The owner of a large boarded up convent on Main Street, Stradbally has been fined €12,000 by Laois County Council under the Derelict Sites Act.
The levy is the largest of 14 such fines imposed by the council in the Emo Electoral Area since 2010. None have been paid to date. The council has now referred some of the cases onto its solicitors in attempts to recover the money, which is calculated at three per cent of the property value.
Cllr James Deegan says Stradbally and Portarlington have some of the most “outstanding derelict sites” in the county.
“People that own these sites are just snubbing their noses at Laois County Council. They are devaluing the properties beside them, and making a mockery of the work of Tidy Towns who are trying to upgrade their surroundings.
“These are just a couple of people that refuse to do basic things with their properties. They are allowed to run cart and four through the legislation,” said Cllr Deegan, who had requested an update on derelict sites in the Emo area.
Owners of a listed shop building in the town have also been ordered to pay a substantial fine under the act. Formerly Dobbin’s craftmakers, the building has been left idle for up to a decade, says Cllr Deegan.
“This was an ornate shopfront, it was a showcase. The Tidy Towns are very active on main street, but a couple of buildings like this pull down all their best efforts. I hope the planning department take note and get real with derelict sites,” he said.
The Derelict Sites Act was introduced in 1990 to give local authorities more powers against dereliction. Stage five of the process is the fining of levies, which have to be paid within two months. If unpaid, the council can recover the money as a contract debt, or can register a charge for it on the property.
The first stage of the process is a warning letter. 33 letters were sent to property owners in the Emo electoral area since 2008. 24 properties were placed on the Register of derelict buildings, and 19 notices were sent ordering owners to carry out upgrading work. After work was done on eight cases, they were removed, while nine more are undergoing improvements.
A derelict site means any land which detracts from the amenity or character of neighbouring land due to ruined or neglected buildings, neglected land or the presence of debris or litter. One of the successes of the processes in Laois is the restored Kilnacourt House in Portarlington, now a HSE property.