In the context of increasing COVID-19 positive cases in Dublin and indeed growing cases in a range of counties over the last number of days, Minister O’Brien met with the Chief Executives of all Dublin local authorities last Friday evening and, with his Department, has been working over the last number of days with local authorities to support communities and businesses, who continue to be affected by the pandemic.
During this difficult period, local authorities are reaching out to support those who need help:
“These are difficult and extraordinary times but I know the spirt of the Irish people will prevail. It is really important that we all adhere to the public health guidance and I urge everybody to protect themselves and the individuals that they come in contact with. As we enter a critical phase in terms of tackling the pandemic and as we head towards the Winter season, it really is imperative that we continue to keep on top of the virus,” concluded Minister O’Brien.
Minister O’Brien announces capital funding under the Multi-Annual Developer Provided Water Services Infrastructure Resolution Programme
The programme is focused on housing estates which are not taken-in-charge by local authorities and do not have their water services connected to the public water services network but rely instead on infrastructure, often temporary in nature, which was provided by developers.
Much of this infrastructure, generally consisting of small standalone wastewater treatment “package” plants were put in place in the 1990’s and early 2000’s.
Following consideration by an Expert Panel, the Minister today approved funding allocations amounting to just under €3.36 million to 10 local authorities to resolve 26 housing estates providing water services to almost 950 homes.
The focus of this first multi annual programme is on estates in towns and villages where the resolution is to connect their water services to the public networks. The programme will also support a number of pilot projects where connection is not feasible in the immediate future. These pilot projects, together with a major study to be under taken by Irish Water, will inform future policy on resolving sub-standard developer provided infrastructure in such areas.
Speaking on the allocations Minister O’Brien said: “I am glad that this new multi-annual programme is up and running and that we are starting the process of helping the many families who are living in residential estates that are dependent on sub-standard developer provided wastewater or drinking water treatment plants for their water services. Many residents in these estates made a major financial commitment in buying their homes.
“This first allocation under the multi-annual programme marks the first step in the taking-in-charge of these estates. The fact that the programme needed to be introduced demonstrates the importance of ensuring that public elements of housing developments such as the roads, open spaces, car parks, and service connections in their estate are completed to the satisfactory standard and maintained thereafter by the appropriate authority.
“I have also asked my Department to re-engage with local authorities to see if there are additional estates which could be connected to the public network, and which could be included within the programme at an early date. I have also emphasised the need to speedily deliver the necessary works so estates can be taken-in-charge as soon as possible,” he concluded
Notes to Editors: Table of allocations below.
Residential developments consisting of two or more dwellings that have been granted planning permission under the Planning and Development Act, 2000, as amended, are normally eligible for taking-in-charge.
The taking-in-charge of residential estates by planning/local authorities i.e. the City and County Councils is provided for under section 180 of the Act.
The planning authority is obliged to initiate taking-in-charge procedures where requested by either the developer of the estate or by the majority of owners of the dwellings in the estate. However, this is subject to the development being completed to the satisfaction of the authority and in accordance with the planning permission(s) and any attached conditions.
Residential estates normally receive their water services – drinking water supply and disposal of wastewater – from the public (Irish Water) network.
However, a subset of estates, that are not taken-in-charge, do not have their water services networks connected to the public (Irish Water) network. Instead these estates rely on ‘developer provided water services infrastructure’ for their water services. This infrastructure, provided by the developer of the estate, is more commonly called DPI.
A survey, in Q4 2019, by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government indicated that there were nationally just under 570 estates depending on DPI for their water services. There are just over 10,000 homes that are dependent on DPI for their water services.
DPI estates are predominantly small estates. Just over 50% of the DPI estates are in estates of 10 or less homes. Nearly 75% of homes is reached before the estates size exceed 20 houses.
Nearly 95% are located in smaller rural settlements or rural townlands relying on small scale DPI treatment systems including septic tanks.
A new multi-annual funding programme was introduced in 2019 to facilitate the progressive resolution in a sustainable manner of the DPI element of water services in estates to support the taking-in-charge of the estate.
The focus of the new multi-annual programme is on the DPI component of the small subset of estates that are dependent on this form of water services infrastructure for the provision of the water services. Funding associated with the taking-in-charge of non DPI estates remains fully a matter for the planning/local authorities.
The DPI infrastructure consists mostly of wastewater treatment facilities but a small number consist of drinking water services for the estate. They are privately owned facilities.
The majority of DPI estates were constructed in the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s. They are a legacy issue from the two antagonistic economic upturn and downturn features of the Irish economy of the past three decades. By mid-2010 there was a significant backlog of estates awaiting taking-in-charge.
The Department of Housing Planning and Local Government sought to stimulate the taking-in-charge process in 2016 through an initiative called the National Taking-in-charge Initiative (NTICI).
In December 2018 the Department published a report – the National Taking in charge Initiative Report - with findings and recommendations from the stimulation process. The report is available at this link https://www.housing.gov.ie/planning/other/taking-charge-housing-estates/national-taking-charge-initiative-report-2018
The NTICI report included a recommendation to introduce a multi-annual funding programme to progressively resolve DPI estates in a sustainable way.
In July 2019 the Minister of Housing Planning and Local Government announced the commencement of a new investment programme – the Multi-Annual Developer Provided Water Services Infrastructure Resolution Programme 2019-2021.
The purpose of the multi-annual programme is to progressively facilitate the resolution of DPI estates, in a sustainable manner, to support the taking-in-charge of these estates. Bids were also invited from local authorities at this time.
The announcement today is the first wave, a small number, of projects for investment under the multi-annual programme. It will take a number of funding programmes to fully resolve DPI.
Local Minister Darragh O’Brien TD has committed to setting up a working group to examine potential solutions for homeowners impacted by construction defects.
Minister O’Brien said the working group, made up of officials, stakeholders and those whose homes have been affected, will seek to establish how widespread the issues are.
He said, “Having met with homeowners impacted by construction defects - some to a major extent, I know that it is a major problem that we need to get a handle of. I will be meeting with the Construction Defects Alliance later this month to further discuss this issue.
“The programme for government commits to examining options for those impacted within the first 12 months and this is an issue which crosses a number of Departments and will require collaboration.
“I know Minister Helen McEntee has also committed to bringing forward law reform to improve the legal remedies for homeowners who are dealing with defects and there is also a provision in the Programme for Government to identify options for those impacted by defects, to access lowcost, long-term finance.
“I have asked officials in my Department to draw up a terms of reference for a working group. I look forward to the working group beginning their task and once the options and recommendations are made, the Government will then decide on the best course of action,” concluded Minister O’Brien.
Local Minister Darragh O’Brien TD, has praised Fingal County Council for their response to the 2020 Voids Stimulus Programme.
As part of the July Stimulus Minister O’Brien announced over €40 million for the refurbishment of voids, the largest single amount ever announced under the voids programme. Nationally 2,398 applications from Local Authorities across Ireland have been approved at a cost of €39.8 million, with further applications anticipated.
Fingal County Council has been allocated €3,125,215 which will go towards the refurbishment of 238 voids which will then be re-let to individuals and families, struggling with homelessness or on the social housing list.
Commenting Minister O’Brien said, “I am very glad to see such an uptake in the scheme and at such a swift pace. The Department is now in a position to approve applications and Fingal County Council can get to work in bringing vacant social housing units back into use.
“I have made it very clear that I want to see works carried out and all units allocated by the end of this year and local authorities will be providing status updates to the Department.
“We know that COVID-19 has had an impact on housing delivery targets this year so the refurbishment and re-letting of voids is vitally important. I would like to thank Fingal County Council for their engagement with this programme and urge them to refurbish and re-let their units as soon as possible,” he concluded.
Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien has reconvened the High Level Homelessness Taskforce this week. The Taskforce, established immediately following Minister O’Brien’s appointment, reconvened this morning, and will continue to meet weekly to input on the implementation of the commitments on homelessness in the Programme for Government (PfG).
Commenting on reports that a man believed to be homeless had been killed overnight in Dublin 8, Minister O’Brien said, “As we reconvened our homelessness taskforce this morning our thoughts were with the man killed under horrific circumstances last night in Kilmainham. This is now a matter for investigation by the Gardaí and I would urge anyone with information to please come forward.”
Minister O’Brien continued, “Supporting individuals and families facing homelessness is a priority for this Government. In the PfG we have committed to reducing and preventing homelessness and to delivering immediate solutions.
“The High Level Homelessness Taskforce has met a number of times already and I have found the meetings extremely beneficial and solution driven. As we approach the Winter, while still navigating through COVID-19, protecting those who are experiencing homelessness is one of our key priorities.
“Key to the COVID-19 response is the ongoing and close collaboration between local authorities, their NGO service delivery partners and the HSE. The provision of health and mental health supports in general is of particular importance and I recently met with Minister Donnelly on the need for strong collaboration between our two Departments.
“My Department is working to ensure that the individuals in emergency accommodation are protected from the threat of COVID-19 while simultaneously seeking long-term housing solutions. We are focussed on measures to help rough sleepers into sustainable accommodation and to reduce single adult homelessness through increasing the delivery of one-bedroom homes. In July a ‘Call for Housing’ issued with a particular emphasis on the need for one beds and the void refurbishment scheme will mean 2,500 additional social homes will be allocated this year.
“This morning the Task Force also considered measures to address long-term family homelessness. While the numbers of families in emergency accommodation has fallen by over 25% since February, we need to support all families in emergency accommodation to find a home.
“Increasing the supply of housing is essential to resolve homelessness, but in the here and now a wider range of interventions are required to deliver solutions for many of the people experiencing homelessness.
“The weekly meetings with those on the frontline of homelessness services, the people who are dealing with it each day, will help to drive solutions and inform decisions. I thank the group for their dedication and their time,” concluded Minister O’Brien.
Local Minister Darragh O’Brien TD has welcomed the strong commitment given by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, that the establishment of a National Food Ombudsman is an immediate priority.
Minister O’Brien said, “I was very glad to see Minister McConalogue, in his first week in the portfolio, give a clear commitment to establish a National Food Ombudsman as a matter of priority. I know this will be of major benefit to many of our food producers here in North County Dublin.
“It’s something which I have been raising for a number of years now and in my time in Seanad Éireann I submitted amendments to the 2014 Competition and Consumer Protection Bill seeking the establishment of an Ombudsman to oversee fairness and transparency in the agri-food industry.
“The Programme for Government commits to establishing a National Food Ombudsman which will be empowered to oversee the relationship between retailers, wholesalers and their suppliers, including the primary producer thus ensuring a more transparent and equitable food supply chain.
“A fair return for primary producers is pivotal to the long-term survival of the industry. I want food producers here in Dublin Fingal to be protected. We need to see equity and transparency in the food chain. A National Food Ombudsman will be able to oversee and enforce this and that is to be welcomed,” concluded Minister O’Brien.