My first question at Wednesday 18th November MD meeting, “Can the council list all the potentially derelict properties in the municipal district brought to its attention (details provided) to include date of when the council first notified of each property, the procedures followed and the current status of each property?
Here is the report issued by: Mr J Boland, District Manager : The council investigates reports of dereliction and takes enforcement action in accordance with the Derelict Sites Act 1990 in an effort to have the dereliction abated. A derelict site is defined in the Act as any land which detracts, or is likely to detract, to a material degree from the amenity, character or appearance of land in the neighbourhood of the land in question because of –
(a) The existence of structures which are in a ruinous, derelict or dangerous condition
(b) The neglected, unsightly or objectionable condition of the land or any structures on the land
(c) The presence of litter, rubbish, debris or waste on the land.
If it is considered that issues can be easily remedied within a relatively short timeframe, the Council may work informally with a property owner instead of serving a legal notice and provide the owner(s) with a list of works and the opportunity to carry out such works before the site may be put on the Derelict Site Register. In other instances, the Council may serve a legal notice requiring works to be carried out, and many cases are resolved in this way and this approach is always the initial focus. The level of compliance in addressing derelict sites is often related to issues which ultimately resulted in the site becoming derelict in the first place — financial hardship, difficulties in financing development, legal or title disputes over ownership, estate issues following inheritance, receivership, property being abandoned, etc.
There can often be delays in progressing files due to difficulties in ascertaining the names of owners and accordingly, there is often recourse to land registry which can be time consuming. Indeed, disputes arising from title / probate tend to be the cause of many issues. Another contributor is the fall-out from the “Celtic Tiger” period where many commercial ventures went wrong. The issue of “derelict” may sometimes be subservient to more fundamental issues such as building control, breaches of planning / licensing which should be progressed using remedies other than derelict sites legislation.
It is also open to the local authority to compulsorily acquire under the 1990 Act, though this is rare as it can expose the Council to financial risk. Ultimately if cases are not resolved, following further notice, the site can be listed in the derelict sites register. As a general principle, a low number so registered is a positive sign (though often perceived otherwise) that cases are being resolved and that the council is being proactive. There are currently seven properties so registered. Aside from the derelict sites register, specifics in relation to ongoing cases are not publicly available. In addition, to release such details would not be in the public interest as it may impinge on the willingness of the public to report such matters. Regrettably the Council’s system does not provide a breakdown on a municipal district basis. However, the District Manager will have some additional stats, which are currently being extracted, for the forthcoming meeting.