Phil Hogan’s Building Regulations… “were a step backwards”

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06 October 2015

It looks like there is a growing realisation that our new system of “reinforced” self-regulation i.e. BC(A)R SI.9 introduced in March 2014 will do little to prevent another Longboat Quay. The following Irish Times article and Green Party press release illustrate how mainstream media along with opposition political parties have interpreted events leading up to the recent evacuation order being issued at Longboat Quay and concluded that immediate roll-out of increased local-authority inspections are now needed to regulate our construction sector.

“Light-touch regulation didn’t work in the banking sector and doesn’t work in the construction sector either…

As Minister for the Environment before he decamped to Brussels as EU agriculture commissioner, Phil Hogan had the opportunity to remedy the situation by specifying that construction activity is monitored by suitably qualified local authority professionals, as in the past. Instead, he introduced a regime that merely requires a newly-completed building to be certified as compliant by an architect, structural engineer or other “assigned certifier”.

Widespread criticism, notably from within the architectural profession, that this would offer no real protection for buyers was blithely dismissed by Mr Hogan, who continued to insist that his light-touch approach “will provide consumers with the protection they need and deserve.”

The then minister went even further, stating in April 2013: “As soon as these regulations become operational, homeowners who encounter a problem with a building will be in a radically better place. They will be able to immediately access information which can lead them towards a solution to the problem.” …

Mr Hogan expressed his hope that the issue of latent defects insurance for construction projects would be addressed before the new regulations came into effect on March 1st last year. But this didn’t happen, with the result that residents of new apartment buildings subsequently found to be defective have no way of seeking redress for problems emphatically not of their own making. An appalling situation that must be brought to an end, and quickly.”

  • In parallel to this the Green Party issued a press release on 5th October calling for immediate legislation to end “light-touch” regulation of the construction sector. Full press release is below:

“Light touch regulation lets State of the hook

Legislation necessary to avoid further Longboat Quays

 The Green Party today called on the Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly to intervene and assist householders with fire improvement works in Dublin’s Longboat Quay development. They also called for changes in the law so that the problem of ‘light touch regulation’ does not arise in future.

Speaking today, Green Party City Councillor Ciarán Cuffe said: “Local Authorities must be mandated to inspect buildings at every stage of the construction process to ensure that fire safety and other breaches of the Building Regulations do not occur. This is what happens in Northern Ireland and it should be the case here.

“The changes brought in Building Regulations introduced by Phil Hogan two years ago were a step backwards in terms of oversight of the building process. It placed an unfair burden on construction professionals to sign off on every aspect of construction, and let the State off the hook.

“This has meant that construction costs have risen and cowboy builders are still getting away with it. In addition under Alan Kelly’s watch the light touch regulation has continued with his changes that exempt one-off housing from the rigours of the law.

“In the short-term the State must assist the residents of Longboat Quay, but within this Dáil term the Government should change the Building Control legislation so that Priory Hall and Longboat Quay mark the end rather than the beginning of poor quality construction.”

Local Green Party Councillor Claire Byrne, who has tabled an emergency motion on the issue ahead of tonight’s meeting of Dublin City Council, called for a multi-agency approach to solve the problem.

“I attended the meeting with the residents last week. I think it is scandalous that the residents of Longboat Quay are being left to deal with the hangover of the bad planning regulations of the Celtic Tiger years. It is unacceptable that the residents should be left with one of two choices: pay close €20,000 each, or be evicted.  DCC, DDDA, Nama and the Government need to intervene and help the residents as a matter of urgency. They have responsibility not to just manage the assets of developers, but to help the people of the City.

“I, along with my Green Party colleagues in DCC have tabled an emergency motion for consideration at tonight’s Council meeting at 6.15pm in City Hall. Hopefully this will put pressure on all agencies to resolve this issue.”

ENDS

Final version of DCC Motion agreed:

“That Dublin City Council supports the residents of Longboat Quay to help ensure that they do not bear the costs of rectifying issues for which they are not responsible for, and calls on the Chief Executive to work with all parties to resolve the outstanding Fire Safety and Building Control issues and requests the Planning and International Affairs Strategic Policy Committee to examine the broader issues arising form the emergency motions on this issue”.

Other posts of interest:

Ministerial Review into Fire Safety is “…a joke” | Irish Examiner

“After 18 months of operation the industry view of SI.9 is pretty conclusive: it’s not working”

“Risky housing sale outrageous but legal” | Longboat Quay

Michael Clifford: “when will we address cracks in construction?” Irish Examiner

Irish Examiner | “Local Authorities should be setting the standard”- Minister Paudie Coffey

1 thought on “Phil Hogan’s Building Regulations… “were a step backwards”

  1. Michael O'Neill MRIAI

    Reply to – Phil Hogan’s Building Regulations… “were a step backwards”

    http://www.bregsforum.com/2015/10/06/the-changes-brought-in-building-regulations-introduced-by-phil-hogan-two-years-ago-were-a-step-backwards-green-party/#comments

    I have nothing good to say about Phil Hogan.

    The previous self-certification regime has become the current self certification regime, with the added bonus that the assurances offered today cannot be supported even in theory.

    Putting up the Straw Man Assigned and Design Certifiers who are supposed to certify unattainable perfection of 100% compliance is a politician being seen to do something while effectively doing nothing.

    That’s Phil Hogan and the performance of his Fine Girl Party in a nutshell.

    As for the Green Party – its members need a heavy dose of common sense if they seriously believed Hogan’s draconian regulations actually helped purchasers on iota.

    Builders who omit fire protection can still wind up the company/declare bankruptcy/go out of business and are protected by the law of the land.

    The Assigned and Designed Certifiers were supposed to catch the grenades according to Big Phil’s Master Plan.

    No some fool is blaming the insurance industry for not lining up for this business of Latent Defects Insurance.

    Even IF LATENT DEFECTS INSURANCE WERE IN PLACE – nothing would change.

    Why?

    Because a Certifier who certifies a dud will soon find insurance is unobtainable.

    AND –

    The Insurance Industry’s job it to minimize risk – think about that for a minute.

    Now think about the scandals that are finally coming to light about the atrociously bad standards of building that were prevalent during the Boom Years.

    How many more of these grossly substandard buildings are out there, protected by homeowners living in mortal fear that any negative publicity will plummet the value of their properties?

    What fool would underwrite the risk of any drywall construction in Ireland without a full opening up inspection and a review of its services and testing and commissioning certificates to assess its compliance?

    There was huge political capital to be made by the incumbent government on the so called light touch regulation of the building industry, but going down this road would have exposed their own party contributors to ridicule in the media and worse in the courts.

    So they have done nothing, just waited for the worst of the cases to come forward, while all the while people are putting their lives at risk living in non-compliant buildings, too afraid to have them properly inspected, while the papers and RTE dance around the issue.

    Nothing changes.

    Reply

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