The owners of a site earmarked for Cork’s biggest-ever student accommodation development are facing a large tax bill, having lost a challenge to it being placed on a list of vacant sites.
An Bord Pleanála has confirmed the validity of Cork City Council’s decision to place the former Coca Cola bottling-factory site, on the Carrigrohane Road, on the vacant site register.
The ruling makes the owners of the site, Gainstar Limited Partnership, liable for the annual levy, which is currently 3% of the property’s value, but which will rise to 7% from January 1, 2020.
Planning permission for a 484-bed student accommodation development on the brownfield site, which has been unused since 2007, was granted to Gainstar in May 2017.
In its appeal against the site’s inclusion on the vacant site register, Gainstar argued that the 0.8-hectare site, close to County Hall, was undergoing development. The company said the former bottling plant had been demolished in 2016 and a planning application made in 2017 to amend a scheme approved earlier that year.
It claimed negotiations with a UK operator, Future Generation, had forced it to seek further amendments, because of the omission of a basement car park from the plans, which were lodged last October.
Future Generation has plans to build a student accommodation complex with 600 beds.
Gainstar said it hoped the development could be completed by June 2021.
Gainstar also expressed concern that having the site remain on the register could damage its reputation and deter future investors.
The council said the Urban Regeneration and Housing Act 2015, which introduced the vacant site levy, was to deliver housing units.
The developer/owner is entitled to make as many applications as necessary. Once works commences, the placement of the site on the register can be revisited,” the council said.
It said the placement of the site on the register was “to action use and development of sites”, not to influence the reputation or otherwise of landowners.
Gainstar expressed disappointment that the council had not acknowledged the work it had already done to try and develop the site.
It refuted any suggestion that it was a land-hoarder, as it was actively developing the former Coca Cola site. The company said it had already held a pre-planning consultation with the council in January, which would lead to a new planning application for further amendments being submitted.
An inspector with An Bord Pleanála said the legislation was only concerned with the actual use of the site and that the last activity had been the demolition of the former bottling plant in 2016, although he acknowledged that Gainstar had gone through a long and exhaustive process to try and develop the site.