FURTHER data that proves the damaging impact of pyrite in Clare homes is “absolutely irrefutable”, councillors have been told.
Proof of a causative link was requested by the Department of Housing, Heritage and Local Government (DHHLG) on foot of an application last July for access to the defective blocks grant scheme.
This week’s local authority meeting was told that this data is to be sent in a matter of days.
The director said that a meeting between council executives and members of Clare Pyrite Action Group last Friday had provided an update on the testing that has recently been carried out in response to queries from the DHHLG on its original report last July.
The meeting was attended by expert engineer Simon Beale who was working with the Council to reply to queries from the DHHLG.
“He outlined in a robust fashion that the presence of pyrite and the causative link to damage is absolutely irrefutable,” said Director of Housing Anne Haugh.
“We are finalising this report and it is to go to the Department this week. I am assured by Department that they will expedite things on their end to ensure there is an outcome relatively quickly to the submission.”
Ms Haugh also reminded members that the estimate that of pyrite in 350 council properties is based on the assumption that if one home in a development is affected, all of them are.
The update followed a motion from Councillor Ian Lynch who called for the pyrite issue to be made a regular item in the Council’s management report, as well as a matter for discussion at the Housing policy committee.
“I acknowledge the huge efforts of [Director of Housing] Anne Haugh to get Clare included on the scheme,” Councillor Lynch said.
“There are three main issues and the first is getting Clare included in the grant scheme. Then, there are the legislation and then administration of the scheme. All we can do is to work to get onto scheme. A fantastic job has been done to date.”
The Kilrush man noted that members of CPAG and officials of Clare County Council had met last Friday and stated his concern that elected members weren’t invited to attend.
“We should be invited to sit and listen. It’s important for us to know what’s going on. We have to lobby our TDs,” he said.
“A new Bill will be presented and enacted before summer recess. While we don’t want a delay, this needs due diligence. The previous scheme was a disaster.”
Councillor Lynch said he had particular concerns about the proposed threshold for access to the revised grant scheme.
“Up to 18 months ago, pyrite wasn’t discussed in Clare,” he said. “A lot of people with problems would have just re-plastered, not realising that their homes are decaying and falling apart.
“The necessity of having 1.5mm cracks could mean that these properties will be excluded from the grant.
“There are also suggestions of taking down the outer leaf only and of rebuilding on existing foundations, which is not a good idea.
“There are issues around old and new building regulations as well as the rising cost of building. These are all concerns.”
The Independent councillor also emphasised that the administration of the grant scheme must be simple.
“Red tape is an issue and the Housing Section is already dealing with Ukraine, housing lists, homelessness and other issues. Can we relieve some of that pressure, maybe by moving recreation out of that area.
“There is also the question of us having to remediate 350 of our own properties. Where are we going to find 350 houses for those tenants? As councillors, we need the information to lobby effectively on these issues. The Housing SPC (Strategic Policy Committee) is the place to go.”
Chairperson of the Housing SPC, Councillor Gerry Flynn warned against removing any aspects of the committee’s remit.
“Sports and Recreation is an area that’s close to my heart,” he said.
“We don’t want the SPC to lose that. A lot of councillors have put forward motions on this topic, including myself. We have debated this at the SPC and will continue to do so. The figure of 350 to 620 homes says it all.
“We have often heard of ‘the mushroom treatment’, where people are kept in the dark. What Councillor Lynch is looking for is fair and balanced.
“The attendance of councillors at meetings with the action group won’t delay meetings. We are very sensible. I welcome embracing the whole issue.”
The Council’s Chief Executive Pat Dowling said that after a period of doing additional tests for pyrite, a new juncture has been reached.
“It is timely for us to give you all a written update and we will do that,” he said.
Ms Haugh said there had never been any intention to exclude people in terms of attendance at meetings with the action group.
“We can facilitate councillors in an online fashion going forward,” she said.
Councillor Lynch thanked the officials for the update.
“We need to ensure that the new scheme is not too onerous to administer,” he said.
“We need to keep our finger on the pulse and all of us collectively need to do this.”
Mr Dowling said the first priority is to bring benefits to affected homeowners.
“We will make sure we can administer it appropriately,” he said.