Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Tuesday, 28 September 2021

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government

General Scheme of the Water Services Separation Bill 2021: Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage

Photo of John CumminsJohn Cummins (Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

As a Government party representative, I acknowledge that mistakes were made along the way in the establishment of Irish Water, but one of the mistakes was not the establishment of a single utility for water in the country. I come from an area, Waterford, that would have been to the fore in delivering a lot of excellent water and wastewater infrastructure, especially in Waterford city. We do not have the constraints that many other areas have. It is essential to have a publicly owned, stand-alone national utility that is regulated. It is the way forward. That is the purpose of the legislation before us for pre-legislative scrutiny.

My colleague, Deputy Ó Broin, was trying to find gaps or potential pitfalls, and the fact he could not cite any is probably testament to the legislation before us being robust.

Following on from what Deputy Duffy said about fast-tracking infrastructure, that is a point I teased out last week with Irish Water in the committee. I cited the fact that the lack of access to Part 8 was an inhibitor in terms of the provision of small-scale water and wastewater infrastructure, in particular in rural areas. It is not encompassed in this Bill, but will it form part of other planning legislation that may be introduced? The collective wisdom of the Department and the committee could come up with a mechanism whereby Irish Water could partner with local authorities to utilise the Part 8 mechanism for the provision of that smaller element of water and wastewater infrastructure, notwithstanding the subsequent constraints that are there in terms of procurement and environmental impact assessment. Is that something that could be taken on board? It was one of the points that shone through last week. There is a three- to five-year period to go through all the various stages to get a project over the line. Such a step should be explored and taken seriously. If it could cut out three, six or nine months from a process that takes three to five years, it would enable developers to get on the ground quicker to provide housing.


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