Call for action on derelict properties

Cork County Council has been urged to clean up its act when dealing with owners who are doing nothing about 300 derelict properties.

Fianna Fáil councillor Seamus McGrath has received a report which shows many of those buildings have been on the local authority’s derelict sites register for more than 10 years.

Mr McGrath, who requested the report from council officials, said it confirms that dereliction is a significant problem in the region’s towns and villages and “can seriously detract from the overall appearance of an area”.

The report showed that there are currently 201 derelict sites in West Cork, with the majority of them having been on the register since 1991.

In North Cork, a further 63 are on the register, with 36 on it for more than 10 years, 18 for around five years, and the remainder added since 2012.

Officials said they have made some progress in South Cork in recent years as the number of sites had been reduced since 2012 from 29 to 23.

However, since town councils were abolished last June, a further 29 sites are under investigation in the South Cork area.

As a deterrent, the local authority can impose a 3% levy of the market value of the property on its owner every year in an effort to ensure that the owner either do it up or sell it to somebody willing to undertake the work.

However, Mr McGrath said such a small levy was not working.

“The report I have received is clear proof that placing properties on the Derelict Sites Register is not a sufficient deterrent to force some property owners to act,” said Mr McGrath.

“I previously suggested increasing the annual levy to 10%, but this would require a legislative change.

“As a councillor, I am frustrated at the lack of progress on many of the derelict buildings and I believe the council must apply extra resources to this area and utilise all the powers available.”

A council spokesman said: “The opportunity to commit significant resources to maintaining an ongoing and consistent programme of work on dereliction has been severely hampered by the reduction in manpower across the organisation.”

The local authority has lost nearly a quarter of its workforce since 2008, when the recession started to bite, and it is not allowed to replace its clerical staff due to an embargo on recruitment.

“Dereliction can be demoralising for community groups, such as a residents’ committees, tidy towns groups and so on who work hard to improve areas often with the presence of derelict buidings in prominent locations,” said Mr McGrath,

He maintained that the local authority has not used the ultimate power available under the act, which allows it to compulsorily acquire a derelict building in certain circumstances.

“In certain cases, for example, a property in a prominent location which has been on the register for many years and where the owner is not responding to the Council’s requests, then this option should be pursued,” said Mr McGrath.


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