The Minister for the Environment, Alan Kelly, has defended his decision to amend the Building Regulations to ease certification for certain structures.
Former Minister Phil Hogan brought in a strict certification process following the Priory Hall debacle but concerns have since been raised that the new laws were hitting small builders, especially those building one-off houses and extensions.
“When it came to building one-off houses and small extensions they were simply too strenuous. They were causing a huge burden. They were increasing costs dramatically and were excluding certain qualified people from partaking in work. Effectively we were using a mallet to crack a nut,” Minister Kelly told the Tipperary Star.
“As a result we announced a review process, and from September 1 we will have new regulations for one-off houses and extensions, which have an alternative inspection process. We will have a revisited local authority inspection process. The local authorities are going to be ramped up to ensure they are inspecting houses. Essentially people will have the option of going down the original inspection process with full authorisation or an alternation process which will be more suitable to one-off and extensions,” he said.
Minister Kelly said he was aware of a large number of people who had not started their houses until the regulations were changed.
He believed there will now be an amount of large scale development of houses across the county, and, indeed, across Ireland.
“In Tipperary, where we have an increase in construction of the last year, you will see a dramatic increase now in one-off houses and extensions and that will create employment and see much more business coming through local hardware stores and related businesses – plumbers, architects, plasters, builers - a whole range of disciplines will have much more work.
“From a Tipperary point, I know it will be a massive boost to the local economy. Tipperary is one of the higher counties regards building houses and construction. It allow people carry out more work than they were allowed to do. It will take away a certain amount of red tape whch I thought was unnecessary”, he said.
Minister Kelly pointed out that just because there would be an alternative certification process, it did not mean people would build inferior houses. When people were building in rural Ireland they were building their own house.
“I don’t believe anybody is going out to make it inferior. They are going to live in it themselves,” he said.
The Labour Minister came under fire from the national media over the review, claiming he was engaged in “clientelism”, and that the estimated cost of certification at €4,000 was “not unreasonable”.
“I don’t believe the figures. There were multiples of those in many cases. People were being quoted €15,000 and €20,000. Certainly some of the commentators, not all, don’t understand rural Ireland. If it is clientelism it is clientelism for all of Ireland and not just for Tipperary. This is just common sense.”
In relation to local authority house building and dealing with the housing list in Tipperary, Minister Kelly said the council had the “guts of €61m” available to them over the next couple of years.
“They have a number of construction projects all over the county. Extra are being looked at. We will pass every construction project within the quickest time possible. And the local authority is actively buying houses all over the county,” he said.
His basic message to the council was to get your plans together, get your applications in and the Department will deal with them as quickly as possible
“These will be dealt with in a matter of weeks. Tipperary does have a lot of money for social housing, but some local politicians would criticise and say there isn’t enough contruction going on. There is quite a quantity of contruction going on, but if there isn’t enough going on for their liking, could I just point out that it is the local authorities themselves and the councillors that put forward the projects I pass. I don’t pick them. They put them forward. We analyse them. We assess them. But any project they put forward, I couldn’t see any of them being refused. If they feel not enough houses are being built, that’s because they haven’t planned them. If they do put them forward, I will support them,” said the Minister.