Cllr Dermot Looney, a Labour Party representative on South Dublin County Council, has taken his campaign against derelict sites to the Council chamber and Dáil Éireann. Looney is seeking to ensure laws governing eyesores - such as those at the McHugh’s site in Greenhills and the Burmah Garage in Wellington - are strengthened “to redress the balance between the interest of developers and those of local communities.”
Looney’s motion to Monday’s County Council meeting calls on Councillors to seek a review of the laws governing derelict sites. Meanwhile, Looney has worked with Labour’s Dáil spokesperson on Environment, Joanna Tuffy TD, to call on Minister John Gormley to review the 1990 Derelict Sites Act and other relevant legislation through a parliamentary question.
“I am asking Councillors here in South Dublin to help set in place an historic review of the legislation governing derelict sites in this county and across Ireland,” said Looney. “Between the McHugh’s and Burmah Garage sites there is almost 20 years of dereliction and neglect impacting on local communities in Dublin 12 and 6 West. Although our Council are reluctant to define sites as derelict under the narrow legislation currently in place, there are dozens of other neglected sites elsewhere in Tallaght Central, with the likelihood of many more to follow across the grey swathes of NAMA-land.”
“Having campaigned in particular on the McHugh’s site for some years, I know how limited the current laws governing derelict sites are. The balance is tipped in favour of developers and against local communities who have to endure these eyesores. The existing legislation and practice have failed, and failed miserably, to protect the communities we represent. Now it’s time for Minister Gormley to change the laws to make it easier for local authorities to punish rogue developers and, where appropriate, take over the sites.”
“Minister Gormley’s response to my colleague Joanna Tuffy does not inspire me with confidence. He refers specifically to ‘ghost estates,’ which while important, are not the only types of derelict sites in our community. Now the message is going out loud from Greenhills, Templeogue, Tallaght and South Dublin – it’s time for a change in the law,” said Looney.
Cllr Looney’s motion to South Dublin County Council (May meeting, deferred from April):
“That this Council, in light of existing derelict sites in the county, including the McHugh's Site in Greenhills, and the likelihood of further sites in the coming months and years, notes that existing legislation, including the 1990 Derelict Sites Act, fails to empower local authorities and communities in appropriately resolving the dereliction and neglect caused by these eyesores. This Council calls on the Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government to conduct a review of the relevant legislation and practice in the area and, on the basis of such a review, to introduce changes to redress the balance between the interest of developers and those of local communities.”
Joanna Tuffy TD’s Parliamentary Question 17045/10 – April 27th, 2010
“Question 332: To ask the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to review the existing legislation, including the 1990 Derelict Sites Act to empower local authorities and communities to resolve the dereliction problem and the neglect caused by these eyesores in view of the large number of existing derelict sites around the country.”
Answer from Minister John Gormley: “Under the Derelict Sites Act 1990, local authorities are required to take all reasonable steps, including the exercise of appropriate statutory powers, to ensure that any land within their functional area does not become or continue to be a derelict site. To this end, they have been given substantial powers under the Act in relation to any such sites, including powers to require specified measures to be taken in relation to a derelict site, to impose a levy on derelict sites, or to compulsorily acquire any derelict site. I expect local authorities to use their statutory powers as they consider appropriate. While I have no plans to amend the Derelict Sites Act at this time, as I indicated in reply to Priority Question No. 4 on 22 April 2010, I will keep the need for further legislative reforms to assist local authorities in addressing the issue of unfinished or unoccupied estates under review.”