“OWNERS of derelict sites should be hunted down and made an example of.”
That was the view of Cllr James Deegan during a discussion on Laois’ tidy towns performance during last Friday’s Emo electoral area meeting at Emo Court.
The Tidy Towns adjudication report for Stradbally highlighted ‘difficulties with untidy derelict sites’ (see page 35 for more) and Cllr Deegan said that while the town ‘did great’, the remarks of the judges in relation to derelict sites ought to be heeded.
“There is nothing the Tidy Towns committee can do. There seems to be a bit of lethargy about doing anything about it from the Planning Department. Even the financial institutions that own some of these sites are shrugging their shoulders,” said Cllr Deegan.
Director of Services Kieran Kehoe responded and said Laois County Council was ‘vigorously pursuing’ the owners of derelict sites.
He conceded, “It is a frustrating process. Invoices are issued and not paid and when matters go before the court decisions are deferred.”
Cathaoirleach Paul Mitchell admitted there were serious problems with dereliction especially since some properties were in NAMA and certain owners have no interest in developing or maintaining their properties.
Cllr Deegan said the problem just didn’t manifest itself post Celtic Tiger, adding that it has been a problem for ‘the last ten years’. He suggested that some owners of derelict buildings which were designated as Protected Structures let them become dangerous so the status might be altered, thereby clearing the way for development.
Cllr Deegan said he was ‘a bit disappointed’ that some small areas like Ballybrittas, Vicarstown and Ratheniska had opted out of the 2012 Tidy Towns competition.
Cllr Tom Mulhall believed that Ballybrittas had participated and ‘done well’ and said he was due to attend a fund-raiser organised by Ballybrittas Tidy Towns committee. He praised Emo and Portarlington for their Tidy Towns performances. “ A lot of work was done in tough times.”
Cllr Paul Mitchell said the work of the Dirty Old Towns committee made a huge impact in Portarlington and he outlined that voluntary workers were ‘absolutely brilliant’ in the way they zoned in on particular areas to execute clean-ups.
Mr Kehoe said €25,000 in work hours and material went into Portarlington and he also thanked Offaly County Council for their co-operation. Killenard were congratulated on their endeavour award and they were also supported by County Council staff.
Senior Executive Engineer Orla Barrett congratulated Portarlington on receiving much improved marks. “Well done to the Tidy Towns committee and to Jim Phelan, GSS, and his roads staff for their huge involvement in street cleaning.” She praised the ‘can do attitude’ and ‘pride’ of the various committees. “I love working with them because they get so much done.”