29th April 2011
Mr. Phil Hogan TD
Minister for the Environment Heritage and Local Government
Re: Building Regulations and Consumer Protection Issues.
I wish to congratulate you on your success at the recent election and wish you well in your new Ministerial appointment.
It is good to note that we now have a Minister familiar with the problems associated with consumer and environmental protection in the field of wastewater treatment systems for domestic wastewater.
You may recall our, and others’, presentation to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Environment where you called for-
- Effective standards.
- Joined up regulation.
- Guarantees as to performance and durability of systems, and credible certification.
- Effective policing of industry.
You may also recall our correspondence to you, and to all members of the Oireachtas, on the subject.
Our lobbying was actuated by frustration with the bunker mentality in the Department and its unofficial subservience to the construction industry, which for many years has prevented any logical and realistic reappraisal of the Building Regulations.
Even suggestions for simple measures have been ignored, such as
- Requiring construction products to be CE marked.
- Requiring contractors and sub-contractors, under local authority supervision, to certify that their materials and workmanship are fit for purpose and conform to recognised standards.
Such measures, which are the norm throughout the EU and beyond, would provide some consumer protection and would have no cost implications for the exchequer.
Your predecessor, before leaving office, signed into law a minor amendment to part H of the Building Regulations.
You will know from your service on the Joint Committee, and your wider experience, that the problem goes much deeper than a simple amendment to Part H.
The recommendations of the Oireachtas Joint Committee, the Grant Thornton Report on Irish Building Regulations and the European Court of Justice Ruling on the septic tank issue must be taken into consideration in a general revision of the regulations.
From even a cursory reading of the Executive Summary of the Grant Thornton Report it will be evident that the Building Regulations in their current format are not fit for purpose and must be redrafted.
The Department purports to be advised on technical matters by the Building Regulations Advisory Board (BRAB).
This body, strangely, contains:-
- No representation from the engineering professions, nor indeed any engineer with appropriate wastewater treatment experience.
- No representation from the National Consumer Agency, despite the stated purpose of the Building Regulations to be to provide for the safety, health and welfare of people in and around buildings.
As previous Ministers appeared to be either incapable or unwilling to address the negligence which has brought the condemnation of the European Court, it is refreshing to read that you are taking measures to bring the country into line with EU standards.
It is also to be hoped that you will not be deflected by the intransigent attitude of the Department, which has always being intent in maintaining the status quo, to the determent of both the consumer and the environment.
Again may I congratulate you on your appointment and welcome your attention on this most important issue.
For your information I enclose some recent correspondence on the matter.
We are available to assist in any way and should you require clarification on any point please contact me.
Managing Director, BioCycle Ltd.