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Saturday 21 October 2017

Councils get tough with builders over unfinished estates

The ghost estate of Corrig Glen in Portarlington in County Laois
The ghost estate of Corrig Glen in Portarlington in County Laois
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

HUNDREDS of developers are being prosecuted after refusing to agree with local authorities on how to complete unfinished developments.

Housing Minister Jan O'Sullivan said action was being taken against the owners of 377 developments after they had failed to engage with city and county councils and that court proceedings were already under way in some cases.

Her comments came after a new survey showed that the number of unfinished developments across the country had more than halved since 2010, with 1,258 estates now classed as needing further works.

This compares with 2,846 in 2010, when the first national survey was undertaken.

But the latest information also shows that some councils displayed a lax attitude in compelling developers to put in place bonds to cover the cost of completions in the event that they go out of business.

There was no bond in place for 79 developments, two of which had more than 200 units in place, and a further 18 with more than 25 dwellings, the Department of the Environment said. In the case of 224 developments, bonds worth almost €50m had expired, meaning they could not be drawn down to make repairs.

Councils have since been given guidance by the department on how to draft legal agreements covering bonds and other insurances.

Ms O'Sullivan said: "The legacy which we inherited on coming to power was indeed a grim one and it has taken a lot of commitment, belief and hard work on the part of all concerned to be able to report so positively today.

DEMOLISHED

"The results point to continued significant progress in bringing to a conclusion this most distressing remnant and symbol of the doomed 'tiger' years."

The survey shows:

* Some 553 developments have been completed in the last 12 months.

* The number of empty, completed homes has dropped from 23,250 in 2010 to 6,350 today.

* Of the remaining 1,258, 992 are "partially inhabited" and there are no construction works on site.

* Some €10m will be made available to complete roads, footpaths, public lighting and other works.

* Some 377 developments are subject to legal proceedings.

* A further 42 have been completed and taken in charge by the local authority.

* 266 estates have no residents.

Many of the unfinished developments are controlled by NAMA, which has completed 78 site-resolution plans for its 292 developments, setting out how they should be completed.

It has demolished one estate and Ms O'Sullivan said that another 40 would be razed, possibly more if a market was not available for the properties.

The highest rate of ghost estates is in Leitrim, where 20.49 of every 1,000 dwellings is vacant. It is followed by Longford (19.58), Roscommon (15.71), Sligo (14.39) and Cavan (11.81) -- all counties where tax breaks were available for developers.

Irish Independent

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