A fire in Hepburn Court, the estate is now derelict
A Portlaoise housing estate that had to be abandoned shortly after it was built, due to vandalism and anti-social behaviour, remains an eyesore despite lengthy efforts by the council to buy up every building in it.
Hepburn Court on the Ballyfin road lies derelict and blocked up.
For some years Laois County Council has been trying to buy up all 12 privately owned houses and two derelict halls at the site, to replace them with a new council estate.
Their latest purchase is Kingdom Hall, a former Jehovah’s Witness meeting hall. The council has already bought a squash hall on the site and nine houses.
However the three remaining houses are stalling the regeneration, forcing the council to think again.
Director of Services for Housing Gerry Murphy said three houses are left to buy.
“We will probably end up using Compulsory Purchase Orders on two of them. The third owner still pays their mortgage,” he said.
The council may now rebuild the estate in stages.
“We are evaluating the best way forward. Initially we planned to develop everything, but it may be much quicker to do separately. No-one apart from the banks owns these houses but we are having difficulty getting them across the line. They are key to housing in Portlaoise in the next 18 months,” Mr Murphy said.
Portlaoise Cllr Caroline Dwane Stanley welcomed the purchase of Kingdom Hall and had asked what plans there were for the estate, which is beside Hillview Drive estate.
"I'm often asked by residents there what plans the council has. It backs onto the site?" she queried.
Cllr Willie Aird also welcomed the council buying both Kingdom Hall and the old County Hotel, both derelict buildings in Portlaoise town, for future council housing.
“There are no customers but for us. There were no bidders out there. I am delighted the manager has taken the initiative to buy them,” he said.
Hepburn Court was built privately in 2004 and many of the houses rented out privately. However, it descended into a nest of crime and vandalism. This included a gun attack.
The Fire Brigade were called to the estate seven days in a row at one point during 2013 at a cost of €21,000, as derelict houses were set on fire. After that all 12 houses were abandoned, and the council moved in to block up the estate in 2013.