Laois County Council County Hall in Portlaoise.
The owner of an unused housing development site in a Laois town has been hit with a fine for not going ahead with construction.
Laois County Council has issued its first Vacant Sites Levy, for €52,000 for a site at Summerhill in Portlaoise.
It follows Government legislation brought in in recent years to stop the practice of land hoarding by speculators, and boost more house construction.
The Summerhill site is one of nine on Laois County Council’s Vacant Sites Register.
Laois County Council’s planning officer David O’Hara gave the news at the May council meeting.
“We have nine sites on the register. We got €52,000 last week from the developer of a site in Summerhill. It is a site beside the primary school where there was an artificial lake. They paid the fine because they didn’t develop it.
“That is our first payment regarding vacant sites. There is a constant review of that register. We have a team in planning working on it,” he said.
However the Summerhill site has now been sold on, stopping any further fines for a year after the sale.
“It is three years since we started the process. The fine was paid for 2021. We understand that there has been a change of ownership so the new owner is not liable until next year,” he said.
“There is planning permission. Our understanding is that it will be taken up fairly quickly. It has to be sold to a third party with no connection with the seller for the levy not to be liable on the year the transaction takes place,” Mr O'Hara said.
Following a query by Cllr Caroline Dwane Stanley, he confirmed that the minimum site size covered by the legislation is 0.05 hectares.
“There is a pile of sites not on the register because they do not meet the size. It’s national legislation,” he said.
The Vacant Sites Levy was introduced in Ireland to apply from 2019. The levy is a percentage of the estimated value of each site, and remains as a charge if unpaid, to be recouped if the land is sold.
Laois County Council established its Vacant Sites Register on January 1 2017 in accordance with The Urban Regeneration and Housing Act 2015. The purpose of the Register is to identify urban sites lying idle or remaining vacant in Laois in areas where housing is required or in areas in need of renewal.
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