TDs claim empty properties encourage antisocial behaviour

CRUMBLING homes and abandoned houses are causing havoc in towns, TDs said yesterday, as it emerged there are nearly 1,300 derelict properties around the country.

Concern was raised about antisocial behaviour in empty buildings, which local authorities were accused of failing to secure and care for.

Department of Environment chiefs revealed that there were 1,297 derelict properties and sites around the country at the end of 2007, the latest period for which figures are available.

Appearing at the Oireachtas Committee on Environment, department principal officer Brian Lucas revealed that during the same year, levies of €2 million had also been charged to owners of derelict properties.

But committee chairman, TD Sean Fleming, expressed concern over the large number of listed buildings which had fallen into disrepair.

He questioned the quality of research on protected structures, where in some cases it seemed someone would just put a piece of plywood over an old shop window and declare it listed, he said.

But An Taisce, said its members had fought against “extremely hostile” interests over its 60 years when trying to protect heritage sites.

Chairman Charles Stanley Smith also criticised the alleged neglect of local authorities.

“It has become clear that these principles have not been adhered to by many councils and planning authorities in the preparation of development plans and local area plans, which has led to overzoning, an unstructured scattered pattern of car dependent urban sprawl development, fractured communities and environmental degradation.

“The failure to follow the best development guidelines had led to the overheating of the property market and the current economic morass and the wish to establish such extremely controversial bodies as NAMA.”

Meath TD Johnny Brady pointed to one abandoned house in Kells which he said had become a haven for drinkers and drug users. An Taisce, however, pointed out that the protected building had eventually been bulldozed without permission.

Cork TD Ciarán Lynch described how the site of Our Lady’s Hospital in Cork had now become possibly the largest derelict site in the state and it was also owned by the Health Service Executive.

There was concern the large abandoned site was losing value and would be sold for very little to a developer, added Mr Lynch.

Department officials told the committee that an inventory of all the derelict and protected buildings was under way.


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