Archive for the ‘Local Issues’ Category
Clare Daly TD alongside Socialist Party colleagues have been working with the Pyrite Action Group to fight for justice for the thousands of householders in North and West Dublin, Meath, Kildare, Offaly and elsewhere whose homes are crumbling about them.
This has arisen because of neglect on the part of building firms, quarries and inadequate building regulations. The Socialist Party
The transcript of the full exchange was as follows:
Question 3: To ask the Minister for the Environment; Community and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 222 of 20 July 2011, the reason the revised NSAI Standard recommendation, which amended the Building Regulations Technical Guidance Document TGD C, is deemed inadequate by the main non-homebond insurer of houses affected by heave-inducing pyrite, and that this insurer demands in addition to the requirements in the NSAI Amendment that replacement fill comply with TRL 447 (2005) Sulphate Specification for Structural Backfills, to ensure that there will be no further heave; and if he will immediately rectify this deficient specification in order to protect householders results. [24393/11]
Phil Hogan: The building regulations set out the legal requirements for the construction of new buildings, including houses. Part D, materials and workmanship, of the building regulations requires that materials used as infill in construction must be “proper materials which are fit for the use for which they are intended and for the conditions in which they are to be used”. The presence of pyrite in building materials represents a failure to satisfy this requirement. Responsibility for compliance with the building regulations is a matter for the owner or builder of a building and enforcement of the owner’s contractual entitlements is a civil matter irrespective of whether a building is in private or public ownership.
Following the emergence of the pyrite problem in 2007, the National Standards Authority of Ireland, at the behest of my Department, reconvened the aggregates panel, an NSAI industry committee. The NSAI, in consultation with this committee, published a revised standard recommendation on the use of aggregates as infill for civil engineering and road construction work. The new standard recommendation came into effect on 7 December 2007 and provides guidance on reducing the risk of reactive forms of pyrite being present in material fill for use under concrete floors in dwellings and buildings.
The relevant technical guidance document of the building regulations dealing with site preparation was amended to incorporate the revised NSAI standard recommendation. The outcome of a recent high court case vindicates the position taken by my Department and demonstrates that the building regulations are appropriate and enforceable. The imposition of any additional requirement by a third party, for example, an insurance company, is a matter between that party and the builder or developer.
In response to the difficult and distressing problems faced by home owners and tenants affected by pyrite, I am setting up a panel with suitable expertise to prepare a report, which I will publish, on the way forward in relation topyrite contamination in private housing stock. My Department will provide technical and administrative support to the panel in carrying out its work.
Clare Daly: I thank the Minister for his reply but it does not deal with the content of the question. Clearly, the pyriteissue is devastating for the tens of thousands of affected householders. The Minister’s response is an attempt to say that the State has no role or responsibility in this regard.
The nub of the question is that the State is responsible for bringing in building regulations and that these regulations are, and were, deficient. When I asked the question in July as to why the building regulations did not require testing for pyrite, even though knowledge existed in the industry, in engineering circles and in regard to the geological strata that this could be a problem, the Minister said the building regulations had been amended by the NSAI implying that the problem had been solved but that is not the case.
Householders have found that Premier Insurance, the second largest insurer, is not satisfied with that new requirement. It is not deemed good enough for it. Is the reason this standard, required by Premier Insurance, has not been included because it would cost the quarries and the aggregates more money? Does the Minister not think it is somewhat strange that the NSAI standard took direction from the concrete consultative committee, which is dominated by the industry? Will he comment on the fact that some of the lead agents on that committee, which was responsible for the new standard, were two of the largest quarry owners whose quarries have been found to have heave inducing pyrite, namely, Roadstone in Huntstown and Kilsaran in Rathcore, County Westmeath and if this might be the reason the standard is inadequate?
Phil Hogan: Deputy Daly would have to see a lot of things around corners. I have answered the question she asked which was a highly technical one and I answered it in a technical fashion. If there was any aspect of the question I did not answer, she certainly did not ask a supplementary in regard to it.
The Building Control Acts clearly place responsibility for compliance with building regulations on the owner of a building. That has been tested in the courts and the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government is not liable. Compliance with technical guidance documents, which were amended after 2007, has stood the test of time.
I appreciate that homeowners find themselves in a difficult situation through no fault of their own because of the inadequacy of the materials and aggregates provided. The material for these dwellings and foundations have been found to be deficient and so on. That is why I decided to act as an honest broker in this matter between homeowners and the people responsible to see if we can get solutions and I have set up a panel. I did not have to do that but we are here, as politicians, to try to help people. I did not go around apportioning blame. I am facilitating a dialogue, or an opportunity for people, through a panel of experts, to help them, if at all possible.
Clare Daly: With respect, the question was not answered. The question was twofold. Why is the standard in the building regulations deemed to be inadequate vis-À-vis the standard put forward by Premier Insurance? The Minister’s answer was that it has a different standard from us. It has a higher standard and surely we, as the guardians of householders, should stand by the highest standards.
The second part of the question was what will the Minister do about it. Will he rectify the building regulations to take account of this? I assume the answer to that is “No”. The Department and previous Governments have a responsibility in this regard.
I welcome the fact the Minister has set up a committee and we will participate in, and work with, it. However, the solution must come from the Minister’s Department as well because otherwise the builders, quarry owners, the local authorities and everybody will be at each other’s throats. There must be a lead from the front and this must be rectified for the future and the building regulations must be changed. If the standards are not good enough for Premier Insurance, they should not be good enough for Irish citizens.
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Phil Hogan: We are here as legislators and to make regulations. The people who supplied this material are in breach of those regulations and that has been found by the courts. We do not have to improve any regulations because the courts have found these people to be negligent in regard to compliance. The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government’s regulations have stood the test of time. We were not found culpable but rather the people who supplied the material were. I know that does not suit the Deputy but I am telling her the outcome of the court case where this was tested. In case the Deputy does not know, it was a High Court case.
Clare Daly: It attributed liability to the quarry owners. It did not say the building regulations were fine.
Phil Hogan: Did it attribute any liability to the State?
Clare Daly: It said the quarry owners were liable.
Phil Hogan: That is correct. The quarry owners are liable. Therefore, we must take that into account when we come forward with solutions. The State is not liable but I am prepared to set up this panel to help homeowners who are unfortunately caught between the quarry owners and solving this problem, and to facilitate whatever I can to help them.
I fully support the community in Rush in their determined battle to ensure that the proposed Eirgrid high voltage DC cable is re-routed away from the hundreds of houses on the route from Kilbush Lane, Skerries Road, Main Street, and Channel Road.
I salute residents who have organised on this issue, convened meetings and stepped up the pressure on both Eirgrid and the political establishment. We pledge to do whatever we can to support this critical community campaign in the coming weeks and months.
Route Can Be Altered!
It is a disgrace that given the concerns that have been expressed that Eirgrid are still stream rolling ahead regardless! Everybody agrees that an East-West interconnector is welcome. But just because the chosen route has been approved by An Bord Pleanala, doesn’t mean that it has to take that path.
How many people have previously got planning permission for something only to change their minds at a later date and submit new plans? This is a perfectly normal and regular occurrence and there is no reason why it can’t happen in this case other than the fact that there is a lack of political will to do so.
Fingal County Council Facilitates Eirgrid, not Residents!
Eirgrid has stated that the original plans to go through Ratoath were altered and the town bypassed at the request of Meath County Council. Fingal County Council on the other hand, rather than assisting residents in Rush has actively facilitated Eirgrid at every turn while simultaneously ignoring the community.
Council management gave permission to Eirgrid to access public roads at two locations in Rush without any recourse to the elected councillors. The antics that occurred at the Council meeting on Monday July 12th were astounding. Originally Eirgrid asked permission under Section 183 of the Planning Act for a way leave across the two roads. Under this procedure it is only the councillors who can decide. When it became obvious that the councillors would vote against it, the management pulled the item and said they needed legal advice and a special meeting was convened.
Meanwhile prior to that special meeting, Eirgrid came in for a meeting with Council management and suddenly decided to opt for a different method of accessing the land – a method which coincidently had been outlined by the Council’s solicitor!!! The Council management then granted them permission for this before the councillors meeting took place!! This is a total affront to democracy and a deliberate frustration of the wishes of the community. It was precisely because your campaign was having an effect on the councillors that they pulled the plug and decided to attempt to force it through by a different method. This should not go unchallenged and Clare Daly has requested a further legal opinion for the councillors on what has taken place.
Very Valid Reasons to Insist on Re-routing from the town!
It is quite clear that there are powerful interests pushing this project. Meanwhile for residents of Rush the facts remain;
- Rogerstown Estuary which is a special area of conservation, was not so special that the sewerage pipes couldn’t be laid through it, leading people to correctly say that there is no reason why the cable can’t take this route also.
- High Voltage DC cables are new to Ireland and should avoid population centres. In all other interconnector projects internationally, populated areas have been avoided such a the Moyle interconnector between Scotland and Northern Ireland, and the interconnector between Sweden and Poland. It’s not unreasonable for Rush residents to demand parity of treatment with everyone else around the globe.
- Studies conducted by the Oxford Childhood Cancer Research, among others have stated that the risk of Leukaemia is doubled at 0.4 Micronesia. Eirgrid has stated that the output will be 0.6 Micronesia at 10 metres. This involves hundreds of houses and the national school situated on the route where exposure will be 24/7. It is unacceptable to expect parents to expose their children to potentially serious adverse health effects. The precautionary principle should apply and the town avoided.
- It is galling to note that Lusk was rejected as a potential route because it was “heavily populated” and Donabate because it was “heavily trafficked”. We are not in any way suggesting that the cable should be re-routed through those towns, it shouldn’t but this example exposes how flawed the methodology used was, given that Rush beats both of them on both counts, with a bigger population and greater through flow of traffic. It’s clear that they got that wrong, so how much more is wrong also!
There is more than sufficient evidence to suggest that residents are absolutely right to hold firm on this and to insist on a re-routing. Eirgrid is a semi-state body, set up by and answerable to government. Government and the Minister have the power to halt the works and instruct Eirgrid to take a different route. There are three government TDs in the area, including a former Minister. These people are the people in power and either they exercise that power in the interest of the community or what benefit is it to residents having them there.
The clock is ticking. Already works have begun on the project. The community needs action. Substantial pressure must be brought to bear on the government reps, and they should be left in no uncertain terms that either this route is voluntarily altered by Eirgrid or residents will frustrate the work if necessary. Do they really want another Rossport on their doorstep?
Enough is enough! Reroute the cable away from Rush! I, together with me other Socialist Party colleagues, will assist this campaign in any way we can. If enough residents get involved and demonstrate their opposition then a U-turn can be forced. Don’t leave it to someone else. Contact the government TDs today and demand that they deliver.
Fingal’s new Wildflower Meadow and Growing Places Policy has gone down like a lead balloon in communities across the north county as a result of cutbacks in the grass cutting program.
The policy was supposed to involve moving away from simply cutting all of the large grassed areas, to introducing more of a meadow environment with planting of different varieties of flowers and trees to aid biodiversity and develop an interesting and colourful landscape! Nothing wrong with that for parkland areas and roundabouts, but on greens in estates which are the main play areas of young children, it is an entirely different matter.
While greens in the estates were in the main not intended for the Wildflower Meadow pilot scheme, the appalling lack of information from the Council meant that everyone thought that they were when they witnessed their greens growing high, with only the rims, and a kick-about area being cut as a result of cutbacks in grass cutting.
A public outcry has forced a partial U-turn with the frequency of grass cutting being upped from monthly to once in 18 days. This will have to be monitored and the pressure kept on.
The reality is that this scheme is partly motivated by a crucifying burden on the Parks Department as a result of the government embargo on public sector recruitment.
Many staff retired in the section in the past year, and could not be replaced – meanwhile, over 1000 extra acres of open space were taken in charge.
They simply cannot cover all the work that is necessary. This is a direct consequence of government cutbacks and yet a government TD had the neck to issue a leaflet telling residents that he would liaise with the Council on residents’ behalf!!
This is not good enough. I demand, together with my Socialist Party colleagues, proper public services. The recruitment embargo must be lifted and the urgently needed jobs provided to improve standards in our communities.
Residents around Fingal, and indeed nationally, who have found defects in their homes, are finding that it is more than their houses that are defective!
The system in place to deal with these problems is monumentally defective, with every organisation which is supposed to be there to sort the issues out, running for cover. The Socialist Party believes that we are sitting on a ticking time-bomb on this question.
The scale and extent of these problems are only beginning to emerge, as tens of thousands of properties that were thrown up during the boom, begin to reveal totally shoddy workmanship. In a number of estates in Balbriggan, Swords, Lusk and Malahide, serious problems have arisen ranging from pyrite in the foundations, in some areas, to major damp, and inadequate fire-proofing, along with other structural faults and cracks.
Individual houses were bought under contract and in most cases, a Homebond guarantee. It is Homebond’s responsibility to arrange to find out the extent of the problem and ensure that the repairs are carried out in order to make the dwelling structurally sound and habitable.
However, it seems that they are doing everything in their power to stall and not deal with the issues. Meanwhile, the builders who were responsible in the first instance, the Council who oversee compliance with building standards, and the engineers and architects who certified the work, are all protecting their own interests.
It is absolutely criminal that the government has failed to address this issue. Those responsible must be held to account and a more transparent and effective system put in place to ensure that residents get a structurally safe and sound home which is their entitlement.