Inaction of owners is cause of derelict sites

Derelict sites legislation needs to be changed, says council

By Ryan Dunne @laoisnews

The unwillingness of property owners to engage with Laois County Council has been cited as one of the reasons there are so many derelict sites in the county.

During a presentation at Laois County Hall recently, by Mr Wesley Keogh of the planning department, said there were 75 derelict sites in Laois as of January 31. 26 of these sites are in Portlaoise, with four sites identified on the Main Street.

Mr Keogh identified “a lack of willingness on the part of landowners” to address the problem.

Among the issues contributing to derelict sites is the legacy of the economic downturn, the insolvency of developers, and lack of engagement from banks.

Regarding Main Street, Mr Keogh said that there were a number of vacant properties for sale, so the council cannot deal with these properties as the issue is one of occupancy.

One of the worst areas, he said, was the dumping and vandalism at Harpurs Lane, where the council’s planning and environment departments are involved.

He said there was a landowner issue there, but was hopeful that that the problems could be resolved.

He also spoke about Kilminchy estate, where there are undeveloped parts of land. He said that the landowner would be getting someone in to level and seed the land.

Also discussed was Hepburn Court, where the council has purchased a number of derelict units. He said the process is long and protracted, but there is progress being made.

After the presentation, Cllr Jerry Lodge spoke of the “Mickey Mouse levy” of 3% imposed on derelict sites and said the levy should be increased nationally.

Cllr Willie Aird said there weren’t many sites, but those that are there are affecting the whole town. He also lamented that “banks are going to walk away” from the problem.

Director of services, Mr Kieran Kehoe admitted that there was a problem with the derelict sites legislation, as there is no immediacy to it and needs to be changed.