Reminder on hedge cutting and the law
The National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage is reminding the public the cutting, grubbing, burning or other destruction of “vegetation growing in any hedge or ditch” between 1st March and 31st August is prohibited.
The prohibition is contained in section 40 of the Wildlife Act 1976*. Suspected breaches are investigated by the NPWS and An Garda Síochána. The NPWS took 31 section 40 prosecution cases in 2021 and it hopes that fewer will be necessary this year.
In Ireland, our relatively low cover of native woodland makes our hedgerows exceptionally important for biodiversity. Hedgerows provide botanical diversity as well as food and shelter for animals, most notably birds. They also act as corridors connecting habitats. Untrimmed, thorny hedges are favoured by birds, but birds may nest in any hedge.
The prohibition outlined above does not apply (unless done by burning) in a number of circumstances set out in the Act. For businesses, landowners and the general public the most notable of these exemptions are:
It should also be noted that it is an offence under Section 22 of the Wildlife Act 1976 to wilfully destroy, injure, or mutilate the eggs or nest of a wild bird or to wilfully disturb a wild bird on or near a nest containing eggs or un-flown young birds at any time of the year.
Help protect nature! If you see what you suspect to be a hedge-cutting offence you can report it to your local NPWS office (see www.npws.ie/contact-us) or your local Garda station. Since enforcement staff might not be able to respond immediately, you should take a note of the date and time, and note any vehicle registration numbers involved. Photographs (especially of vehicle number plates) can also be helpful, but there is no need to send them to the NPWS or the Gardaí when reporting.)
The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage and local Fingal TD Darragh O’Brien has welcomed the allocation of more than €25m for Fingal County Council under the Active Travel Investment Programme.
The Active Travel Investment Programme provides funding for a range of projects from widening footpaths to creating segregated cycling lanes.
Commenting Minister O’Brien said, “Today’s allocation marks another significant step forward in providing green sustainable transport options to the people of Fingal.
“The local projects included for funding such as Donabate Estuary Walking and cycling route, footpath build outs on Harbour Road in Skerries, and Balrothery Active Travel Review, will help make North County Dublin an even more attractive place to live, work and visit.
“Over the past two years the people of North County Dublin have been getting to know their own locality more so than ever before. We have some fascinating attractions from castles to nature reserves and this funding will make them easier to enjoy.
“The knock on benefits for the environment are obvious – it’s incumbent on us to promote and assist people in leaving the car the car behind where they are able to and this investment will make a big difference,” he concluded.
The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien TD welcomes the appointment of Niall Byrne as Director of the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB)
· Mr. Byrne will take up the position of Director with the RTB from today, 24 January 2022
Niall Byrne is a committed public servant with a record of achievement in a range of relevant roles, including at chief executive officer level. Over the last 12 years he has worked in the regulatory field where he has made a significant impact in establishing new regulatory functions and in implementing change, bringing new thinking to bear on existing regulatory processes.
Over the past five years Mr. Byrne has been Registrar & Chief Officer of the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland (PSI) where he has been responsible, under the auspices of a 21-member Council/Board, for the regulation of the profession of pharmacy as well as the registration and inspection of retail pharmacies. Prior to joining PSI, Mr. Byrne was seconded to the Public Appointments Service as Head of State Boards and Corporate Services.
Commenting, Minister O’Brien said:
“The RTB has experienced significant and rapid change, both internally and externally, over the last number of years. Legislative changes have been made by Government and these amendments have expanded the RTB’s mandate and added to the complexity of its operations over the past five years.
“In addition to the core functions of registering tenancies, processing tenancy disputes and establishing Rent Pressure Zones (RPZs), since 2019, the RTB has taken on additional responsibility for registration of tenancies related to Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs), Student Specific Accommodation (SSA), while also establishing a new Investigations and Sanctions regime. The Government’s recently launched Housing for All plan places additional emphasis on the essential role of the RTB. Mr. Byrne is set to bring a wealth of experience and knowledge from his career to inform his stewardship of the RTB during this critical stage,” he said.
The Minister also extended his sincere thanks to Padraig McGoldrick for his excellent work and dedication as interim Director for the past two years, “These past two years have been made particularly difficult for the private rental sector due to the Covid19 pandemic. During this time the RTB, under the directorship of Padraig, has worked tirelessly with my Department to ensure that those tenants adversely affected have been protected. I would like to thank Padraig most sincerely for his commitment to achieving this and wish him all the best going forward,” he concluded.
- Scheme made more accessible
- Equity limit increased and adjusted by region
- Purchase price thresholds updated
- Additional flexibility in bedroom numbers for certain borrowers
- Changes a key action of Housing for All, aimed at ensuring scheme supports those who need it
Monday 24 January 2022
The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien, TD, today announced a number of significant improvements to the ‘Mortgage to Rent’ (MTR) scheme for people who have borrowed from commercial private lending institutions and who are at risk of losing their homes due to mortgage arrears. The changes will result in more people being able to benefit from the scheme, which has been amended to reflect current housing market conditions and most up-to-date research on those in long term mortgage arrears.
The MTR scheme offers households in acute, unsustainable mortgage arrears situations, with little or no prospect of a significant change in circumstances, the chance to surrender a property to a lender and in turn become a social housing tenant whilst staying in their own home and community. As part of the scheme, the home will be brought up to private rental standards.
The key changes, which will apply from 14 February 2022, are:
The changes announced today follow a review of the MTR scheme by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage. A strengthened MTR scheme was a commitment in both the Programme for Government and in Housing for All, the Government’s national plan on housing to 2030. Housing for All commits to strengthening the scheme to ensure that it is helping those that need it, with delivery of an average of 1,000 solutions every year. In 2021, 678 borrowers availed of the scheme, more than three times the amount of borrowers (196) who availed of the scheme in 2019.
Announcing the changes at an event in St. Finian’s Crescent, Lucan, Co Dublin held with iCare Housing, one of the non-profit Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) who participate in the MTR scheme, Minister O’Brien said:
“These changes will make life easier for many households in mortgage distress. For someone in mortgage arrears to lose their home is hugely difficult and stressful. Mortgage to Rent provides a solution to a complex problem by giving a person or family the option of remaining in their own home despite acute mortgage difficulties.
“It is the Government’s objective to keep people in their homes where it is sustainable and the Mortgage to Rent scheme supports that objective. Today’s changes position the scheme to provide a solution for 1,000 families per year from 2022, approximately 50% more than the number of completed cases in 2021, and towards a trebling of the number in 2020.
“It’s clear that there is continued demand for the scheme and I will keep the impact of these new changes under review and make future improvements if necessary. Ultimately we want the use of this scheme to be a long-term sustainable solution for the families and individuals for whom it is designed to assist.”
Speaking at the announcement, iCare Housing CEO David Hall said:
“The Government changes to the Mortgage to Rent scheme are good news for those in mortgage difficulties throughout the country. As an Approved Housing Body helping people with acute and unsustainable mortgage arrears to start afresh, we’re pleased to see scheme changes that will give more people a chance to stop the clock on financial stress, strain and uncertainty about the future and secure their housing situation. I’ve no doubt that these changes will give more families to chance to start again whilst staying in their own homes and communities.”
From the MTR scheme’s introduction in 2012 to the end of 2021, 1,682 families have remained in their home due to the scheme. A total of 5,012 individuals (2,738 adults and 2,274 children) are benefiting from the scheme. A further 720 cases are actively being progressed. In 2019, 196 families benefited from the scheme with a further 363 families benefiting in 2020. In 2021, the number had increased to 678.
Further information on the scheme is available from: www.mortgagetorent.ie
The review of the MTR is available at: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/ed57b-2021-review-of-the-mortgage-to-rent-scheme-for-borrowers-of-commercial-private-lending-institutions/
Minister O’Brien launches two new publications to improve quality & quicken delivery of social homes
ig and Review of Pre-Construction Processes documents are key actions under Housing for All plan;
Compact growth is core element of Design Manual and will help combat climate change.
The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD, has today launched two publications that will help improve the quality, cost-effectiveness and pace of delivery of social homes and mixed-tenure developments.
Minister O’Brien presented a Design Manual for Quality Housing, and a Review of Pre-Construction Processes for Social Housing Construction and Mixed Tenure Projects to Fingal County Council’s Chief Executive Ann-Marie Farrelly and Fingal’s County Architect Fionnuala May at the council’s office in Swords, North County Dublin.
Design Manual for Quality Housing
The Design Manual is being sent to all Local Authorities and Tier-3 Approved Housing Bodies and will also be available electronically on the Department’s website. The manual, a commitment in the Government’s Housing for All plan, will help to:
The Review of Pre-Construction Processes for Social Housing Construction and Mixed Tenure Projects was also a key commitment in Housing for All. In the Plan the Government has committed to delivering over 90,000 new build social homes by the end of 2030. The review of Pre-Construction Processes for Social Housing will help to deliver on this seismic shift towards new build social homes. The review sets out a number of practical actions which will streamline the approvals and other pre-contract processes, while ensuring that cost effectiveness is being achieved for the taxpayer. Some of the actions included in the review are:
Commenting on the new publications Minister O’Brien said: “I am pleased to launch these important publications, both of which will greatly assist local authorities, Approved Housing Bodies, their respective design teams and planners to deliver better designed, more cost-effective and efficiently built social and mixed-tenure developments.
“The key to our current housing challenges is supply and the speed at which we can scale up supply. Both publications are key elements of Housing for All’s aim of improving the quality and delivery times of social housing developments. They will help make public housing more efficient and cost-effectively designed, and will help shorten the social housing and mixed tenure approvals processes. This is critical given the scale of public housing ambition.
“The Design Manual also sits firmly within the Programme for Government commitment to act against climate change. We must continue to improve not only the quantity of housing output across all the various forms of tenure but also to maintain and improve on the quality of residential development, in an economic and environmentally sustainable manner. I want to thank the local authorities, Approved Housing Bodies, Land Development Agency and all who inputted into the Design Manual for Quality Housing and the working group on pre-construction processes for their comprehensive report.”
On behalf of the local government sector, Frank Curran, Chairman of the County and City Management Association Housing, Building and Land Use, Committee said: “Local Authorities have a major role to play in delivering the social housing targets set out in the Housing for All plan and I welcome the publication of the Design Manual for Quality Housing which will be of great assistance to housing departments across the 31 local authorities as they seek to increase their own-build output of sustainable social housing to meet the needs of our communities.”
The manual was also welcomed by Dr Donal McManus, CEO of the Irish Council for Social Housing: “The publication of the Design Manual provides a welcome guide for Approved Housing Bodies in delivering quality social housing. The application of quality design and sustainability principles to the delivery of new homes will provide a useful resource to AHBs in achieving good quality housing using best practice guidelines. The availability of design layouts across different housing typologies will assist AHBs in delivering an expanded social housing programme.”
The Design Manual for Quality Housing contains sample site layouts and standard internal layouts for houses, duplexes and apartments. Where proposals are received which adopt standard internal layouts approvals will be quicker as the Department will not re- evaluate such standard internal layouts, as is necessary with unique, bespoke designs.
The Design Manual for Quality Housing can be found at this link.
The Review of Pre-Construction Processes for Social Housing Construction and Mixed Tenure Projects Working Group Report can be found at this link.
The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage and Local Fingal TD, Darragh O’Brien has welcomed the announcement of a series of actions to support Irish horticultural growers who are dependent on peat.
The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage worked with the Departments of Environment, Climate and Communications and Agriculture, Food and the Marine on proposals which will ultimately support the €469 million horticulture industry, the people employed and the many families that depend on this important sector.
The proposals which will be progressed include the commissioning of an independent expert to assess levels and suitability of current stocks of peat across all suppliers, including Bord na Móna, for the Irish horticultural sector. The commissioning of experts on planning to provide free advice to those who wish to extract peat in a manner which is compliant with the relevant regulations on sub-30 hectare bogs; and new research to deliver alternatives to peat for the horticulture sector.
Commenting Minister O’Brien said, “I am very aware through the significant amount of work which has been undertaken by our respective Department’s that there is no easy solution to this matter. We have to address the short-term issue of supply, the medium term one of future access to peat and also the longer-term issue of replacement with alternatives.
“The professional horticultural industry makes a huge contribution to the Irish economy, in terms of employment, of food security and in sustaining a whole range of other downstream businesses. We need to stand with our Irish growers, and give them help and support to access the modest supplies of peat that they need while realistic alternatives to peat as a growing medium are still in development. This must be done in a way that complies with our planning and licensing laws, and I am glad to see that expert help will be provided as part of this programme of Actions, to help growers engage with and navigate the regulatory system.
“Our long-term goal is to develop suitable peat-free alternatives for growers that are economically and environmentally sustainable. These alternatives will take time to come to fruition and growers will continue to need access to a viable growing medium in the interim to protect these valuable jobs and sector,” he concluded.