Mica homeowners who are waiting on their applications to progress with Donegal County Council are to get their engineer’s fees refunded.
A document is due to be sent to the council in the next three weeks with instructions to repay the fees to homeowners who are engaging with the Defective Concrete Blocks Grant Scheme.
Up to 250 applicants are at the waiting stage as the council awaits clarity from the Department of Housing on a revised scheme.
Homeowners will also be able to access the promised emergency grant of up to €5,000 within the next three weeks. The grant provides for essential health and safety works, on foot of an engineer’s recommendation, for houses that need remediation urgently.
The updated measures were confirmed at a meeting in Lifford yesterday between representatives of Donegal County Council’s Mica Redress Committee and Government Officials.
However, many other elements of the meeting were described as “disappointing” by Councillor Martin McDermott, Chair of the Mica Redress Committee.
Councillors have yet to receive confirmation of the removal of the controversial sliding scale which was announced as part of the revised scheme in November.
“There is no guarantee it’s gone, it will hopefully go, but that has to be determined by the National Standards Authority,” Cllr McDermott told Donegal Daily.
Councillors also learned that the revised scheme may not be in place for at least six months.
Cllr McDermott said: “They are saying that legislation won’t be finished until late March/early April and that will have to go through the Houses of Oireachtas after that. You are probably looking at summertime before this scheme is really up and running, and probably by September before everything is in place. Hopefully now the TDs and government can put a bit of pressure on the Department to escalate that so it can be sooner.
“It’s disappointing, there’s no point in sugar coating this, it’s important that people know definite timelines and dates. People are sitting out there waiting on this, it’s probably at least six months away, at best, people need to know the truth.”
Another important element of the scheme that was discussed yesterday was an update to the IS465 protocol. The protocol is due to be reviewed by the National Standards Authority in the coming weeks. The review, Cllr McDermott said, will see if IS465 is fit for purpose in conjunction with new data, which found that there are other deleterious materials that need to be taken into consideration alongside the testing of foundations.
“That is going to happen and take a number of months, but we are happy that has happened because it’s something we are really pushing for,” he said.
Overall, Cllr McDermott said that a long and difficult road lies ahead before a suitable redress scheme is rolled out.
“There is a lot of good things happening, we will have a very good scheme when this is done and if it takes a ew months extra to do this, we can’t go back, we can only go forward,” he said.
“We have 10 years spent at this and we are nearly at a point where we will have a scheme with hopefully no sliding scale and a scheme that lets people get their houses fixed at no cost to them.”