More Needs to be done to Exorcise Ghost Estates of the Past

By Seamus Whelehan

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An East Cork Cllr has called for an overhaul of Planning Laws to tackle Ireland’s ghost estates.   Cllr Noel Collins told the January Sitting of Cork County Council that tougher laws are needed to deal with what he termed “the high handed, cavalier attitude of a number of builders.”  He said there is a lot of unfinished business and the Minister for Housing, Eoughan Murphy, must reinforce Planning legislation, on enforcement, to deal with the problem.

The Midleton based Cllr said developers of ghost estates should not be given Planning Permission for new developments, until the estate is up to a standard in which it can be taken in charge by the Council.  The latest national unfinished housing estates survey shows that Cork County has the highest number of unfinished developments in the country.

The review of housing estates published by the Housing Agency shows that there are 16 unfinished estates in Cork County, comprising of a total of 1,513 units, one third of which are occupied by residents.   A further 25 ghost estates are at varying stages of completion, with planning lapsed on an additional 616 properties.

Cllr Melissa Mullane said the “elephant in the room” is Irish Water who is refusing to take estates in charge.   The Sinn Féin Cllr said it is “very unfair” to people who did spend an awful lot of money on estates to have to deal, in some cases, with inadequate water and sewage.  She said “it’s down to bad planning at the time, and a lack of enforcement.”

Cllr Michael Hegarty said Irish Water should be compelled to take developments in charge where estates have installed preparatory Wastewater Treatment Plants which are working fully.  “The Site Resolution Plan put in place to tackle the Country’s ghost estates should be made a legally binding document” added Cllr Hegarty.

The Fine Gael Cllr said “it is one thing agreeing it, but then the estate may change hands and the new purchaser is not required by law to adhering to what has been agreed.”   In a report to Council the County’s head of planning, Michael Lynch said “unfinished estates are complex and multi-faceted and can involve matters outside the Planning code of Legislation and Regulations.”  He said “such matters can include health and safety, company insolvency, bankruptcy, rights of property ownership and the limitations of law providing for instances where an entity/ person has left the jurisdiction.”

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