Cork County Council is seeking permission from the Department of Environment to increase the penalties it can impose on derelict sites owners.
The council is writing to Environment Minister Phil Hogan following a motion from Fianna Fáil councillor Seamus McGrath aimed at reducing the blemish which such buildings inflict on towns and villages.
At present, the county council can levy a fine on derelict site owners for every year they fail to bring their properties up to scratch. The fine is set at 3% of the estimated value of the building.
However, Mr McGrath said this paltry figure did not force many owners to do up their buildings.
“Many of these properties are only worth €20,000 or €30,000,” said Mr McGrath. “So a 3% levy isn’t a deterrent. That should be increased 10%, which might then force the owners to act.”
Fianna Fáil councillor Christopher O’Sullivan said derelict buildings detracted from the beauty of many villages in West Cork and agreed more drastic action was needed.
Fine Gael councillor Tim Lombard said the council might look at acquiring more of the run-down buildings via Compulsory Purchase Orders.
Fine Gael councillor Gerard Murphy said that, in some cases, it was difficult to establish who owned a derelict property. He said one way of doing them up would be to give Tidy Towns groups a grant to carry out camouflage-type work on frontage.
However, Fianna Fáil councillor Dan Fleming said he preferred a tough approach.
“A search through the land registry should identify them,” he said. “We should then tell them that if they don’t do it up then we’ll sell it off on them.”
The plan received cross-party support when Labour councillor Martin Coughlan said the 3% fine represented “only cents”. “I have been raising this issue for a number of years. Progress on addressing these buildings is very slow and needs speeding up,” said Mr Coughlan.
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