Dáil Éireann - Volume 335 - 02 June, 1982

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Unfinished Housing Estates.

5. Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for the Environment if he is aware of the number of unfinished housing estates throughout the country; and his Department's policy for enforcing legislation to see that contractual obligations are fully carried out by contractors involved in such works.

Mr. Brady (Dublin South-East): I am aware that there is a considerable problem in regard to defaulting developers in housing developments.

Responsibility for the enforcement of planning control under the Local Government (Planning and Development) Acts, 1963 and 1976, is, however, a matter for the planning authority concerned. Various powers are available to planning authorities to take action to secure the satisfactory completion of housing estates and the position in this regard was considerably strengthened by the 1976 Planning Act. I have advised planning authorities to make full use of these powers to ensure that developers comply fully with the terms and conditions of planning permissions given.

In order to enable progress to be made in intractable cases, a scheme was introduced in 1981 to enable local authorities to make grants to meet two-thirds of the cost of completing estates where all other possibilities of achieving this, including the legal processes, have been totally exhausted. To date almost £630,000 has been allocated to local authorities under the scheme.

Mr. Farrelly: The £630,000 which the Minister of State mentioned would not finish one of the estates in the constituency where I live. We should have new legislation to ensure that the residents in the unfinished estates should be looked after, because at present builders are leaving estates unfinished. I ask the Minister [817] to give an assurance that legislation will be introduced because the bonds were very small when the estates were started.

Mr. Brady (Dublin South-East): If the Deputy will give details of the estate to which he is referring my Department will look into the matter.

Mr. Farrelly: I will forward the names of two estates in my constituency.

Mr. Enright: Is the Minister aware of problems which arise when builders agree through their solicitors to carry out work on roads, footpaths and sewers? When the houses are built the purchasers avail of bridging facilities and then find that the building societies are not agreeable to closing the sales because the builders have not completed the required works. A serious problem can arise when a building firm go into receivership or liquidation.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Deputy should put a brief question.

Mr. Enright: Is the Minister aware that some of the purchasers are left indefinitely on bridging accommodation and have no redress? Have his Department any plans to ensure that people in this situation are safeguarded? Has he any proposals to introduce legislation or will he consult the Construction Industry Federation in an effort to solve this ever-growing problem?

Mr. Brady (Dublin South-East): I appreciate what the Deputy is saying. My Department are examining the question of increased penalties and of enforcement in the context of a review of planning legislation.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Deputy Taylor to ask a brief question.

Mr. Taylor: Would the Minister agree that a large part of the problem arises from the fact that the enforcement staffs in many local authorities are entirely [818] inadequate and will he assure the House that whenever requests are made by local authorities for the appointment of the necessary enforcement staff his Department will authorise such appointments? Secondly, will he authorise a system under which builders who fail to complete the necessary works will be black-listed in the granting of any future planning permissions?

Deputies: Hear, hear.

Mr. Brady (Dublin South-East): I certainly have sympathy with what the Deputy says regarding adequate staffing. Has he in mind any particular instance which can be investigated?

Mr. Taylor: Dublin County Council, for a start.

Mr. Brady (Dublin South-East): As regards blacklisting, I am not sure that the Government or any government agency could engage in any system of discrimination. I do not like to use that term because I know that is not what the Deputy means. I do not think the Government could become involved in a system of that kind.

Mr. Barrett (Dun Laoghaire): Would the Minister not agree that it is a very dangerous precedent to use public funds to complete works which are essentially a matter for a developer? If we allow this to continue the grant which will be sought will become bigger and bigger. Surely an amendment to the Planning Act authorising local authorities to insert conditions regarding the completion of estates by a certain time and providing for penalties if this is not done would be an appropriate step. Also if local authorities could refuse permission to a developer who failed to complete an estate, the State would save money and the development would be completed more quickly.

Mr. Brady (Dublin South-East): I agree.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Is Deputy Owen anxious to ask a question?

[819] Mrs. Owen: Deputy Barrett has already asked the question I wished to raise.

Mr. Brady (Dublin South-East): I agree with what Deputy Barrett has to say. It is a very vexed question but I think the Deputy would agree that there are many reputable builders. It is a matter of identifying particular cases and investigating them and my Department would be best served by the supply of that kind of information so that such builders could be identified.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Question No. 6.

Mr. Enright: I was on my feet and I——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Chair has decided that this is developing into a debate. The question on the Order Paper has been answered and I would ask Deputies to bear with me while we proceed to Question No. 6.

Mr. Enright: I asked a supplementary to which the Minister was replying when Deptuty Taylor asked a further supplementary. It is a matter of great importance to everybody.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Chair appreciates that but the same applies to all the other 900 questions on the Order Paper.

Dr. FitzGerald: You must not exaggerate. The number is 810.

Mr. Enright: Is the Minister aware of the problem mentioned by Deputy Taylor where some people are involved——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Minister has already replied to that supplementary question from Deputy Taylor. I am asking the Minister to answer Question No. 6.

Mr. Enright: I should like to raise this matter on the Adjournment.

[820] An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Chair will communicate with the Deputy.