€5m fund to clean up ‘ghost estates’

SOME of the country’s most dangerous “ghost estates” are due to be cleaned up over the next few months as a result of an initiative which will enable local authorities carry out critical work to ensure the public’s safety.

Housing Minster Michael Finneran announced that 348 of the worst “ghost estates” are to benefit from a special €5 million fund to be used for the purpose of securing dangerous sites as well as completing footpaths and street lighting on unfinished housing developments.

All the estates earmarked to benefit from the fund are less than 50% occupied and account for up to 8,000 houses and apartments.

Mr Finneran acknowledged the fund will only allow for “minor works” but stressed that they would correct problems which adversely affect the quality of life for many residents in such estates.

The average allocation per estate will be just under €14,400.

The majority of the estates identified for such works have been abandoned by the developer, said Mr Finneran, who hoped improvement works would be completed before the start of the summer.

However, he stressed that developers would be pursued to pay for any work carried out by local authorities under the initiative.

“Any public monies expended to rectify these health and safety works must be ultimately recouped from the owners of these sites either now or in the future,” said Mr Finneran.

He pointed out that one estate, Battery Court in Longford, had already been completed through an agreement between the local council and Ulster Bank, who had appointed a receiver to the development. In another area, the local authority had agreed to finish off the estate in return for getting ownership of six houses in the development.

A national survey of unfinished housing last year revealed there were 2,846 incomplete estates, incorporating 180,000 housing units, around the country, An expert group established to advise on the future management of ghost estates is expected to publish its recommendations shortly.

Mr Finneran said the establishment of the €5m fund was his response to an interim recommendation of the group that urgent action should be taken to ensure public safety on the most dangerous, unfinished housing estates.

The minister said he was satisfied the proposed work could be carried out under existing laws. However, he predicted new legislation would be necessary to tackle the problem of getting developers to pay for estates who have to be finished by local authorities.

He admitted the issue represented “a legal quagmire”.

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