Galway City Council is currently battling to remove almost 100 properties from dereliction in the city – while a further 19 properties are officially listed on the local authority’s Derelict Sites Register.
A meeting of the Strategic Policy Committee (SPC) for Environment, Recreation and Amenity, representatives was told that seven properties had been placed on the list in 2017.
The remaining 12 have been on the list for varying lengths of time – including one that has been there since 2005.
Speaking at the SPC, Cllr Colette Connolly said that the Council were not doing enough to tackle the scourge of derelict buildings in the city.
“I don’t feel that Galway City Council is proactive on this – there are five properties on the register that have been on it for five years.
“Louth County Council has bought 35 houses and has 30 more in the pipeline by Compulsory Purchase Order.
“Why, if Louth, the smallest county in Ireland, can appropriate 35 houses and 30 more, why is it that Galway cannot?” asked the Independent Councillor.
Cllr Connolly said that some of the properties on the register, such as those on St Helen Street and the old cottage at Blackrock, have been derelict since she was a child.
She believed the register was inconclusive and sought a list of all properties that City Hall is engaging with in relation to dereliction.
Acting Director of Services with responsibility for planning, Eileen Ruane, said that while she would provide the committee with the extensive list, the reason for their omission from the register was as a result of a number of factors.
The legislation on derelict sites enables the City Council to charge a three per cent levy to property owners who are not meeting their requirements to improve the appearance or safety of their site.
“The objective is to get rid of the dereliction and to assist the property owner in getting rid of the dereliction.”
She said they did not automatically enter properties onto the list as efforts are made to find and contact owners first – encouraging them to improve the situation or face paying the levy.
It was revealed that the Council purchased two houses from the list this year under Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPO).
The question of the price paid for these properties caused consternation in the Council Chamber as Cllr Pádraig Conneely sharply criticised Ms Ruane for not having the figures ready at the beginning of the meeting.
“I find it incredible that you don’t have that information. You come with an item on the agenda and don’t have the information – I feel like I’m wasting my time here asking questions.
“Don’t make a fool out of people now,” exclaimed Cllr Conneely, before leaving the room.
Ms Ruane returned to the item, as scheduled by the agenda, later in the meeting with the figures to hand.
Both properties were in Ballybrit, she explained. The Council paid €85,000 and €260,000 to add the properties to their housing stock.
SPC member representing Galway Community Network, Brendan Smith, said he believed it would be more effective if the properties were added to the register immediately – and then begin the process of forcing the owners to correct the situation.
Chair of the SPC, Cllr Terry O’Flaherty, queried if there were enough staff in City Hall to be dealing with the upwards of 90 derelict properties currently noted by the Council, but not yet on the register.
Ms Ruane conceded that staff shortages were an influential factor in dealing with the issue of derelict buildings.
“We could be going all day, every day with this but we are limited by staff and limited by budget.
“This process takes an awful lot of time – it is not straight forward,” said Ms Ruane.