Wednesday, 4 October 2006
Water and Sewerage Schemes.
Dick Roche (Minister, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
I hope I will have less contentious news for Deputy Breen.
Discussions between my Department and Clare County Council in respect of this scheme have been satisfactorily concluded. My Department has approved the council's revised proposals for the scope and scale of the new infrastructure to be provided in each of the locations involved which, I understand, do not involve any significant reductions in the areas to be served by the scheme. My Department has also agreed the overall funding arrangements for the scheme with the council.
The council is now updating the tender documents for the three new treatment plants. These will be procured as a single contract to optimise cost and construction. How quickly work will start on the treatment plants will largely depend on progress made by the council with the tender process. I have instructed my Department to request the council to submit the updated tender documents for the waste water treatment plants for approval as quickly as possible. They will be dealt with urgently by the Department on receipt with a view to allowing the council to invite tenders with the least possible delay. I insist on the least possible delay because these schemes have been going on for a long time. I am hopeful that construction will commence in the latter part of 2007. In the meantime, the council may proceed with the work on the collection systems without any further reference to my Department in accordance with more streamlined approval procedures I introduced earlier this year to accelerate progress under the water services investment programme. At that time I reduced from four to two the number of stage approvals which local authorities are required to obtain from my Department for schemes costing less than €5 million. Following approval of the preliminary report in such cases, local authorities may now proceed to construction without any further approval from my Department, provided they remain within budget.
Last month I eased the approval system further by dispensing altogether with the need for local authorities to obtain clearance from my Department to award traditional contracts, irrespective of cost. At the same time I introduced a standard scale for calculating the contribution to be made by the non-domestic sector towards the capital cost of new schemes. This will obviate the need for local authorities to produce detailed water services pricing policy reports and should lead to quicker progress with less bureaucracy for these schemes.