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Particulates from solid fuel burning pose threat to health, warns EPA

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Fine particulate matter arising from burning solid fuels remains the biggest contributor to poor air quality in Ireland, with “worrying localised issues” in cities, towns and villages, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Monitored levels of particulate matter were above World Health Organisation (WHO) air-quality guideline values – either annual or daily – at 38 of 67 monitoring stations last year, mainly as a result of pollution from the burning of solid fuel for home heating, according to the 2020 Air Quality in Ireland report from the agency.

While air quality was generally good, the main threat to public health is from tiny particles known as PM2.5 and PM10, the report concludes.

It reiterates that air pollution is responsible for an estimated 1,300 premature deaths in the State per year.

In a similar pattern to carbon emissions, air pollution from traffic fell at all monitoring stations last year, particularly at urban roadside locations, as a consequence of reduced traffic volumes due to Covid-19 restrictions, the report issued on Tuesday confirms.

Open fires

Ireland compares favourably with many of its European neighbours, the report finds. However, Ireland was above WHO air-quality guidelines for particulate matter (PM), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and ozone at 52 monitoring sites, mostly due to the burning of solid fuel. The WHO standards are more demanding than EU limits though air pollution is the single biggest environmental health risk in Europe.

Burning coal, peat and wood in stoves, especially in open fires, is an inefficient process – a lot of heat is lost and not all the fuel is fully burned. Unburnt particles leave the fireplace or stove by the chimney or go directly into the room they are heating. This causes both indoor and outdoor PM air pollution.

It “greatly impacts respiratory and cardiovascular health. This is particularly problematic in or near villages, towns and cities because of the cumulative effects of multiple sources of the pollutant and the large numbers of people exposed,” the EPA points out.

“The choices we make in how we heat our homes and how we travel directly impact the quality of the air we breathe,” the report adds.

Ireland was compliant with EU legal limits in 2020, largely assisted by the significant reduction in traffic due to Covid-19 restrictions. Air pollution from traffic – nitrogen dioxide (NO2) – fell at all monitoring stations, but most notably at urban-traffic locations where levels fell by up to 50 per cent.

Urban areas

Levels of particulate matter, however, are of growing concern and are particularly high during the winter months when solid fuel use increases, the EPA warns. Any movement towards cleaner home-heating choices and less smoky solid fuel choices will result in a subsequent improvement on air quality, it adds.

Dr Micheál Lehane, director of the EPA’s office of radiation protection and environmental monitoring, said there were “dramatic and immediate decreases in air pollution in our urban areas due to reduced traffic volumes associated with Covid-19”.

He added: “As we now start to travel more, we must not lose sight of the obvious link between our journey choices and levels of traffic-derived air pollutants. Pollutants from traffic have a negative impact on people’s health and our actions, as individuals, do impact the air we breathe.”

With exceedances of WHO air-quality guideline values at many locations, EPA programme manager Pat Byrne said “it is imperative that we each, as individuals, make cleaner air choices when deciding how to heat our homes, as this can improve our local air quality and have associated health benefits”.

The Government has announced new regulations on the use of solid fuels will come into force in 2022 – all coal products sold will be required to be low-smoke and all wood sold for immediate use must have a moisture content of 25 per cent or less.

“This is a positive step for air quality, which will need to be supported by clear communications to ensure public engagement and the best outcome for air quality and health,” the report says.

Outdoor air pollution causes an estimated 4.2 million deaths per year worldwide due to stroke, heart disease, lung cancer and chronic respiratory diseases. In children and adults, both short- and long-term exposure can lead to reduced lung function, respiratory infections and aggravated asthma.

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Fears for UK housing market amid sharp slowdown in price growth

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Fears for UK housing market as latest data shows sharp slowdown in price growth after mortgage costs rocket

There were fears the UK housing market has begun to splutter after fresh data showed price growth had dramatically slowed.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the average UK house price increased by 7.8 per cent in the year to June, sharply down on May when prices jumped 12.8 per cent.

The slowdown followed similar assessments from mortgage lenders such as Halifax, which this month said prices fell in July for the first time in over a year.

The Office for National Statistics reported that the average UK house price increased by 7.8% in the year to June, sharply down on May when prices jumped 12.8%

The Office for National Statistics reported that the average UK house price increased by 7.8% in the year to June, sharply down on May when prices jumped 12.8%

‘We are seeing the end of an era of consistent rapid house price growth and the start of a new chapter characterised by economic instability,’ said Andy Sommerville, director at property data firm Search Acumen.

He forecast house price growth stalling or falling, as inflation and interest rate rises take the heat out of demand, which had been ‘exponentially outstripping supply since the pandemic.’

It comes as mortgage costs have jumped after the Bank of England raised its benchmark lending rate from 0.1 per cent in December to 1.75 per cent this month in an effort to curb inflation.

Yesterday housebuilder Persimmon reported a profit of nearly £440million for the first half of the year, down from £480million in 2021. ‘

As the pressure on people’s finances grows it is going to become increasingly difficult for them to afford to move house,’ said AJ Bell analyst Danni Hewson.

She added that Persimmon’s ability to build was hit by ‘shortages of skilled labour and materials.’ Its share price fell 7.8 per cent, or 145p, to 1704p.

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People in Weoley Castle, Birmingham are at ‘the end of their tether’ over massive pile of rubbish

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Neighbours are at ‘the end of their tether’ over massive pile of rubbish in council flat garden including fridges, trollies and furniture that has been growing for 10 YEARS

  • The garden in Weoley Castle, Birmingham, has been used as a dumping ground 
  • The pile of rubbish has been growing for over a decade and is now attracting rats
  • Next door neighbour Darren Holden, 52, said ‘something has to be done’ 
  • A video shows the garden overflowing with old mattresses, fridges and trollies 

Furious neighbours are fed-up after a council flat garden that has been used as a dumping ground for rubbish for more than a decade is now starting to attract rats.

Hospital worker Darren Holden, 52, from Weoley Castle in Birmingham, said he and his fellow neighbours are ‘reaching the end of their tether’ after the pile of waste, which includes fridges, trollies and furniture, has been building for 10 years.

Video footage of his neighbour’s garden shows a sea of discarded household appliances, including what looks like a bathtub and mattress, as well broken bits of wood scattered across the garden.

Mr Holden said the garden belongs to an elderly tenant who lives in the council flat above his own and is understood to have a medical condition.

The frustrated resident said: ‘The other neighbours and myself are just getting sick of it. We’re getting rats in our gardens and it’s getting worse and worse every year.

‘I’ve lived in the property for 14 years and I’d say this has been going on for up to ten years now. Some of the neighbours have to look at all the rubbish from their windows.

‘I’ve seen rats in my garden – my dog chased one off the other day.’

Darren Holden, 52, from Weoley Castle, Birmingham, is 'reaching the end of his tether' after the garden next door to his home has been used a dumping ground for more than 10 years. The ever-growing rubbish pile, which includes a fridges, trollies and a mattress, is now attracting rats.

Darren Holden, 52, from Weoley Castle, Birmingham, is ‘reaching the end of his tether’ after the garden next door to his home has been used a dumping ground for more than 10 years. The ever-growing rubbish pile, which includes a fridges, trollies and a mattress, is now attracting rats. 

Everyday Mr Holden has to walk through the rubbish-strewn garden to get from his home into his own garden.

Despite making a complaint to Birmingham City Council years ago, when the mound of waste first started to build, he heard nothing back.

He added: ‘It’s full of old fridge freezers with the doors taken off, air fryers, televisions, baby baths, old chairs, lots of wood, bed bases, chairs, glass – you name it, it’s in there.

‘I saw a shopping trolley from Asda in the road the other day then noticed the next day it was in the garden.

‘I have complained to the council before but nothing happened, I didn’t hear back. Then it just carried on getting worse.’

Broken bits of wood, household appliances and chairs are some of the items that have been chucked into the garden over the last decade. Mr Holden first made a complaint to Birmingham City Council years ago but he never got a response. The council has now said it has issued a warning to the tenant to clean the garden within the next 14 days.

Broken bits of wood, household appliances and chairs are some of the items that have been chucked into the garden over the last decade. Mr Holden first made a complaint to Birmingham City Council years ago but he never got a response. The council has now said it has issued a warning to the tenant to clean the garden within the next 14 days. 

Mr Holden said he does not want to cause any issues for the elderly man who owns the garden but wants the council to provide him with help to clean it up.

He added: ‘I’m at the end of my tether now and don’t know what to do. Enough is enough, people are getting fed up and I’m not putting up with it anymore.

‘I don’t want to cause any issues for the guy who lives there – he’s elderly and lives alone so he probably just needs some help. But something has to be done.’

The Weoley Castle garden is strewn with discarded fridges, trollies, furniture, household appliances, mattresses and broken bits of wood.

The garden is believed to be owned by an elderly man with a medical condition. Mr Holden said he wants the council to help the resident.

The council flat garden is believed to be owned by the elderly man who lives above Mr Holden. Mr Holden said he does not ‘want to cause any issues to the guy who lives there’ but added that something had to be done. 

Birmingham City Council said it has now contacted the tenant and issued a warning letter to clear the garden within the next 14 days.

A spokesperson for the council said: ‘We have been in contact with the tenant about the items left in their front garden and the impact this is having on the local community.

‘They have been issued with a warning letter to clear the garden in the next 14 days. We are working with the tenant to resolve this.’

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Hundreds queue for one rental property in Dublin as Irish capital’s housing shortage in crisis

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Over 150 potential tenants queued to view a single rental property in Dublin last night as Ireland grapples with a housing crisis.

A long queue formed along St Brendans Road in Dublin on Tuesday night, with over 100 people queuing for a viewing at the three-bedroom house at 8.30pm. 

Within 30 minutes, even as the sun set, a further 50 people joined the queue to view the property, which costs €1,850 a month, in the city.

Conor Finn, who posted footage of the long queues, tweeted that he had waited for an hour in the queue before leaving without viewing the property.

‘An hour later and I’ve left the queue after no real movement or chance of viewing the house tonight,’ Finn said on Tuesday night at 9.30pm. ‘People were still joining the end of the queue as I left.’

Ireland’s economy is booming as the republic offers low corporation tax rates to tech and pharmaceutical companies such as Google – and pandemic-enhanced revenues from those companies has meant the republic is enjoying a €8bn corporate tax windfall.

But employees from these companies have flooded into the country, meaning the demand for properties in Ireland have soared. They are also able to afford to pay higher prices for houses and renting a property, meaning costs have soared.

This, coupled with a shortage of properties, has meant Ireland is facing a housing crisis and one estate agents in Dublin have even had to introduce a lottery system for viewings after they received 1,200 applications for one home.

Over 150 potential tenants queued to view a single rental property in Dublin last night as Ireland grapples with a housing crisis

Over 150 potential tenants queued to view a single rental property in Dublin last night as Ireland grapples with a housing crisis

A long queue formed along a street in Dublin on Tuesday night, with over 100 people queuing for a house viewing at around 8.30pm

A long queue formed along a street in Dublin on Tuesday night, with over 100 people queuing for a house viewing at around 8.30pm

A long queue formed along a street in Dublin on Tuesday night, with over 100 people queuing for a house viewing at around 8.30pm

Demand for rental accommodation in Dublin has grown from already sky high levels in recent months – to such a degree that Ireland’s largest private landlord could have recently filled a new apartment block 30 times over, its chief executive said on Thursday. 

Chronic supply shortages pushed Irish rental properties to a new record low this month, with just 716 homes available to a population of 5.1 million people as of August 1, property website Daft.ie said in a report on Wednesday last week.

Irish Residential Properties REIT (IRES) Chief Executive Margaret Sweeney told Reuters that it received 600 requests to view 20 new apartments it listed last month near Dublin’s city centre.

The 61-unit development was fully occupied within a week of the builders completing the project, she added.

‘We’re definitely seeing much greater demand, there is a real shortage of good available accommodation. We’ve seen it increasing month-on-month,’ Sweeney said in a telephone interview.

‘It’s coming through in the fundamentals, unemployment is even lower than it was pre-COVID, there’s been quite strong FDI (foreign direct investment). We’ve a very young population as well as less emigration than previous decades.’

Estate agents Brock Delappe in Dublin said they have been forced to operate a ‘lottery system’ when choosing who can view properties because they have been inundated with applications.  

Within 30 minutes, even as the sun set, a further 50 people joined the queue to view the property in the city.

Within 30 minutes, even as the sun set, a further 50 people joined the queue to view the property in the city

Within 30 minutes, even as the sun set, a further 50 people joined the queue to view the property in the city

Ireland is facing a housing crisis due to a shortage in houses coupled with soaring demand

Ireland is facing a housing crisis due to a shortage in houses coupled with soaring demand

David Brock, an estate agent at the firm, said that there have been 1,200 applications for a single property.

‘The knock-on of that is, while the rent is low, you can only rent it out to one person and then you have got 1,999 disappointed people,’ Brock told Newstalk

‘When we’re doing the lettings and it comes to that, we need to operate a lottery system, which is unfair as well. You meet a lot of people who are desperate.’ 

While Ireland built too many homes in the wrong places in the 2000s, supply has since constantly fallen short of demand and rents have long passed their previous peak, limiting prospective buyers’ ability to save a deposit.

A years-long mismatch between low supply and high demand in Ireland has been compounded by two shutdowns of the construction sector in the past 18 months to slow the spread of Covid-19.

The resultant stalling in the building of new homes and a high number of well-paid employees at tech companies moving to Ireland has contributed to house prices rising again and rents increasing. 

In 2009, there were over 23,400 homes available to rent in Ireland – nearly 8,000 in Dublin and 15,500 elsewhere. In contrast there were less than 300 homes to rent in Dublin and 424 elsewhere on August 1 this year. 

Ronan Lyons, who wrote the Daft.ie report, said: ‘A resurgent economy over the last year has accentuated the chronic shortage of rental housing in Ireland.

‘The shortage of rental accommodation translates directly into higher market rents and this can only be addressed by significantly increased supply.’

Last month, Irish officials claimed Britain’s Rwanda policy has triggered a surge in refugees arriving in Ireland, reports The Telegraph.

But that is just one factor – the Irish government said that the country has seen an increase of refugees due to the pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

The unprecedented number of refugees arriving in Ireland has put pressure on the country’s housing crisis, despite generous offers to host Ukrainian families.

The shortage of accommodation has become so critical that around 4,300 Ukrainian refugees are set to be displaced this month, reports the Irish Independent. They are being housed in hotels and hospital accommodation. 



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