Council needs to take estates with problematic waste water treatment systems in charge
Cllr Lisa McDonald successfully brought a motion to the county council last Monday to have the developer-lead estates including their waste water treatment systems taken in charge by Wexford County Council.
Cllr McDonald told the meeting that she was concerned following the replies received from officials at the previous Council meeting in March where the council appeared to be washing their hands of estates where troublesome waste water treatment systems existed.
'Circular PL5/14 which was issued at the time Irish Water was set up clearly states that Wexford County Council remains a water authority', she said reading from the circular. She said the difficulty was compounded by the fact that this issue was parked when Irish Water was set up. However, it was not the fault of the ordinary purchaser who bought their properties in good faith, often paying expensive stamp duty, their council contributions and management charges to boot.
She told the meeting that the Council had had 12 years to inspect the finish on these estates and bring enforcement proceedings against errant developers for shoddy workmanship. Most of these developers are now liquidation and some of their insurance bonds-had been allowed expire.
Referencing a previous discussion on the cost of the unfinished estates, Cllr McDonald said she didn't care how much it cost as the council had already been paid contributions and bonds.
'Legally and morally the council must take these estates in charge and cannot turn a blind eye - ordinary people who didn't ask for this are suffering and cannot be asked to pay further monies. How would you all like to have sewerage bubbling up in your back or front yards.'
She also cited a recent High Court decision where the Westpark Residents Association from Spanish Point, Co Clare, brought Judicial Review proceedings to have their estate including its troublesome waste water treatment system in charge. The residents were successful and this has major implications for all county councils including Wexford.
Cllr Michael Sheehan supported Cllr McDonald's motion saying that people are in 'legal limbo because Irish Water and the County Council won't do its duty'.
Director of Service Tony Larkin said Cllr McDonald was correct but said he took issue with the implication that the council is sitting back and doing nothing.
'The difficulty we have is a legal issue. Planing law does require the council to take estates in charge but we need the approval of Irish Water so that we can transfer the estates to them.'
He said that the problem then arose with the maintenance of estates adding that he was aware of the Clare case. He said he had instructed staff at Wexford County Council to identify estates around the county which fall into this category adding he expected to be in the region of between 30 and 40 estates at least.
He said it is a frustrating issue but said 'if I take estates in charge it will be a significant headache for the water department because of Irish Water's position.'
Cllr McDonald advised the Director to bring the resolution to the attention of Minister Coveney and convey to him that funding and support was needed. She reminded the Council of the €10 million that Brendan Howlin had given in the last government to a fund towards unfinished estates.
'What is this government doing about it?' she asked.