I have called on Fingal County Council to apply for newly available Government funding to progress the taking in charge of Ongar estate. This funding is part of a new scheme that the Minister for Environment announced just before the general election, designed to speed up the taking in charge of estates across the country.
The taking-in-charge process for Ongar has been delayed for years as the original developer went bust and the bond that had been put in place to pay for the completion of the estate was lodged with a British firm, which is currently refusing to pay it over to Fingal County Council. This issue is now in the British courts and will probably take years to resolve. The consequence of this is that large parts of Ongar village are in a legal no-mans-land and the Council are not able to provide residents with basic services.
I want Fingal County Council management to rapidly apply for this new source of funding that the outgoing government made available to speed up the taking-in-charge process in Ongar village, so that residents and businesses can get the same level of services from the Council as all other people who pay property tax.
Over the last year, I have been pushing the issue of the need for central Government to step in and assist local authorities in dealing with blockages in the taking in charge process. I have raised this issue both at Fingal County Council and nationally through writing to the Minister for the Environment. A previous source of money – the Special Resolution Fund – could not be used for Ongar village as it is not solely a residential estate.
I am delighted that this new fund and scheme has been proposed by the outgoing Government. I am requesting that Fingal County Council management rapidly make an application for this funding so we can get Ongar and other estates finished without having to wait for long running court cases to conclude.
Below is the text of a parliamentary question I put to the Minister for Environment to find out more information about the new scheme.
Question No. 777
Chun an Aire Comhshaoil, Pobail agus Rialtais Áitiúil:
To the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government:
To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide details of the new initiative and funds for expediting the taking-in-charge of estates that he announced in February 2016, including details regarding the criteria that must be met before a local authority can have an estate included in the scheme; if mixed commercial and residential estates which have not been taken in charge are eligible for the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
– Eamon Ryan.
For WRITTEN answer on Wednesday, 6th April, 2016.
Ref No: 6144/16
Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Alan Kelly)
As the Deputy is aware, I have made €10m available from the proposed carry-over of capital savings in 2015 to be used in 2016 to fund a new initiative to accelerate the taking in charge of estates irrespective of the wider development context that they are located within.
The National Taking in Charge I nitiativ e will assist local authorities in developing new approaches to addressing housing estates that, for various reasons, have not taken in charge to date.
The initiative will involve the following.
(1) Provision by my Department of an indicative level of funding for local authorities to assist in developing demonstration projects and new working methods in tackling legacy estates.
(2) Funding will reflect both (a) the scale of estates not taken in charge and (b) the extent of developer provided water services infrastructure to be addressed, on the understanding that the Exchequer support is for 2016 only and will not create Exchequer liabilities beyond 2016.
(3) Submission by the local authorities of implementation proposals for the approval of my Department, to utilise the funding, establish demonstration projects, identify longer term funding sources and address the backlog of applications for taking in charge on hand.
(4) Publication of a national database of residential estates not taken in charge as a baseline for future action.
(5) Taking account of the experience gained from the 2016 initiative, to issue guidance to authorities on their further development of prioritised plans for taking in charge of estates from 2017 onwards, taking account of resources available through the initiative in the short term as supplemented by other funding sources in the medium to longer term.
The experience gained through the initiative in 2016 and associated demonstration projects is intended to establish a co-ordinated taking in charge programme to progressively address the issue on a multi-annual basis, in the light of available local authority, Irish Water, bond and other funding sources and the general government financial position.
I intend to advise each local authority of the indicative level of funding proposed to be made available to them in the very near future, after which they will be invited to submit proposals to be assessed by an advisory steering group.
Consideration of the submissions put forward by the local authorities on the basis of the provisional funding levels available will be weighted towards those local authorities that demonstrate a high level of collaborative problem solving and leveraging of complimentary funding from developer, bond provider, receiver or other sources.