In addition, the National Parks and Wildlife Service of my Department is co-funding a project on the vulnerability of peatland ecosystems to a changing climate and increases in the frequency and severity of droughts as part of the 2019 Environmental Protection Agency research calls, with a budget for the project of up to €300,000. This project is being led by Dublin City University.

Departmental Staff Data

Ceisteanna (301)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

301. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the number of agency staff hired and-or engaged by her Department in the past five years to date; the cost per year of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49293/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

I am advised that there have been no agency staff hired or engaged by my Department in the past 5 years to date.

Legislative Measures

Ceisteanna (302)

Willie O'Dea

Ceist:

302. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the timetable for the passing of the Wildlife (Amendment) Bill 2016 through all Stages in the Houses of the Oireachtas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49311/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

The Review of Raised Bog Natural Heritage Area Network, published in January 2014, provides detail on arrangements regarding turf cutting on each of the 75 raised bog natural heritage areas. The review concluded that Ireland could more effectively achieve conservation of threatened raised bog habitat through focused protection and restoration of a reconfigured network. This reconfigured network entails:

1. The cessation of turf-cutting on 36 existing natural heritage areas, which will remain designated - this includes 7 sites to be divided, with part to be conserved and part de-designated;

2. The de-designation of 46 natural heritage areas - including the relevant areas of the 7 sites to be divided - where it has been judged that their conservation potential is expected to be marginal and/or that restoration would be prohibitively expensive for the conservation benefits achieved; and

3. The designation as natural heritage areas of 25 currently undesignated raised bogs, which are in public ownership or where there is reduced turf cutting pressure. These sites are to be proposed for designation to make up for the loss of habitat within the natural heritage area sites where turf cutting is to continue.

The Wildlife (Amendment) Bill 2016, aims to give legal effect to the proposed reconfiguration of the raised bog natural heritage area network arising from the 2014 review and provides for a review(s) of blanket bog natural heritage areas. The Bill has been presented to and passed by Dáil  Éireann and has passed all stages in Seanad Éireann. A number of amendments to the Bill have been made in the Seanad and these amendments are now for consideration by the Dáil.

Legislative Programme

Ceisteanna (303)

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

303. Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht her plans to update the National Monuments Act 1930 to 2004; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49375/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

Ireland enjoys a unique wealth and variety of archaeological monuments and sites which are a vital part of our heritage. The protection and preservation of our archaeological heritage, and the regulation of related activities, is currently provided for under the National Monuments Acts 1930-2014.

The original 1930 Act came into being in very different times and has been frequently and significantly altered in the meantime. The resulting complex legislative framework is no longer adequately reflective of, or responsive to, today's heritage conservation priorities or the economic, social and infrastructural requirements it now has to deal with.

My Department is currently advancing the preparation of new legislation to repeal the existing Acts in their entirety and create a modern consolidated legal framework designed to effectively meet the challenges of today's operating environment.  It will also allow the State to ratify key international conventions in the area of heritage protection. Preparation of the new legislation is at an advanced stage. 

National Raised Bog Management Plan

Ceisteanna (304)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

304. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the bog restoration and rehabilitation measures that will be funded through the NPWS; the estimated cost of availing of the land use, land-use change and forestry flexibilities as they relate to peatlands; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49425/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

A key element of the National Raised Bog Special Areas of Conservation Management Plan 2017-2022, approved by the Government and published by my Department in December 2017, is to maintain active raised bog habitat and restore degraded raised bog habitat to active raised bog habitat.

The national restoration programme for Ireland’s raised bog special areas of conservation and natural heritage areas is contained within this Plan. It was intended to restore all designated raised bogs within 3 cycles, with the first cycle operating for the duration of the Management Plan.

This programme can now be accelerated due to the announcement in Budget 2020 of €5m for peatlands restoration. This funding will allow for restoration measures to be undertaken on approximately 1,800 hectares in 2020 on up to 9 raised bog designated sites across 7 counties and the installation of an Eddy Covariance Flux tower on a bog to measure surface to atmospheric fluxes (CO2, Methane, turbulent energy, moisture etc.). A further 23 raised bog designated sites have been identified for restoration works over the next number of years under the programme.

A working group, including representatives from my Department, has been established by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment to formulate how accounting for managed wetlands can be achieved in the context of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and in compliance with the relevant EU legislation. Greenhouse gas emissions and removals associated with land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF), as reported in Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions inventory prepared by the Environmental Protection Agency, include activities associated with afforestation and forestry harvesting, grassland and cropland management under agricultural use, managed and unmanaged wetlands, and other land-use categories. While such emissions are not currently accounted for in relation to the calculation of compliance with Ireland’s emissions targets in the period to 2020, from 2021 onwards these emissions will be integrated into the EU framework for compliance with national emissions targets.

I understand that there are no costs associated with availing of the land use, land-use change and forestry flexibility. The costs arise in the implementation of programmes, be it afforestation, wetland restoration etc.