Speech to Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland in Maynooth

Action Plan for Housing, Action Plan for Jobs, Apprenticeships, Brexit, Budget 2017, Funding, Housing and Urban Renewal, Jobs, Meath, Navan, North Meath, Rebuilding Ireland, Speeches, Trim, Wesmeath

Address by Mr. Damien English, T.D. Minister of State

at the

Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland /SCSI National Conference 2017:


Friday, 31 March 2017 at 4:15 p.m. at Carton House, Maynooth, Co. Kildare.


Ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted to be here this afternoon at the SCSI National Conference 2017 to explore the many difficult and complex challenges facing the construction sector which are being dealt with by your profession.

As you will all be aware, the Government and I have made it our number one priority to resolve the housing and homelessness crisis and under ‘Rebuilding Ireland – Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness’ we have set out a broadly based and comprehensive set of actions to do just that.

However we cannot implement this plan in isolation. We will need both collaboration and assistance from all of our partners involved in housing provision including industry professionals, such as SCSI members.

Shortage of critical Skills in the Construction Sector

To reach our Rebuilding Ireland objective to increase housing output to at least 25,000 homes per annum by 2021 – a doubling of 2015 output levels – requires the necessary skilled work force to be available.

It is crucuial that any new jobs created are available and accessible to those who are unemployed, and that their wealth of experience and talent can contribute to the recovery of the sector.

Significant work has been carried out under Rebuilding Ireland Department of Education; SOLAS; and the Apprenticeship Council with regard to improving skills and education in the sector and I would encourage continued consultation with the sector in that regard.

Affordability – Housing Delivery Costs

One of the challenges the Government faces is providing quality homes at a cost that is affordable. Under Rebuilding Ireland the Government committed to a broad range of measures to tackle, among other things, some of the costs associated with the provision of housing in the interests of reducing construction overheads.

This included a commitment to undertake a detailed analysis, in conjunction with the construction sector, to benchmark housing delivery input costs in Ireland, in order to facilitate an increased level of housing output into the future.

A working group, chaired by my Department, with a broad range of industry representatives was established late last year and has met several times. I am pleased to say that the group has benefited from positive contributions from industry including members of the SCSI.

Building Control Regulations – Reform

The aim of the building control regulatory framework is to ensure that a home or a building is designed and constructed in compliance with the relevant requirements of the Building Regulations.

Too many serious and unprecedented failures have affected our construction industry and economy over the past decade or so. Failures such as pyrite, defective blocks and fire safety which has given rise to difficulties and distress among the many affected homeowners.

The development of the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 (S.I. 9 of 2014) was introduced to empower competence and professionalism on construction projects and establishing a chain of responsibility that begins the owner who must assign competent persons to design, build, inspect and certify the building works and who, in turn, must account for their contribution through the lodgement of compliance documentation, inspection plans and statutory certificates.

Social Housing – Getting the balance right

My Department’s policy is to achieve an appropriate and balanced mixture of tenures in new developments in order to avoid large mono tenure estates where difficulties have necessitated considerable public expenditure in regeneration.

My Department provides guidance on the scale of social housing which would be suitable in a particular context or area. This guidance is based on the size of the host town or city and the proportionate nature of the development to ensure good social integration and cohesion. For example a maximum size of 75 dwellings in any single mono tenure housing development applies in large urban areas with proportional reductions in size for smaller towns and villages.

Ideally all developments should provide for a mix of tenures and dwelling sizes to cater for all. Consistent with this policy, Part V of the Planning and Development Act is structured to deliver Social Housing in private housing developments.


Returning to a normally functioning housing and construction sector is critically important in order to support economic growth, social progress and environmental sustainability which will benefit all of our citizens.

While there are many challenges currently facing the housing and the wider construction sectors, we remain fully committed to meeting these challenges.

Ladies and gentlemen thank you for inviting me here today and I wish you every success over the remainder of your conference.

Thank you

Speech to Library Association of Ireland (LAI) & Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Ireland (CILIP) Joint Conference

Education, Heritage, Innovation, Library Services, Science, Skills, Tourism

Library Association of Ireland (LAI) & Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Ireland (CILIP) Joint Conference

Tullamore Court Hotel: 30th March 2017

‘Dynamic Innovative Libraries: Connecting with the User.’
Damien English T.D. Minister for Housing and Urban Renewal.


Check Against Delivery

Good morning everyone and welcome
Thank you for inviting me to address your conference this morning.

As the Minister responsible for the Public Library Service I am delighted to be here with you in Tullamore today.

Today’s theme, Dynamic Innovative Libraries: Connecting with the User’ is especially relevant as we continue in our journey to develop the new Strategy for Libraries 2018-2022.
You will hear more about the progress to date around the new strategy later on and I am delighted to hear that it is going to be ambitious for everyone involved in the Public Library sector.

The strategy will build on the achievements of ‘Opportunities for All’.
It will position the Library Service at the centre of communities. It will keep abreast of technological advancements. And it will enable our library users to engage in many and varied ways.

To quote: Andrew Carnegie:

“A library outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people. It is a never failing spring in the desert.”

Another quote from Albert Einstein:

“The only thing that you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library.”

Over the course of this conference, you will be exploring your connection with service users.  You will examine what innovations can be utilised to improve customer service and to increase library membership.

The connection we have with library members and reaching potential new members is the central objective for the library service.
Through your efforts, libraries are more popular than ever before.  The position of the library as a trusted and supportive community resource continues to grow.

Library visits, for example, continue to increase year-on-year and we expect this to continue.  
In your role you have reached the milestone and connected with over one million library members.

And we need to ensure that when people visit our libraries, we are providing the best service we can.
This is a time; of rapid change.

This is a time; our public libraries are challenged to face and adapt to these changes.

This is a time; for the New Strategy for Libraries to be implemented.
These are exciting times; we can look forward with confidence and enthusiasm as we embrace innovation and changes which develop a library service that is highly valued by all our communities.
In recent years we have expanded the library’s influence in the community.  In what was always a safe place for communities, libraries now offer a range of community focused services which serve to enrich the lives of citizens.  
The delivery of innovative quality services provided by dynamic staff, that’s you, is central to the continued development of our services.

Yes ! This is an exciting time for public libraries in Ireland.

The 3 Main Areas I would like to focus on today are:

1         ‘Opportunities for All’ – Achievements

2         The Next 5 Year Strategy
3         Working Together

Firstly, to look back on ‘Opportunities for All’
We are in the final year of this national public library strategy and we are now looking towards the next phase of national development.
Our aspiration is to continue to build on the accomplishments achieved through the implementation of the strategy.  
I would like to recognise and compliment some of the important achievements that have been made under‘Opportunities for All’ to date.
The Capital Programme 2016 – 2021 of €23M is a very central ambition of the public library strategy.   It will support the development of 16 library capital projects.  It is acknowledged that constant funding is required to update and renew library buildings;
So, I will continue to push to secure additional funding where possible to further this important work.
A huge achievement of note from ‘Opportunities for All’ is that as of January 2016, public library membership in Ireland is free for all users.  This is a huge step as now libraries are fully inclusive and accessible to all.
The Library Management System; (LMS) is a key development which has been rolled out to enhance the library services for the user

The LMS provides one single access to over 15 million items for library users no matter where they live across the country.  It is a significantly enhanced service for users.  

It is a platform for the provision of a single library membership card, universal membership for all children and a national digital library.
The development of the LMS required the work, co-operation and support of library staff from all local authorities and the co-ordination of a dedicated project team in Dublin City Council, with contract management by the LGMA.
From January 2016, the quantities of e-resources available for public library users was greatly increased across the country with the implementation of a national framework for a suite of online resources including:

e-books,                                         e-audio books,        
e-magazines/journals,                         e-learning courses
online languages,                         online newspapers.
All of these services are available to library members within the library and also via remote access from anywhere in the world.
As part of the recommendation under Opportunities for All to deliver enhanced opening hours, three pilot My Open Library sites were established and opened in 2014 / 2015.
Funding was made available by my Department to support the development of a further 20 sites across 18 local authorities.
The ‘My Open Library’ service has been operating very successfully for almost two years here in Offaly; both in Banagher and Tullamore, and in Tubbercurry Community Library in Sligo.
There has been a significant uptake in the use of this service.     To date, there is a 91% increase in ‘My Open Library’ use in Banagher and Tullamore.  

As a result, we now have a very important community service available when people need it most.
The progression of the ‘Right to Read’ initiative nationally is also in train.  Guidelines on implementing literacy support action plans and local ‘Right to Read’ Networks will be circulated shortly by my Department to all Chief Executives of the local authorities.
In 2016, 23 local authorities participated in a pilot study to establish best practice models for the ‘Right to Read’ initiative.  Through their work, models for literacy support services with the potential for national roll-out have now been developed.
This ground-breaking initiative was developed collaboratively.  A framework is being developed under a National Steering Group, chaired by my Department. It includes representation from the City and County Librarians, Libraries Development, LGMA and key stakeholder Departments and national agencies.
Right to Read’ will be led by the library services locally. I believe it is a most important milestone in literacy development because its reach has the potential to improve literacy nationally.
Another excellent initiative from ‘Opportunities for All’ is services to business and enterprise.  This is being advanced to assist business and support job creation and is led by a cross government National Steering Group.
The Group is chaired by my Department and Local Government and has representation from the LGMA and key stakeholder Departments and national agencies.  It is overseeing the development of library services to support business, enterprise and employment in the local community.
Again it has been developed and supported through pilots in libraries.  In 2016, a six-month initiative entitled ‘Work Matters’ was piloted in 10 local authorities. It established a role for public libraries in the support of these sectors
A roll out to 15 more local authorities is underway testing the set of services identified and working with local partners to establish protocols for co-operation, with a view to establishing a national Work Matters offer.
The second main area I want to focus on today is the Next five year strategy.

We need to ensure that the library service is dynamic and in step with, or better still, ahead of a rapidly changing society and that it can meet the requirements of the public.
It is vital that we formulate a blueprint so that libraries can continue to deliver the relevant and valued services to the public that you provide at the moment.
Developing a blueprint for planned progress is a really important and useful device to deliver planned innovations to a uniform and  co-ordinated level.

It is essential to include elements that are progressive, challenging and innovative.
With your input, my Department’s role is to devise the strategy, source the funding and oversee and support its implementation.
The local authorities and specifically the library management and staff deliver the strategy at local level.
The LGMA, as national library advisors, initiate, co-ordinate and monitor its implementation.

Strong co-operation, effective communication and a unified approach to both planning and implementation between the partners are required to deliver successful outcomes.
This is why events such as the City and County Librarians workshops held in February and the library staff workshops held in early March around the country are so important to provide a forum for all library staff to input and bring their insights to the new strategy.
I want to remind you of the dedicated  email address;


for such feedback.  I would encourage everyone to feed into this process by making your views known if you have not done so already.
The views of the public are being sought through a series of focus groups and full public consultation and consultation with other stakeholders and partners is also being arranged.
Public comments of note in a recent focus survey deserve mention.  They portray the importance of the library as a community resource and civic space… comments such as

1.        libraries provide a safe and non-judgmental space in society for all ages’,

2.        Knowledgeable staff, public service, public good and safe space’.

3.        Hard working, skilled & passionate staff who inspire a nation to read and reach levels of income and education that comes with literacy’

These demonstrate ownership and pride in the library service.

They also remind us of the core function of the library which is to promote the educational and restorative practice of reading in all of its forms.

The last area that I would like to touch on today is ‘Working together’

The roles of the essential partners, the local authorities, my Department and the LGMA in developing and delivering the new strategy are complementary, interlinked and supportive.
The feedback and ideas coming from the consultation sessions with library staff held so far has been excellent, with a very positive engagement from all involved.
There has been a robustness in the engagements that reflects well on you all and shows your passion for your profession.  Indeed, the motivation, dedication and professionalism of staff at all levels within the service is inspirational.
Your engagement in the process so far has been most impressive and I am asking you to keep up the momentum.  

In each of the sessions, your participation and contributions provide great ideas for the shape of the new strategy for Public Libraries in Ireland.
Your views show strong consideration for the individual customer and an ambition to position our library service at the centre of the community.

And ultimately, it is you and your staff who will be delivering the strategy so it is crucial that you are 100% behind it and feel a sense of ownership for the future direction of the library service.

To conclude, it is clear that you are very passionate about your role in creating:
 ‘Dynamic Innovative Libraries, Connecting with the User’.
I am fully confident the library’s role in the community will develop and you its custodians are safe hands to expand its reach and connections to support broader community goals.
These words from a recent focus survey on libraries convey this well:
‘I wouldn’t be the person I am without my local library.’

 To quote Katharine Hepburn:

 “What in the world would we do without our libraries?”

Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen and Members.  Thank you for your time.  I wish you all a very enjoyable and productive conference.

Together may we leave a lasting legacy of Libraries for all our communities and all our families.

Policy Forum Ireland Seminar on “Priorities for the housing sector in Ireland”

Action Plan for Housing, Budget 2017, Speeches

Speech by Minister of State Damien English TD
Policy Forum Ireland Keynote Seminar on
“Priorities for the housing sector in Ireland:
Examining the challenges in social and private

housing following Rebuilding Ireland”

Wednesday 29 March 2017
The future of housing policy in Ireland: implementing the Rebuilding Ireland action plan

Check Against Delivery
Introductory Remarks
I would like to thank the Policy Forum Ireland for inviting me to participate in today’s event.

Housing is a top priority for this Government and getting housing right is a key objective in terms of our future. In particular, we need to increase supply across the spectrum – social, affordable, private, rental and purchase.
We have a strong Action Plan in Rebuilding Ireland and Minister Coveney and I are absolutely committed to its effective delivery.

I’m happy to have this opportunity today to outline progress across the five pillars of the Action Plan and future priorities.

It is just over eight months since the launch of Rebuilding Ireland and today we have an opportunity to reflect on some of the things we’ve done thus far, while acknowledging that more needs to be done and is being done.
While housing supply is the core problem we face, the Action Plan is not simply about bricks and mortar.
The aim has to be to build strong communities, quality properties and to meet the diverse and dynamic housing needs of people more effectively than before.

We need to rethink the manner in which housing is provided and Rebuilding Ireland sets the context for reforming our approaches.  

The public expects us to work together to ensure that affordable, quality and accessible housing across all tenure types is available for all who need it and it is in that spirit that I join you here today.

Indeed, it was through a process of engagement that the Government devised Rebuilding Ireland building on the work of the special Oireachtas Committee on Housing.

I believe that such a partnership approach continues to be critically important during the implementation phase.  
Economic and Construction Industry Outlook
Ireland’s recovery from the sharpest economic contraction in its history is now firmly established.

The ESRI’s latest economic projections forecast a baseline sustainable growth rate for the Irish economy of 3% per annum between now and 2025.

Depending on the final form that BREXIT takes, this baseline scenario may vary upwards or downwards but should remain positive.

With GDP continuing to grow at over 3% per annum and with over two million people in employment, as unemployment has fallen to 6.67%, there is now every reason to be confident about the prospects for further economic growth.
National Planning Framework
You can’t talk about the future of housing without making reference to the new National Planning Framework which is currently being developed as a 20 year strategy for spatial development in Ireland.

We need to plan ahead for a radically different Ireland of 2040 including-

·        A national population increase of around 1 million people;

·        More than one-fifth of Ireland’s total population being over 65;

·        More than 500,000 additional people at work;

·        500,000 homes needing locations much closer to services and amenities; and

·        rebuilding community and commercial life in the hearts of our cities and towns and protecting the many qualities of our rural communities.

The development of a Housing State Land Supply Management Strategy is a critical component of the NPF.

A comprehensive public consultation process was put in place and hundreds of submissions have been received.
The views obtained will help shape a draft NPF which is likely to be submitted to Government in the autumn.
Rebuilding Ireland – Action Plan
Rebuilding Ireland is fundamentally about increasing supply.

Our overall target is to increase total housing output to 25,000 homes per year by 2021, effectively doubling the output of 12,600 homes recorded in 2015 prior to the Rebuilding Ireland.  

Around 15,000 dwellings were completed in 2016 and connected by the ESB to the grid. This is an 18% increase in completions year on year. Of these, 6,289 are in the Greater Dublin Area (4,234 in Dublin) and 8,643 in the rest of the country.

This year we expect output to reach 18,000 homes.

We use ESB connections as an overall proxy for housing completions and have done since the 70’s so it’s an important longitudinal comparator. However, the ESB figures are not the only data we use.

We have detailed information on homelessness, social housing delivery and need and on private planning permissions and construction directly from local authorities and we use these data sources to inform policy.  

Overall, while housing supply is increasing, the mix of supply is still a concern in terms of meeting the broad spectrum of current and future demand, particularly in Dublin and other cities.
For example, of the 15,000 in 2016, 42% were one-off dwellings while only 15% were apartments in our cities, 8% were apartments in Dublin, where the need is greatest and less than 1% were apartments in Cork.

In summary, we are beginning to move in the right direction but the supply shortage continues to put pressure on the entire housing system. The supply mix is still off kilter, with too great a proportion of one off housing and not enough apartments in our cities.

We have published all the data and progress reports on the Rebuilding Ireland website. There are detailed quarterly reports on the website outlining specific progress on each action, under every pillar, including actions under the Strategy for the Rental Sector.

You’ll be glad to hear I won’t bring you through every action this morning just some of the highlights.

Homelessness and Social Housing
Addressing homelessness is a top priority for Government. We have a target on ending the use of hotels and increasing the supply of social housing is the way we are going to achieve this.  

The key focus is to deliver an additional 47,000 social homes by local authorities and approved housing bodies through construction, refurbishment, acquisition and leasing.
Additionally, the Housing Assistance Payment will help us accommodate households in the rental sector.

Last year, nearly 18,400 social housing supports were provided from a housing budget provision of €935 million which was expended in full.  This included nearly 5,300 homes built, refurbished and acquired and some 12,000 Housing Assistance Payment tenancies.
A full schedule of the pipeline of social housing projects and a report, setting out the position at end 2016, has been published by the Department last month.  It shows over 500 projects, involving the construction of over 8,400 units, at various stages in the process, and the up-to-date position will be published quarterly.

The Government has put the funding of €5.3 billion and other resources in place and local authorities and Approved Housing Bodies have seriously ramped up their operations and delivery pipeline.  

Building More Homes
Of course we also need more homes for people that don’t qualify for social housing. In terms of the wider housing market the objective is to double housing output to deliver over 25,000 units per annum on average by 2021.

The ambition is that far more of these units will be mixed tenure and available at more affordable prices.
There’s a huge amount of work going on here to help get key large scale sites moving through: providing infrastructure funding, financing and planning reforms.  
In many ways this is the central cornerstone pillar of Rebuilding Ireland where the Government is using all the levers available, working with local authorities and builders, to get idle sites delivering affordable, mixed tenure housing at scale.

Mixed Tenure Housing on State Lands
First of all we need to make sure that we deliver housing where the State has most levers.

We are at an advanced stage of mapping over 700 State-owned lands for residential development purposes; this is a vital initial step in the new State Housing Land Management Strategy I mentioned earlier.

The next step is to ensure that there is a strong plan to mobilise the most suitable local authority and State sites.

In this regard, O’Devaney Gardens; Oscar Traenor Road; St. Michaels Estate and Corkagh/Grange are good examples in Dublin.

There are opportunities here for local authorities, landowners and developers to innovate and deliver quality product, at affordable prices and at scale, 3,000 homes in total.
Dublin City and South Dublin County Council are doing just that for these sites supported by my Department.

Overcoming Infrastructural Deficits
The Dublin Housing Supply Taskforce identified infrastructural barriers to housing and in order to get sites moving as quickly as possible.

Rebuilding Ireland has put in place a €226 million Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund, better known as LIHAF.

This investment will open up lands to deliver up to 20,000 homes by 2019.  
The announcement yesterday of the successful sites means that the necessary planning, design and enabling works will now begin in earnest.

We are taking a joined up policy approach and the Corkagh site in South Dublin will receive LIHAF funding for a road and pumping station that will open up that site for a JV of 1,000 new homes in a great location between the Naas Road and the railway line. This same approach will be repeated across the Country.

Rental Sector Strategy
The Strategy for the Rental Sector, published last December, provides a road map for the development of a badly needed stable, strong and viable rental sector. This will become a real long term choice for people and families.
The Strategy is centred around the the four critical areas of security, supply, standards and services.

The rental sector took the brunt of the unmet demand in recent years and rents increased to unsustainable levels so we needed to help those people and families.

Therefore, a key measure has been the introduction of Rent Pressure Zones, in the four Dublin local authority areas, in Cork city, and in a further 12 designated areas.

This means that rent increases are capped at 4% per annum for the next three years for approximately 55% of tenancies nationally.  

When we examined the rental market, the demand for student accommodation was identified as a particular pressure point.

We therefore targeted the production of purpose-built student accommodation in key urban areas.
As I mentioned earlier, there is huge scope for more apartments to be built for the Rental market particularly in our cities and this is a key focus of our attention at present.

I’d be interested in your thoughts on how we can accelerate the delivery of build-to-rent apartment developments in particular.

Utilising Existing Homes
We are also anxious to get the most out of the housing stock we have. In social housing we have targeted this for a number of years now bringing around 7,000 homes back into use over the last 3 years.

More broadly, preliminary results from Census 2016 indicate that there are just under 200,000 vacant dwellings nationwide, representing approximately 10% of the overall national housing stock.

A Vacant Housing Re-Use Strategy being prepared by the Housing Agency, working with the Department and other stakeholders, is well advanced.

One of the things we need to do is understand that 200,000 figure much better and target the real opportunities in places where demand is highest.

In the meantime, we have put in place a variety of schemes aimed at getting thousands of empty homes back into use.

The Repair and Leasing Scheme launched with funding of €140m over 5 years to allow Local Authorities and Approved Housing Bodies to bring up to 3,500 vacant private houses into social housing use by 2021.  

An investment fund of €32m is available in 2017 which will enable 800 vacant properties to be brought back into use as new homes for families on Local Authority waiting lists.
A Buy and Renew Initiative is also being introduced, with €25m in funding for 2017, which will enable local authorities and Approved Housing Bodies to purchase and remediate private housing units for social housing use.  

This will secure 150 homes for social housing purposes in 2017.

Importantly, a lot of the problem vacant units are not houses but commercial properties.  We are therefore looking at how Planning and Building Control arrangements can be adapted to facilitate and streamline the conversion of unused commercial properties into residential units.
Budget 2017
The level of ambition evident across the five pillars of the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan has been fully supported by Budget 2017.  

Increased and additional housing-related current and capital funding streams, are complemented by a comprehensive package of housing market supports.

The tax rebate for first time buyers is proving to be a game changer in stimulating demand for new homes as it assists buyers in meeting their deposit requirements and gives confidence to builders that homes put on the market will sell.
All in all, the Government is allocating €1.3 billion to housing programmes this year, a transformational 39% increase over 2016.
 This investment will see the housing needs of over 21,000 households being met in 2017 and the early signs in terms of spend and output are very positive.

In conclusion, we are now very much in the implementation phase of the Rebuilding Ireland programme and people expect to see improved delivery of private, rented and social housing.

All in all, I think the record shows that the Government has a strong and comprehensive plan and that the interventions and actions taken are beginning to work.

I have no doubt that the further actions on LIHAF; Vacant Housing and State land management will also have a major impact. But in housing there is no quick fix and bringing on the increased supply will take time.

Finally, I hope you enjoy the forum and will take the opportunity to network and discuss how we can work together to overcome the housing problems we face and achieve the objectives set out under Rebuilding Ireland.


Minister English confirms Navan and Meath to benefit from new Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund

Action Plan for Housing, Action Plan for Jobs, Housing and Urban Renewal, Jobs, Johnstown, Meath, Navan, Rebuilding Ireland, Roads

Tuesday, 28th March 2017

€8,180,000 for projects to create 700 homes, with longterm potential
for 2,170 says Meath based Minister for Housing and Urban Renewal

Navan and Ratoath are to benefit from a new Government fund announced
today to help Meath County Council address significant public
infrastructure deficits, where the lack of enabling and accessing
infrastructure has been hindering the necessary development of

The following are the details of the 2 Meath based projects:

Farganstown, Navan
Access infrastructure to be provided – Distributor Road
No. of Houses to be provided: 400
Long term potential: 1800

Access infrastructure to be provided – Outer Relief Road
No. of Houses to be provided: 300
Long term potential: 370

Minister English said: “The Government is very serious about tackling
Meath and Ireland’s housing crisis. Today’s new fund shows it is a
priority. It represents joined up thinking, pooling of resources and
innovation between local and national Government and private partners
to achieve real results for local communities and for families who
need homes. Today’s announcement is not just about new homes for Navan
and Ratoath, it means that both of these  two communiities and our
County can grow and develop to their full potential in very respect,
economically as well as socially and sustainably.”

Local Fine Gael Councillor for the Navan Area, Cllr. Jim Holloway
said: “The development of the lands at Farganstown has long been a
priority for me as a local Councillor for Navan. I am delighted with
this news today which will mean 400 homes in the short term, with a
long term potential for 1,800 new homes. This development will allow
Navan to reach its full potential, consistent with its Local Area
Plan, the County Development Plan and Meath’s Economic Strategy.
Furthermore it means upwards of 1,800 families into the future have
the dignity and the comfort of a home to call their own, convenient to
where they work, are educated and can play.”


Notes to Editor:

Ø €226million for strategic infrastructure to facilitate housing nationally

Ø 23,000 homes by 2021 is the target

Ø 34  projects across 15 Local Authority areas including Meath announced today

The Government has been aware for some time that the housing crisis
would need to be addressed in a number of different ways.  Pillar 3 of
Rebuilding Ireland: Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness focuses
on increasing overall housing supply and seeks to address the severe
housing shortage in urban areas.  One of the main elements of the
Pillar is the establishment of a €200 million Local Infrastructure
Housing Activation Fund (LIHAF), with €150 million to be provided from
Exchequer funding and matching funding of €50 million from Local

Local authorities were invited to submit proposals for investment in
public infrastructure such as roads, bridges and amenity spaces, with
the objective of relieving critical infrastructural blockages, which
would in turn enable the accelerated delivery of housing on key
development sites and improve the viability of new housing projects in
urban areas of high demand for housing. The call for proposals for the
€200 million fund was announced on 26 August 2016, with a closing date
of 14 October 2016.

English advocates mutual recognition of Irish and UK citizenships post Brexit

Brexit, Business, College, Education, EU, European issues, Funding, Jobs, Meath, Navan, North Meath, Research, Research and Innovation, Skills, Trim, UK, Wesmeath

Monday, 27th March 2017

English advocates mutual recognition of Irish and UK citizenships post Brexit

Damien English, Meath West Fine Gael TD and Minister for Housing and
Urban Renewal, has advocated the mutual recognition by Ireland and the
United Kingdom of each other’s citizenships on a Bi-Lateral basis.

Minister English believes this as a solution to some of the challenges
that will face both countries post Brexit.

Minister English made his remarks in the week that British Prime
Minister Theresa May triggers Article 50 at a Fine Gael public meeting
on Brexit in the Newgrange Hotel in Navan on Monday night.  The
meeting was arranged for members of the public from the constituencies
of Meath West and Meath East.

“Irish and UK citizenships are already quite comparable.  For
instance, we afford each other similar voting rights, there are also
certain historic pre-EU rights in terms of passports and residency.
Many Irish people worked in the UK before returning home, and many
people in border counties still work in the North every day. All of
these people are worried about their current and future pension

“Many Irish students study in the North or on the mainland UK, and
would face crippling international student fees post Brexit. In light
of our enormous shared history with the UK, our volume of trade,
coupled with our common interest in the North and in so many areas
like co-operation in health services, I believe there is a compelling
case for a Bi-Lateral deal between the two counties on citizenship”.

“Such a deal would be in relation to areas that have not been devolved
to EU level, and as such would be outside the remit of the direct
EU/UK talks” Minister English told the Fine Gael public meeting on

“Additionally, Fine Gael in Government will be working with every
sector of the economy and the public service in planning to ensure
Ireland retains its competitive edge in research and innovation as
well as FDI in a post Brexit EU” Minister English concluded.

New jobs and disposable household income on the rise in Meath and Westmeath – English

Action Plan for Housing, Action Plan for Jobs, Budget 2017, Business, Funding, Housing and Urban Renewal, Jobs, Meath, Navan, North Meath, Research and Innovation, Skills, Trim

Thursday, 23rd March 2017

CSO report shows increases in jobs and disposable household income in
all regions of the country

“Recent CSO data shows that disposable income in Meath and Westmeath
households is on the increase.” That’s according to the Minister for
Housing and Urban Renewal and Meath West T.D. Damien English. Minister
English credits a growing economy, with more people back at work, for
this positive development.

“The most recent CSO data shows that in 2014, all regions across the
country showed increases in disposable household income. Here in Meath
there was a 4.5% increase in disposable household income in 2014
compared to 2013, while in Westmeath the figure was 3.1% which was the
highest for any midland county. This positive development is thanks to
our growing economy, which has seen more people back at work.
Unemployment has fallen to 6.6% down from a high of 15.2% back in
2011. There are now over two million people at work.  But we cannot
rest until we reach full employment again locally and nationally”
Minister English said.

“The increase in disposable income obviously has a positive knock on
effect here in Meath in Westmeath as people have a little more money
in their pockets, which is good news for local businesses and services
and spreads the benefits of recovery to all in society.

“We are seeing the evidence of this in the latest Enterprise Ireland
figures, which show that 200 new full and part-time jobs were
delivered in 2016 by the 207 small businesses in Meath that have been
supported by the Local Enterprise Offices. These businesses support a
total of  927 jobs here in Meath. No doubt they will benefit from this
increase in household disposable income locally, and we will see
further jobs created by small businesses. In Westmeath there were 283
new jobs in 265 Local Enterprise Office supported companies,
delivering a new total of 1,375 jobs at the end of 2016 in this

“Fine Gael is working hard to build a fair and compassionate society
with thriving communities across every region of Ireland. In order to
do so we must protect and sustain the economic progress we have made,
so that we can use it benefit the people who need it most. That
economic progress has been hard won over the last 6 years. We cannot
afford to throw it all away on other parties who would risk our

”Fine Gael is working day and night to ensure that every single family
in Meath and Westmeath sees the benefits of an economy that is growing
strongly once again.”

English welcomes extension to closing date for submission of 2017 Nitrates Derogation Applications

Farming, Meath, North Meath, Wesmeath

Thursday, 16th March 2016

Local Minister for Housing and Urban Renewal and Fine Gael T.D. for
Meath West, Damien English, has welcomed the news that the Department
of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has this week announced an
extension to the closing date for submission of 2017 Nitrates
Derogation applications.

Minister English said: “The decision to extend the closing date to
Thursday 13th April 2017 was taken in light of the significant
interest in new Derogation applications. I welcome this extra time for
farmers in Meath West.”

Nitrates Derogation applications can only be submitted online using
the Department’s on-line facilities. Farmers not already registered
for agfood.ie can do so by logging onto www.agfood.ie and clicking the
‘Register’ button.

The Nitrates Derogation documentation is available on the Department’s
website at http://www.agriculture.gov.ie/ruralenvironment/environmentalobligations/nitrates/nitratesderogation/2017derogationforms/


Speech to RGDATA on Town Centres

Action Plan for Housing, Business, Castlepollard, Enfield, Funding, Heritage, Housing and Urban Renewal, Innovation, Jobs, Johnstown, Longwood, Meath, Navan, North Meath, Oldcastle, Rebuilding Ireland, Summerhill, Trim, Wesmeath

Opening Address by

Minister for Housing and Urban Renewal

Damien English T.D

Town Centre Health Check (TCHC) Workshop

16 March 2017

Dublin Castle

Revitalising Ireland’s Towns: Pilot Training Workshop No. 2 (2 of 2)


Ladies and gentleman, as Minister with responsibility for Housing and Urban Renewal, I am delighted to be here with you this morning.


I would like to thank RGDATA and the Heritage Council for the invitation to be here for what promises to be a very interesting and informative workshop.


I would also like to commend both organisations, and their partners, for their continued work towards the development and creation of a robust Town Centre Health Check mechanism for Irish towns.


I understand that significant progress has been made to date under the programme and I wish to acknowledge the concerted efforts of all those involved in the participating pilot towns across the country.


In particular, I welcome the co-operative and inclusive approach being taken by you and all the stakeholders in developing this training programme.



Town Centre Health Checks

Our town centres are much more than simply bricks and mortar. They are the core, the essence, and the lifeblood of our urban areas throughout the country.


It is therefore imperative that they are preserved, maintained and revitalised so that they can be sustainable for generations to come.


Following our recent economic downturn and the negative impacts associated with it, we now face the increasing challenge of ensuring that our town centres can be viable places which will attract people to live in, work in and visit.


One of the most negative and visible impacts of the recent economic downturn has unquestionably been the large levels of vacancy in the retail, commercial and residential sectors in some of our town centres.


The trend of developing new retail centres on the edge of towns has also led to a loss of trade, footfall and vitality within the inner core areas of towns.

The vibrancy of many main streets and urban centres has been threatened by such past actions.


It is my firm belief though, that we now have a great opportunity to develop and plan for our Town Centres so that they not only survive, but they thrive.


I believe also that the Town Centre Health Check training programme will contribute strongly to seizing the opportunity for our urban centres across the country.


It focusses on utilising best practice, including international best practice, in developing shared and integrated approaches to town centre renewal, across all sectors – retail, commercial and residential – which will also support Government policies and strategies for our towns.


The reality is that if our urban areas are to survive and thrive, they need more residents supplemented by nearby retail units and services – the two are interdependent.


This is largely what the Town Centre Health check concept is aimed at addressing – revitalising our towns and enhancing their economic sustainability – and both Minister Coveney and I are fully supportive of this approach.


Government priority on Urban Regeneration

The Programme for a Partnership Government, published in May 2016, sets out the ambitious priority attached to the area of urban regeneration by the current Government. It includes a series of specific actions aimed at facilitating the regeneration of our urban centres.


The Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness – Rebuilding Ireland, published in July 2016, further reinforces the Government’s commitment to the area of urban regeneration.


This proposes a further range of measures in this area, as does the recent Action Plan for Rural Development – published in January 2017 by Minister Humphries – which has a more specific focus and objective of preserving and enhancing rural towns and villages, as well as their surrounding communities.

In the context of Rebuilding Ireland, I am presently chairing an Urban Renewal Working Group comprising senior representatives from my Department, local authorities and other relevant bodies with a view to bringing forward proposals for new urban regeneration measures.


Measures that will support those already in place, including my Department’s Social Housing Regeneration Programme and the recently announced “Repair and Lease” and the “Buy and Renew” schemes.


Having regard to my Ministerial responsibilities, vacancy and dereliction in urban areas is an issue that I have a particular interest in.


Consequently a key focus of the Working Group has been on measures to address vacancy in urban areas, of both residential and commercial premises, with a view to bringing currently vacant units back into productive use.


We are now nearing the conclusion of the Working Group’s deliberations.

It is my intention to announce the new urban regeneration measures arising from that process in the near months ahead. Measures that will be designed to help our Town Centres to survive and thrive.


Sustainable urban development

The challenges facing Ireland today are undoubtedly complex ones. This is particularly the case in cities and urban areas having regard to:

  • the ongoing increase in population,
  • increasing migration,
  • changing demographic trends, and
  • the ongoing increasing urbanisation of society as more and more people gravitate towards living in larger urban areas.


Cities and towns are the main drivers of economic activity, competing to attract skills, investment and employment.


It is consequently important that a comprehensive, holistic and integrated approach is adapted to sustainable urban development.


Enhancing the desirability and “liveability” of our urban centres through good place-making, and promoting well-managed, liveable, safe, socially inclusive, resource-efficient and environmentally sustainable urban areas is key to this.


In this regard, key urban place-making incorporates a range of complex and inter-related issues:

  • the design of public spaces;


  • the provision of supporting infrastructure and public realm;


  • the need for more compact and efficient urban design;


  • increased housing density maximizing the use of available land to help combat urban sprawl;


  • the provision of necessary facilities, including retail, as well as other supporting amenities and open spaces;


  • the prioritisation of sustainable transport modes;


  • increasing energy efficiency;


  • as well as tackling deprivation and related social issues in communities.


The overlapping nature of these quite complex, distinct and diverse range of issues is such that there is a need to consider an overall strategy.

A national, comprehensive and forward-looking urban policy – that will allow the opportunities in urban areas to be fully realised.


One that will enshrine that the right development will take place in the right location, at the right time.


National Planning Framework – Ireland 2040

All of this requires a comprehensive and integrated overarching framework approach to planning, to design and to the provision of supporting infrastructure and services.


This applies whether we are improving the existing urban environment already in place, accommodating new development, or both.


In this connection, my Department is currently in the process of developing a new spatial plan for Ireland, a National Planning Framework entitled Ireland 2040.


Public consultation has already commenced and which it is intended will be finalised and published later this year.

The new plan will set out an overarching, long-term framework to guide future development in terms of the Government objectives – including in relation to urban development – to be taken account of in the subsequent development of regional strategies, local authority development plans and LAP’s.


In setting out a national vision for the future development and growth of Ireland to 2040, a key policy consideration will be how we best manage our urban centres, development in and around those urban centres, as well as how we control the urban sprawl associated with urban growth centres.


In the last twenty years, 45% of Ireland’s population growth (more than 500,000 people), occurred in just six local authority areas, each of which adjoin, but none of which include, Dublin, Cork and Galway.


Against this background, it is therefore important in the context of our new national spatial plan that the focus of investment and development will be spread more widely than in the past to act as a counter-balance to Dublin, thereby facilitating more balanced regional development of the country as a whole.

Concluding remarks

By way of conclusion, cities and towns are where most of our population now congregate and it is therefore imperative that in this context, every effort is made to make our urban centres more sustainable.


To make our urban centres better places in which to live, work and do business in for all of our citizens. Together we can put the plans in place to facilitate this and the Town Centre Health Check is important in this regard.


I renew my congratulations, support and thanks to Alison Harvey from the Heritage Council, to Tara Buckley and RGDATA.


I thank you all for engaging in your local Town Centre.


Together we can ensure that or town centres survive.


Together we will help our town centres thrive.

Thank you.

Minister English visits Briody Group and highlights their innovation and enterprise

Action Plan for Jobs, Business, Innovation, Jobs, Meath, Oldcastle

Friday, 10th March 2017

Oldcastle group employs 90 full time people across it’s 3 businesses
Minister for Housing and Urban Renewal and Meath West Fine Gael T.D. Damien English paid a recent visit to the Briody Group of companies in Oldcastle. He was joined on his visit by 5th and 6th students of the local St. Fiach’s National School.
Speaking about his visit, Minister English said: “Any company based in rural Ireland, like the Briody Group, that can withstand the hardship of the 80’s and the more recent crash is a success story in itself. But they have not rested on their previous successes, they continue to innovative to ensure they are shaping new thinking and new developments in their sector, rather than reacting to them. Their work with St. Fiach’s National School locally will help to foster a whole new generation of innovators and entrepeneurs, as well as showing young people that you can make a life and step up a business in rural Ireland”
The Briody Group consist of Briody Bedding Ltd, Bona Vista Ltd and Deerpark Ltd. They have been in business for 40 years manufacturing bedroom furniture, mattresses, divan bases and upholstered headboards. Across the 3 businesses they employ 90 people on a full time basis. The company was founded by the late Benny and his wife Brid in 1976 and their legacy is continued by their four children Bridget, Martin, Brendan and David. In 2015 they were awarded Bedding Supplier of the Year by Harvey Norman, Briody Bedding Ltd were named Best Small-Medium Enterprise at the Meath Business and Tourism Awards 2016 and Briody Bedding Ltd have again been recognised by being included as a finalist in the upcoming Small Firms Association awards in March.
On their tour the 5th and 6th class students took in the whole process from production to dispatch, as well as the administration side of things. The pupils were then invited to submit product designs, Dragon’s Den style, to the product development team.

Minister Damien English welcomes rollout of the Repair and Leasing Scheme for vacant houses in Meath

Action Plan for Housing, Housing and Urban Renewal, Meath, Navan, North Meath, Trim

The Minister of State for Housing and Urban Renewal Damien English TD,
today (10 March, 2017) welcomed the scheme that targets vacant
properties and secures them for social housing, by financing the cost
of repairs, as it was rolled out in Meath. This year nationally €32m
has been provided for the scheme. This means that up to 800 vacant
properties can be brought back into use nationally as new homes for
families on local authority waiting lists.

Minister English said, “The scheme is demand-led which means the more
leases the local authority secures the more funding they get.  This is
a great opportunity for owners of vacant houses with the local
authority financing of the cost of repairs.  In fact they don’t even
have to get involved in arranging the works – the local authority will
do that – and in return they get a secure and reliable income from
regular rental payments, without having to take on landlord
responsibilities. I want to see Meath County Council making the most
of this scheme and I want to see them maximising the benefits for the
people of Meath.”

The Department is currently working with local authorities to
implement the scheme on a local basis.  A range of Approved Housing
Bodies around the country have also expressed an interest in working
with local authorities to deliver new social homes using the scheme.
“I see these bodies having a significant role in its success – their
local knowledge, experience of managing refurbishment projects, as
well as being good landlords will be invaluable” said the Minister.

The scheme will be monitored very closely this year in order to ensure
that it works and is cost effective. This approach will also assist in
understanding the real potential of the scheme over the coming years.

The Repair and Leasing Scheme is one of a number of initiatives in
Rebuilding Ireland to address vacant properties around the country.
Other initiatives include the Buy and Renew Scheme which provides
funding for local authorities to purchase vacant properties and
remediate them and a new National Vacant Housing Re-Use Strategy which
is currently being finalised.

Property owners interested in the scheme should contact their local
authority directly and register their interest.



The scheme is targeted at owners of vacant properties who cannot
afford or access the funding required to bring them up to the standard
for rental property. Subject to the suitability of the property for
social housing, and the agreement of the property owner, the cost of
the necessary repairs will be met upfront by the local authority or an
approved housing body (AHB). This allows for the property owner to
sign-up to a lease arrangement for a length that is linked to the
value of the repairs, subject to a minimum of 10 years. The value of
the repairs will then be offset incrementally against the agreed
rental payment over a defined period within the lease.

A property owner can either choose to arrange a contractor to carry
out the repairs themselves, or the local authority or AHB can arrange
this instead. Property owners will not be required to take on landlord
responsibilities and the local authority or AHB will have on-going
management and maintenance responsibilities in respect of the

The local authority will determine the eligibility for the scheme
having regard to the location and the suitability of the property for
social housing and also taking into consideration the extent of the
repairs that may be required. The maximum costs of repairs allowable
under this initiative will be €40,000.

Between 2017 and 2021 it is anticipated that 3,500 units will be
secured for social housing through the scheme. A budget of €140m will
support this activity.

The success of the national pilot will determine the delivery
expectation in 2018 and future years and the financial requirements.