Gordon Daly of Limerick City and County Council
LIMERICK City and County Council is preparing to get tough on dereliction and vacant buildings in poor condition.
In the last few months, the Urban and Village Renewal Section of the council has been beefed up and now includes a dedicated official is responsible for dereliction in each of the three municipal districts: Newcastle West, Adare Rathkeale and Cappamore Kilmallock. Two officials are responsible for the city area.
Figures released this week reveal there are 61 properties listed as derelict in the Newcastle West Municipal District. But that figure will rise as they work through the different towns and villages in the district, director of services, Gordon Daly warned this Wednesday.
“We will try and work with the owners,” he said. “We will give them advice and guidance. Our first approach will be to help people, to find out what is the issue.” There are special schemes there to help people and which people might avail of , he said, and a change of use from shop to house is currently an exempt development. There is also an architect attached to the Urban and Village Renewal section who could give people free advice, he added.
“Our first port of call is not to stick a derelict notice on a property,” Mr Daly continued. And that explains the gap between the number of derelict buildings, 61, and the number of derelict notices issued last year which was 17.
“It is a carrot and stick approach,” Mr Daly said. The council wants to see a big reduction in dereliction and vacancies, he stressed. But people have to co-operate. “If they co-operate we will give them time and space.
However, where people were not prepared to co-operate, and instead were willing to sit on properties and let deteriorate, action would be taken.
“We will go after them. We will use the powers that we have up to and including CPOs, compulsory purchase orders,” he said.
“Dereliction contributes to vacancy,” he added. If a street is at least well-kept, he argued, even if there are vacancies, it will still be more attractive than one with derelict buildings.
Mr Daly said their next step will be to sit down with councillors on the issue and they will also continue to work with communities about dereliction in their midst.
The chairman of the Newcastle West Municipal District, Cllr Michael Collins said the council’s tougher stance on dereliction was to be welcome.
But he cautioned against slapping notices on buildings without taking into due account the background. And he was concerned that within the council, “the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing”.
He cited the example of one owner who has obtained planning permission to redevelop a building but needs the council to transfer some land which it hasn’t done. Yet a derelict notice has been slapped on the building, he said.
Cllr Collins said using local knowledge about buildings was crucial. People had come through hard times, he said, and might not have the money to invest in their building. But, he argued, current schemes aimed at regeneration at redeveloping properties are more suitable to cities. They need to be refined more to be of any benefit to provincial towns and villages, he said.
In many cases the rate of return in rural towns and villages is not sufficient to warrant the investment. “They must be incentivised but we have to go back to the drawing board to make this happen,” Cllr Collins said.
Properties on the derelict list include: Newcastle West 30, Abbeyfeale 11, Glin 5, Dromcollogher 3, Tournafulla 2, Broadford 1, Athea 1, Ashford 1 and seven in rural locations.