Thursday, 11 November 2021
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
Defective Building Materials
10. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government if he will report on the extension of the defective concrete block scheme to County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55205/21]
I seek an update on the extension of the defective concrete block scheme to County Clare. Affected homeowners in the county deserve clarity. This question will give the Minister a good opportunity to provide much-needed clarity. I also expect him to give a date for when the vital scheme will be extended to the county.
I thank the Deputy for his question and for his engagement on behalf of his constituents in Clare over recent months on this issue. A lot of work is going on with regard to the defective block mica scheme that I hope to bring to a conclusion very shortly. This will impact on other counties in a positive way. I visited Clare over the summer and I met homeowners and visited their homes with the Deputy and colleagues. We received a submission from the local authority in July requesting an extension of the defective block grant scheme to County Clare. We issued a response on 3 August indicating we would review the submission and we did so. We saw details of a breakdown of costs associated with the report. That was received on 28 September.
A number of issues arose, none of them insurmountable. It is standard that clarification is needed. I have been directly involved with regard to the submission on Clare. In this regard, I asked my officials to deal with clarifications and outstanding matters. That meeting happened the day before yesterday on 9 November. We have been very clear on what further information is required. The director of services in Clare has been excellent as has the local authority. They have indicated they are confident they can address the issues raised. They will revert to me and the Department in a relatively short time. I am dependent on getting this information. Once I do, we will process it as a matter of priority. Any extension of a scheme to Clare or other local authority would be considered as part of the wider deliberations under way with regard to the scheme. I intend to bring a memorandum to the Government shortly on these changes. I am focused on Clare. I thank the Deputy for his engagement on it and his interest in the matter.
I recognise the hard work of Dr. Martina Cleary, the chairperson of the Clare Pyrite Action Group, along with the vice chair, Mary Hanley. It is a very dedicated voluntary group that has led from the front on this issue, raising awareness about pyrite in concrete blocks in houses in County Clare. I also recognise the director of services in Clare County Council, Anne Haugh, and the engineer, Tony Neville, for their work. The Minister visited the home of Mary Hanley in the county. Five houses were part of the core sampling. All of them have pyrite in the concrete blocks. They are at stage 4, which means demolition. People are extremely worried and they are suffering mental torture. They want to know when this vital scheme will be extended to County Clare. I recognise the Minister's work in driving this. He had a meeting with the officials on 9 November. I hope the engagement will push this matter on.
I thank the Deputy. I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Cleary and Mary Hanley in Clare and the group of residents. We are not losing time. I want to say very clearly there is no objection to expanding the scheme. If the data stacks up, and I have no reason to think it will not, the scheme will be extended to take in the county. It is important to note that even if there was nothing outstanding in the current submission and it was fully in order, it would not be to the homeowners' advantage right now to access the current scheme. We are working through some of the changes. The changes and improvements that I will bring forward to the defective blocks scheme will apply to any new homes that come into the scheme. We will conclude this work very shortly. We will need legislation to underpin it. I expect, all data being equal, that it will be extended to Clare. With regard to the timeframe, we are working through some of the outstanding details with which Clare County Council needs to come back to us, which it will. Anne Haugh and the team have been excellent. There will not be any delay from the Government's perspective.
Will the Minister explain what are the issues the Department has with regard to the submission made in July? There was a meeting in recent days between the Department and the local authority. As he said, the issues are not insurmountable. Will the Minister provide clarity on this? It would be welcome. Once it is resubmitted, will he then be in a position to extend the scheme to County Clare?
If it is okay with the Deputy, I will not go into the specifics of the meeting that happened the day before yesterday. It was a positive meeting. The Department and the local authority are working together to deal with some clarifications. I say clarifications rather than issues. This is not unique. We have had submissions from counties Mayo, Clare and Limerick. They are detailed with a lot of information. There are costs, engineering reports and other matters that need to be looked at. There is nothing that I can see about which I would be overly concerned in this regard. It is simply additional information and clarification being worked through by the Department and the local authority. I expect it to be resolved shortly. I will keep the Deputy informed. I know he will keep residents informed. I have asked the local authority to keep engaged with Dr. Martina Cleary, Mary Hanley and the group in Clare so they know what is happening. We are not a million miles away at this stage.