CORK CITY COUNCIL has devised a new Derelict Sites Policy in a bid to tackle unsightly buildings.
There are currently 120 derelict and vacant sites in Cork city, according to the Derelict Sites register and the Vacant Sites Register, and there is increasing focus on these sites and how to address issues they cause.
The new policy follows on from a report released by the Council in July.
Currently, there are 102 properties listed on the Derelict Sites Register: 86 derelict properties in Cork city are privately owned, while Cork City Council owns 16.
“However, it is important to note that it is not the case that the Council allowed its own properties to become derelict,” a council spokesperson said.”
These are derelict sites that were in that condition when the council acquired them.
“The majority of these sites, 10 out of the 16, relate to social housing proposals that are at various stages of the process.”
Of these 16 sites, only three sites are currently under construction. Two more sites have planning permission to begin construction.
This leaves 11 sites owned by Cork City Council which have not been granted planning permission for development yet.
Two derelict sites were acquired by the City Council under a compulsory purchase order this year.
Over the past five years, the council has compulsorily acquired six houses.
When the council acquires a derelict site, they still have to pay the owner market value.
Cork City Council’s new policy says acquiring sites which would result in a financial loss for the council will only be considered when the derelict site is having “severe negative impacts” and there is no other way to remove dereliction.
Sites that are automatically considered for compulsory purchase include ones with no owner.
Sites that have continuous incidents of anti-social behaviour where the owner is not actively removing dereliction, and this is impacting on the surrounding areas and tenants, are also automatically considered for compulsory purchase.
Houses that have been on the Derelict Sites Register for two or more years with no change in ownership and with no progress made will also be considered for acquisition by the council.
Derelict site owners have to pay levies to the local authority every year. This derelict site levy amounts to 3% of the market value of the land concerned.
The Derelict Sites fines levied by Cork City Council this year totalled €629,700.
However, the amount in levies the council has received for this year is just €165,725.
The levy is due two months after the council invoices the owner. After the two months, an interest rate of 1.25% is applied.
There are currently “few mechanisms to force owners to pay”, according to the council’s Derelict Sites Report from July.
Cork city is second in the country behind Dublin City Council in terms of collecting monies owed.
The main way the council collect the levies is when a property sells. The levies are a charge on the property, rather than the owner, so the new owner is charged the outstanding balance that the old owner has not paid.
Alternatively, when the council compulsory acquires a property, the council pays the owner market value, minus the levies owed.
Many local authorities have raised concerns over how difficult it is to make derelict site owners pay the levies.
Taking the owners to court is expensive, and can cost more than the levies themselves.
The council also say in their July report that finding the owners of derelict sites can be time-consuming and challenging.
Over the past five years, Cork City Council closed 90 derelict sites files after they were renovated or redeveloped.
There are also 18 properties on the Vacant Sites Register for Cork city.
Three of these are owned by Cork City Council.
Vacant sites are defined as lands in the local authority’s area that are suitable for housing but have not been put forward for development.
Cork City Council said works commenced in November on their Lotamore site.
“Feasibility studies are being undertaken on the other sites to determine development options, including residential options and density,” said a council spokesperson.
Unlike derelict sites, Cork City Council cannot compulsorily purchase vacant sites.
These vacant sites are also subject to levies, which amounts to 3% of the market value of the site.
However, these levies aren’t due until January 2020.