MEASURES to allow Cork County Council to more effectively deal with derelict properties and penalise property owners who fail to comply will be considered by councillors.
Under the Derelict Sites Act 1990, such properties must detract to a "material degree" from the character or appearance of land in the neighbourhood but the powers of local authorities to intervene are limited.
Several councillors in the Ballincollig-Carrigaline Municipal District have expressed frustration that the Act is too constrained and owners of such sites are not complying with orders.
County councillors will now discuss the issue at full council before writing to Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy to ask him to undertake a review of the Act.
In 2017, there were 16 properties on the register of derelict sites in the Ballincollig-Carrigaline Municipal District. Just five cases were pursued through the courts with levies paid on two of the 16 properties. Four properties were added to the register last year.
Derry Canty (FG) said he is aware of a vacant private property in Ballincollig which is attached to another occupied property, causing great distress for the owner.
“We have served every order on the owner of the derelict property. However, it's just left sitting there. Water is pouring into it, the garage roof has collapsed. The person who owns it is an absent landlord. It's unreal that we as a council can't make the person do something with it because it's not fair to the resident next door,” he said.
Seamus McGrath (FF) stated that councillors must make central Government aware of the difficulties they face in enforcing the Act.
“We need to focus on the point that [the Act] is unworkable at the moment and to request a review of the legislation. We all have several examples of dealing with derelict sites and that's what we need to relay,” he said.
Deirdre Forde (FG) said various interpretations of the Act as is currently is leading to confusion.
“I think there is a lot of ducking and diving in relation to whether a site is vacant or derelict,” she said.
Marcia D'Alton (IND), who originally raised the issue with the Municipal District, said she'd like to see the Act pushed to its full extent.
Municipal District officer Kevin O'Regan outlined the limitations that the local authority faces in enforcing the Act.
“If a property owner does not agree that their property meets the definition they can object to the Council’s proposal to deem that a property is derelict and it would then fall on the Council to prove, in Court, why the property meets the requirements of the definition,” he said.
“...the Act is only dealing with how the exterior of the property looks. There is no reference within the Act to the internal condition of a property. This is understandable as the internal condition is not material to the appearance.
“A case in point is properties that have frequently been mentioned in Douglas West. These properties are, from the public street relatively clean, the roofs are, as far as can be seen intact, and are in no worse visible condition than other properties in the neighbourhood. The fact that they have for many years been left vacant is not in itself a reason that one can decide that they are derelict,” he added.