Cork's Derelict Sites: Change the law to stop people ‘sitting on properties’

Cork's Derelict Sites: Change the law to stop people ‘sitting on properties’

A Solidarity protest at a derelict property on Kyle St and Kyrl’s Quay. Picture: Mike English

THE Lord Mayor of Cork has called for national legislation on derelict sites to be changed so that landowners sitting on idle property have their levies increased annually.

The Echo yesterday revealed that the number of derelict sites in the city has now surpassed 100. The number has almost doubled since the beginning of 2017 when just 56 sites were registered as derelict.

The former Good Shepherd Convent in Sunday’s Well.
The former Good Shepherd Convent in Sunday’s Well.

The city’s list includes prominent buildings such as St Kevin’s Hospital and associated buildings at Shanakiel, which is owned by the HSE and valued at €2.7m, and property at Our Lady’s Hospital on the Lee Road which is owned by the Irish Immigration Fund Limited and is valued at €380,000. Also on the list is the former Vita Cortex plant on the Kinsale Road which is valued at €2.25m.

According to City Hall data, a site at Kyrl’s Quay is registered as derelict with a value of €1.9m. A site on North Main Street site worth €500,000 is also listed.

Vacant sites on North Main Street. There are now more than 100 sites on Cork City Council's Derelict Sites Register.
Vacant sites on North Main Street. There are now more than 100 sites on Cork City Council's Derelict Sites Register.

“Dereliction is an ongoing problem in Cork and it’s something that I and other councillors are always talking about,” said Lord Mayor Mick Finn.

“Going back to when the former minister for the environment Phil Hogan came to Cork, I asked him to increase the powers of the Derelict Sites Act to include a series of penalties which double each year so they are not fined a flat amount every year. So, if a landlord is fined €1,000 this year, they would have to pay €2,000 the following year if they fail to act.

“There has to be a deterrent for people sitting on properties,” he added.

St Kevin’s Hospital site, which is valued at €2.7m. 	Picture: Evan Shelly
St Kevin’s Hospital site, which is valued at €2.7m. Picture: Evan Shelly

Cork Business Association (CBA) has urged City Hall to get tough on landowners whose sites are classed as derelict.

CBA president Philip Gillivan said the city council deserves credit for putting more sites on the list in order to levy site owners at 3% of the property’s value but he has called for more enforcement of compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) in order to return the sites to usage.

The former Vita Cortex plant on the Kinsale Road remains vacant.	Picture: Denis Scannell
The former Vita Cortex plant on the Kinsale Road remains vacant. Picture: Denis Scannell

Mr Gillivan said: “Every city has derelict sites and we would support the council in doing whatever it can to get derelict sites onto the open market for sale.

“Any incentive to encourage the owners to release these properties to the market we support because we have a huge housing shortage and we have a lot of sites in the city that need to be built on.

“Cork City Council needs to enforce and get these derelict sites to the CPO stage and then they need to enforce it. If they don’t enforce, it is a waste of time. We would encourage the city council to be as aggressive as possible to get the sites onto the market for open sale.

“There are sites on the derelict sites register for donkey’s years. The council needs to enforce more, there is no question,” he added.

The former Our Lady’s Hospital on the Lee Road. 	Picture: Jim Coughlan
The former Our Lady’s Hospital on the Lee Road. Picture: Jim Coughlan

However, the Lord Mayor said it is difficult for City Hall to purchase sites when they are not getting the required funding from Government.

“There are calls for CPOs; the city council just doesn’t have money to purchase a lot of these sites. The key is strengthening national legislation so that if people are sitting on properties, levies increase.

“If you look at Barrack Street, there are probably 20 sites unused or derelict and I think people are sitting on those to see what happens with the event centre,” he said.

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy said it is open for local authorities to determine the most appropriate use of the legislation within their respective functional areas.

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