Ghost estate bill hits €4m

the bill to fix up and make safe unfinished housing estates across the county has topped €4 million, according to a new report from Laois County Council.

the bill to fix up and make safe unfinished housing estates across the county has topped €4 million, according to a new report from Laois County Council.

To date, the council has called in the bonds on 18 unfinished estates around Laois to carry out repairs valued of €4.4m. In Portlaoise alone, three estates will cost more than €1 million to make safe. The council is in negotiations with bond companies to draw this money, so they can carry out whatever work is needed.

It has cost almost €600,000 to carry out work on the Rinuccini estate on the Dublin Road in Portlaoise. The council is also pursuing both the legal bond and the receivers for the €415,000 to finish Rockview on the Mountrath Road, after the developer went into receivership

Negotiations are also underway to recover €80,000 needed for Garden Village off the Mountmellick Road.

No money has been spent finishing houses but the cash has been spent on doing work left behind with builders abandoned sites. The money has been spent on everything from street lights, to hoarding, manhole covers to fixing sewerage systems.

Since it adopted a get tough policy toward builders, the council has secured the bond on just 10 estates and are currently pursuing bonds to the value of €1.8m on the remaining estates. Following legal action, the council also secured €460,000 on five estates, separate to bonds.

Mr Kieran Kehoe, of the council’s Planning Department, gave a detailed reported to councillors. He said the council spent €26,000 in legal fees trying to draw down the bond of €289,560 for Sli na Mona in Portarlington.

“It took a few months to secure the bond from the insurance company. We had to threaten them with legal action,” Mr Kehoe explained. The council also spent €11,634 from the Department of Environment’s Public Safety Initiative Funding, a fund that is specifically for unfinished housing estates.

An enforcement notice had to be served on the developer of the Borris-in-Ossory estate, Glenall. In that estate, manhole covers had been left open, the sewerage system was not working properly. Spending €32,000, the council fenced off the unfinished houses, provided a green area and fixed the manholes and sewerage. The council have not recouped the bond valued at €350,250.

The council has estimated that it will cost €200,000 to complete The Village in Ballylinan, where the developer has gone into receivership. Cathaoirleach, Cllr John Bonham said these developers should not be allowed to do the same thing again.

“Where someone has dirtied their hands and walked away with people’s money, they shouldn’t be entertained by the council again,” he said.

Praising the work in the Sli na Mona estate, Cllr Paul Mitchell said the entrance was like “something in West Belfast during the troubles.”

While Cllr Jerry Lodge, was critical of the bond companies.

“They take every effort not to pay out, they take every loophole and hide behind corners. They should be ashamed,” he said.

County Manager, Peter Carey said that the process was on-going.

“We volunteered to be the first county to put this system in place. It got a lot of negative coverage, but the key was putting in a dedicated team and budget. It was a difficult process, and it’s still on-going, not all the housing estates have been resolved. But we are committed to this and will stick at it,” he said.