Derelict buildings blighting the town centres of Cashel and Tipperary must be tackled, heard this month’s meeting of the Municipal District.
Cllr Tom Wood put forward two motions concerning derelict and unoccupied buildings which are dragging down the appearance and general image of our towns: “That this authority would enact, where deemed appropriate, the policy of the Cashel and Environs Development Plan whereby, ‘if a structure is located in the Architectural Conservation Area (ACA) and the structure by way of its poor appearance materially detracts from the character of the ACA, the Council must compulsorily acquire the structure under Section 83 of the Planning and Development Act.”
Additionally, Cllr Wood requested that the Council “would engage with the Management Companies associated with the Dominic’s Court and Lowergate developments in Cashel relative to plans to utilise the significant number of empty retail units on both sites and other relevant matters.”
Cllr Wood told the meeting there were many sites lying idle and vacant in prime town-centre locations, a particular eyesore in a heritage town like Cashel. The planning office could place a CPO (Compulsory Purchase Order) on all or part of a property, and if no owner came forward to claim the premises, it could be refurbished or sold on. There were many residential premises in Cashel “and no sign of anyone inhabiting them,” said Cllr Wood. “And then we talk about bringing people into the town centre. There’s no known reason why a house should be standing idle. There’s one example of a key not being turned in a house for 30 years. This could be some opportunity to improve our sites.”
Senior Planning Officer Brian Clancy said the biggest problem is resolving ownership issues, as the land registry does not have details of all owners. The CPO is “long and complicated process” with a “significant burden of proof on the local authority”.
Cllr Roger Kennedy said many of the developments which ended up in NAMA have gone derelict, and there was huge work in terms of taking estates in charge by the Council. CPOs were utilised by the two Tipperary Co. Councils before amalgamation, but now “we appear to have taken our eye off the ball regarding housing. They have fallen into disrepair.” For example, an undertaking was made to carry out repairs in O’Brien Street, Tipp town, and that does “not appear to be in train.”
District Administrator Marie McGivern said they are “actively using the Derelict Sites Act”, but “it is slow”.
Cllr Denis Leahy noted that Tipperary town Courthouse has fallen into dereliction, despite it being a listed building owned by the State. “Day by day, there are slates falling off. Everybody is sitting idly by, with the cover that it’s subjudice.” The Courthouse is the subject of a legal dispute as to whether it is owned by the Court Services or the County Council.
“It is being neglected,” said Cllr Leahy. “Either sell the building or do it up. Eight years on and nothing has been done. In 10 years? Is that the time period?” Senior Engineer Aidan Finn said they are liaising with Corporate Affairs regarding the roof, and there is an “extreme problem with the timber work”, but they “cannot allow the building to further degrade”.
Cashel’s Dominic’s Court and Lowergate developments - built at the height of the Celtic Tiger ‘madness’ - have 21 retail units between them, but only three shops are now occupied, added Cllr Wood. Lowergate has 11 shop units, all empty, while Dominic’s Court has 13, with 10 lying idle. “We cannot allow them to stay in the condition they are in at the moment. Planners could come up with a view regarding the empty units.” The timber work in a part of Lowergate “is gone totally rotten at this stage. People bought apartments there.” The Council must make contact with the Management Companies, to upgrade them first, “and then other exciting plans can come forward.”