Wednesday, 10 November 2004
Batt O'Keeffe (Minister of State with special responsibility for Housing, Urban Renewal and Developing Areas, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
I thank Senator Kitt for raising this issue. The Roads Act 1993 is now the overall responsibility of the Minister for Transport. Under section 13 of the Act, road authorities are responsible for the maintenance and construction of non-national roads. Section 70 of the Act obliges the owner of any structure to take all reasonable steps to ensure that the structure, or use of the structure, is not a hazard or potential hazard to persons using a public road and that it does not obstruct or interfere with the safe use, or the maintenance, of a public road. Where the use of a structure presents such a hazard or potential hazard, or where it obstructs or interferes with the safe use, or maintenance, of a public road, a road authority may serve a notice in writing on the owner of the structure to remove, modify or carry out specified works in relation to it within the period stated in the notice.
A person on whom such a notice has been served may, within 14 days of the date of service, appeal against the notice to the District Court on the grounds that she or he is not the owner of the structure, that the structure is not a hazard or potential hazard, or does not obstruct or interfere with the safe use, or maintenance, of a public road, that compliance with the requirements of the notice would involve unreasonable expense or that the notice specified an unreasonably short time for complying with its requirements or any of them. Notice of the appeal must be given to the road authority who is entitled to appear, be heard and adduce evidence on the hearing of the appeal.
On the hearing of the appeal, the court may either confirm the notice unconditionally, confirm it subject to such modifications, alterations or additions as it thinks reasonable or annul the notice. Where the court confirms the notice subject to modifications, alterations or additions, the notice has effect subject to such modifications, alterations or additions. A notice served by a local authority does not have effect until the expiration of 14 days from the date of service or if an appeal is taken and the notice is confirmed, with or without modifications, the date on which the decision of the court is given or the date on which the order of the court is expressed to take effect, whichever is the later.
The owner of a structure who fails to comply with a notice issued by a local authority is guilty of an offence under the Act. In such a case, the road authority may take the action specified in the notice or such other action as it thinks fit and may recover any reasonable costs incurred by it from the owner as a simple contract debt in any court of competent jurisdiction. Section 70 of the Roads Act 1993 also provides that where a road authority considers that a structure presents an immediate and serious hazard to persons using a public road it may take immediate action to reduce or remove the hazard. Where it takes such action, it may recover any reasonable costs incurred by it from the owner as a simple contract debt in any court of competent jurisdiction.
I hope the Senator will appreciate that I have set out the legislative position in regard to structures which may present a hazard or obstacle to road safety. However, I wish to emphasise that while road safety is an issue of concern for all of us, primary responsibility under law for all road safety matters rests with my colleague, the Minister for Transport.