TWO years into an initiative to tackle the scourge of derelict properties, Cork County Council is having mixed results.
As councillors call for stiffer penalties and increased use of compulsory purchase orders, the town of Mallow is a microcosm of the situation being played out across Cork.
There are currently 21 properties on the derelict sites register in the Kanturk-Mallow municipal district, down from 26 when the initiative got underway in 2016.
But while there has been some change, when owners refuse to engage or can’t be located, there is very little authorities can do.
Local councillor Melissa Mullane pointed out one property on Main Street, right in the heart of the town. The building is partially collapsed and has been boarded up for years.
“You have issues when places are boarded up too, what if there is a storm, it could come down,” she said.
Given its central location, councillors would desperately like to see the property dealt with, but Ms Mullane admitted that no progress is being made with this site.
As part of the county council’s initiative, a streetscape improvement scheme was introduced. Mallow town centre was selected for special focus in 2017 and Ms Mullane said it has been beneficial where owners engaged with the local authority.
“There was a particular area on the south side of the town where they worked tremendously hard to try and find the owners and it did make a difference,” she said.
“The properties are now done up and have been sold on again, it is a lot better. I can see that going from strength to strength in Mallow and Kanturk and it is hugely effective.
“But there are a number of long-term properties in Mallow that we are going nowhere with.”
She would like to see engagement with owners at an early stage before buildings fall into serious disrepair.
“We should be trying to nip it in the bud before they become dangerous. We need to be a little more proactive.”
Compulsory purchase orders were raised at a recent council meeting, but although Ms Mullane says they can be an option, she worries about the cost to the taxpayer.
“CPOs are not the solution to everything because that just gives us the problem of what to do with the property,” she said.
“Local authorities are slow to do it because it then becomes a problem for them. It is a big amount of public money going into a property that really, the owner should be dealing with.
“People need to take responsibility for their own buildings.”