€2m in fines issued by Cork City Council for vacant property owners

It is the first time Cork City Council will have issued such fines, which are designed to motivate the development of vacant sites and to reduce land hoarding.

€2m in fines issued by Cork City Council for vacant property owners

More than €2m worth of fines will be issued by Cork City Council to the owners of vacant sites in the first quarter of 2020.

It is the first time Cork City Council will have issued such fines, which are designed to motivate the development of vacant sites and to reduce land hoarding.

Fines will be issued at 7% of the value of the sites after the Government more than doubled the levy last year.

The city’s vacant sites register currently has 18 different sites listed on it, including three which are owned by Cork City Council.

The local authority will be liable for more than €560,000 in fines on sites which are worth a combined €8m.

Two of the 18 sites do not have a valuation provided, but the remaining 16 are worth a total of €29,867,500, according to the register.

As such, the levies could be worth a total of €2,090,725, if paid in full.

The sites include the €7.5m former Coca-Cola Bottling Plant on the Carrigrohane Road. This has been bought by Future Generation and is due to be developed into a 600-bed student accommodation scheme.

In 2019, the company challenged the decision to place the site on the Vacant Sites Register, but An Bord Pleanála backed Cork City Council’s decision to add the 0.8-hectare site.

The three Cork City Council-owned sites include the €4,150,000 Lotamore site, which has been on the register since 2017.

There are also two separate sites in Gurranabraher, each of which is listed as being worth more than €2m.

City Hall said it has made provisions for the fines it will incur due to these sites being on the register.

Other sites listed include land at the junction of Bishopstown Rd beside Hawke’s Rd, owned by OBR Construction, which is worth some €2.5m, and a site which formerly formed part of St Dominics on Middle Glanmire Rd, which is worth €2.8m.

The Farranferris Grounds on Redemption Rd in Blackpool, which is owned by Cork Diocesan Trustees and worth €2.5m, has been on the register since 2018, while there is also a site south of Woodlands on Middle Glanmire Rd, which is worth €1.2m.

A spokesperson for Cork City Council confirmed that invoices will be issued in Q1 2020 and that levies will be for 7% of the market value.

However, it noted that there are currently no provisions in place to pursue any developers who seek to avoid the fines.

“This is relatively new legislation and levies are payable during 2020. Cork City Council will issue its first demands for the vacant sites levy in 2020,” said the council spokesperson. “Legal proceedings to collect outstanding debt is not a consideration at this time.

Work is ongoing to ensure the register is kept up to date, with the council not ruling out adding more sites in the future. “At present, a review of existing sites is being conducted. Other sites will be included in the VSR on an ongoing basis if they meet the legislative criteria for vacant sites,” said the spokesperson.

Regarding its own properties on the register, City Hall said plans are under way to develop these.

“Cork City Council Housing Directorate intends to develop the sites and works have commenced on Lotamore and feasibility studies are being undertaken in relation to the other two sites,” the spokesperson said.

Previously, landowners faced fines of 3%, which had been criticised as being too low to motivate activity.

Several political parties have proposed hiking the levies even further, with Fianna Fáil’s general election manifesto proposing it to be doubled to 14%. Sinn Féin also proposes a “stronger vacant sites tax”.

Speaking in the Dáil in June, Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy confirmed that there were more than 360 individual sites on local registers, with a value of €364.2m.

These vacant sites are separate to the 99 locations on the derelict sites register, worth a total of €31,103,974.

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