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Thursday 14 December 2017

Hogan: Priory Hall is not an isolated case

Environment Minister Phil Hogan
Environment Minister Phil Hogan
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

FAMILIES are being forced to live in shoddily built homes with hidden problems including possible fire safety risks, the Government has admitted.

Environment Minister Phil Hogan said the problems of Priory Hall could be replicated across the country, and that local authorities had reported a range of issues in housing developments.

But some residents may be unaware that their home is subject to an investigation by their local authority because of poor building standards.

Affected homeowners "may not be aware of the issues" affecting their home, a spokesman for the Department of the Environment said.

But he added that in cases where fire safety issues had been identified, residents would be informed by their local council.

Speaking in Dublin yesterday, Mr Hogan said local authorities had reported a range of problems with sub-standard housing after his department's Building Control section made contact late last year in the wake of the Priory Hall scandal.

Hundreds of residents were evacuated from their homes in 2011 after Dublin City Council said they were unsafe to live in.

The council will appeal a High Court ruling ordering it to pay for the residents' temporary accommodation next month in the Supreme Court, after which Mr Hogan said he would meet with affected homeowners.

"There is, I'm sure, several places that could have similar problems like Priory Hall," Mr Hogan, pictured, said.

"I asked the local authorities last year to have a look around and make sure everything was up to standard and meets the regulations but there has been a number of areas identified that are not up to scratch.

"I want to assure everybody, and in particular the residents of Priory Hall, that I will resolve these matters when the court process is completed," he said.

BREACHES

"You would not wish me, as minister, to intervene in a court process, and I'm precluded by law from doing so.

"I don't want to give any possibility for the developers and professionals who caused this problem in the first instance to get off the hook," he added.

He said the Attorney General had advised he could not meet with residents until legal action was completed, adding he was "determined to act on behalf of residents".

It is understood the issues identified range from a lack of insulation to breaches of the building code and problems with electrical works. Fire safety could also be an issue.

In 2011, the last year for which figures are available, almost 20pc of new homes were checked.

However, inspection rates varied by local authority from 66pc in south Tipperary to none in Galway County Council in 2011.

The Department of the Environment has refused to release details of the affected areas, saying it is a matter for local authorities to arrange the repairs to be carried out in consultation with developers, builders, banks or receivers.

This means there is no indication as to how many homes, or how many housing estates, are affected.

"We are aware of other estates which may have issues," a spokesman said. "Local authorities have reported back. Now it's a matter for local authorities to deal with those issues in the context of enforcement."

Local authorities have a range of powers, including compelling developers, or banks or receivers in control of sites, that certain works be undertaken. In cases where the developer has gone out of business, banks or receivers would be contacted and asked to complete the works.

They can levy fines, and also retain fines imposed by the courts for planning offences. They can also refuse to grant planning permission to developers who have failed to comply with a previous permission.

Mr Hogan has indicated in recent weeks that among the possible solutions was the demolition of Priory Hall and construction of new homes.

Separately, NAMA has begun legal action against the wife of Priory Hall developer Tom McFeely over "substantial debts" owed to the agency.

Irish Independent

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