Landmark ruling means councils must pay for upkeep of new estates
LOCAL authorities could be forced to take responsibility for the upkeep of hundreds of housing developments, following a landmark High Court ruling.
Donegal County Council has been ordered to take in charge two estates after it failed to offer an "acceptable reason" as to why it would not take over the upkeep of roads, open spaces, water pipes and sewers.
The decision has major implications for city and county councils across the State.
The latest figures show that in 2010 applications were made for councils to take in charge 1,837 estates, comprising 19,000 units. Just 321 were taken over.
Cash-strapped councils are reluctant to take over the running of estates because they then become responsible for grass-cutting, maintenance, and carrying out repairs.
In 2008, the Department of the Environment advised local authorities that they had a legal obligation in take in charge residential developments and advised them to develop a policy for doing so.
However, two development companies in Donegal took legal action after the county council had refused to take in charge two estates, Maple Drive and Ross View in Bundoran.
White Maple Developments Ltd and Castlewin Properties Ltd completed the 167 houses in 2006. After carrying out works identified by the town council, it then formally applied to have the estates taken in charge in May 2010.
The application was made under a scheme set up by the council, but the companies received no response. It then initiated legal proceedings.
Ordering the council to take steps to comply with its obligations, Mr Justice Hogan said: "The taxpaying public are entitled to suppose their applications will be dealt with in accordance with law and not by reference to non-statutory schemes which the council has itself been pleased to create."