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John Drennan: Hogan vows 'tough policing' of building regulations

Environment Minister Phil Hogan will replace the current building regulations which have allowed "dodgy developers'' to flourish with a new "tough policing'' regime.

In the wake of Priory Hall, and the possibility of similar debacles, Mr Hogan told the Sunday Independent he plans to reform the Building Control Acts and replace "the current light touch self-regulation policy with mandatory inspection and regulation''.

The minister warned, "We intend to police the quality of housebuilding far more efficiently than the unchecked activities of the last years of the Tiger''. The changes, he claimed, would "restore the rigorous inspection regime of the Seventies that went into abeyance under Fianna Fail".

The move comes amidst growing concern that Priory Hall is merely what Labour Senator John Whelan called "the tip of the Celtic Tiger construction timebomb where dodgy developers and Celtic Tiger construction cowboys have left the country littered with houses which are unsafe and are at best expensive shelters from the rain.''

Mr Whelan noted he was "appalled to learn the inspection of building sites and developments by local authority personnel across the country amounted to a paltry 15 per cent of the housing stock at a time when councils were raking in hundreds of millions in development charges''.

He warned that such an attitude "was uncannily similar to the light-touch regulation of the banking sector'' and added "if these figures are correct then over half a million houses constructed during the boom have never been properly inspected".

Mr Whelan noted Mr Hogan "shares many of my concerns".

The Labour senator said: "I have seen houses myself which have walls with gaping cracks; subsiding floors; no insulation; pipes barely concealed, fire hazards in adjoining attics; faulty electrics and health and safety threats from faulty sewage networks."

The senator also claimed he had witnessed "building sites where the same staff were laying blocks one day, roofing the next, putting in windows the next and one can only imagine what next''. In one situation, he saw a developer order one young student on a site to plaster a house when he was taking his lunch break.

When the student said he was "the labourer carrying out such tasks as mixing mortar'', Mr Whelan said he was told "if you can sh*t*, you can plaster, just get on with it".

Sunday Independent