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Thursday 18 September 2014

Councils holding millions in levies for Metro North

Published 18/11/2012 | 05:00

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Calls for high-speed link charges to be refunded to householders after transport project is shelved

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Millions of euro taken in for Metro North in development levies is still resting in the accounts of two Dublin local authorities even though the high-speed rail link between St Stephen's Green in the city centre and Swords in north Co Dublin won't be built for years – if at all.

The transport project has been shelved indefinitely by the Government but Dublin City Council and Fingal County Council are still racking up fees from property owners who live within a kilometre of the proposed line.

And so far, Dublin City Council has turned down calls led by Councillor Mary Fitzpatrick to give the money back.

The Dublin city councillor says the local authority should cancel the Metro North development levy scheme, which is putting an unfair burden on property owners, stunting economic activity in the area and undermining the city council's ability to collect legitimate charges.

"The Metro North development contribution scheme was approved by Dublin city councillors in 2007 and is applied to any developments within a 1km distance of the proposed Metro North line.

Already more than €13m has been collected by Dublin City Council and Fingal County Council under the scheme," she said.

The scheme will be in effect for 30 years and it is projected to collect more than €100m if it is not suspended.

"This is real money being taken out of the city economy that could otherwise be invested in creating employment and economic activity," she said.

She criticised council chiefs and accused them of prevarication on the issue.

"The city manager's response to me at last Monday night's meeting of the city council was that he is going to take it up with the CEO of the RPA [Rail Procurement Agency]. This is a joke. The CEO of the RPA has no authority on this issue," she said.

She pointed out that documents setting up the levy clearly state that if the construction of the project does not proceed, the contributions received under the scheme will be returned to those who paid them.

"It also states that the projected completion date for the project is 2012. It is very obvious to everyone that the Metro North project is not going to be completed in 2012, indeed construction will not even commence in 2012, so by the legal instrument setting up the levy scheme, the money collected so far should be refunded," she said.

Ms Fitzpatrick said the Government needs to intervene and give a direction to both local authorities to indefinitely suspend the levy scheme and refund the millions already collected.

However, the Railway Procurement Agency has consistently maintained that the levies should continue to be collected because the project has not been cancelled.

The RPA has pointed out that the Government has acknowledged the vital importance of the Metro North project and has indicated that it will be considered again in 2015 for inclusion in the next capital programme.

The levy scheme is in place for a period of 30 years and the Metro North railway order is valid for 10 years. The RPA says it is confident that the project will proceed within these timescales.

As well as developers building commercial projects, the levy is also paid by householders who build within one kilometre of the proposed transport link.

It means that an individual who builds a family house within the one-kilometre boundary is still receiving a demand for up to €3,000.

Sunday Independent

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