Just 59 properties listed as derelict in County Cork
It took Tripe + Drisheen a month to access the derelict sites register for Cork County, a document that by law must be publicly available; we found just 59 properties on the register.
Cork County Council lists just 59 properties as derelict in Ireland’s largest county, Tripe + Drisheen can reveal, after it took a month to access the county’s derelict sites register.
When we did access the register, we found that:
Excluding Cork City, Cork County Council has a total of 59 derelict sites on their register. This is despite the CSO recording that 2,312 properties in the county have been vacant for more than 11 years (at each Census in 2011, 2016 and 2022.)
West Cork Municipal District, an area that covers Bantry, Castletownbere, Clonakilty, Dunmanway, Schull and Skibbereen, does not operate a derelict sites register at all.
East Cork Municipal District, which contains Midleton, Youghal, Castlemartyr, Cloyne, Killeagh, Whitegate and Aghada, has just one building listed.
42% of the properties on the countywide register have been derelict for more than ten years: 25 of 59 properties.
13.5% of the properties have been on the derelict sites register for 20 years or more.
What is the Derelict Sites Register and why is it important?
According to the Derelict Sites Act 1990, properties must be placed on a local authority’s Derelict Sites Register before the council can start charging levies against buildings that have been left fall into disrepair.
It’s increasingly recognised that levies can act as a disincentive to property owners leaving neglected buildings, that could be used as homes, to fall into disrepair. The levies were increased from 3% of market value per year to 7% of market value per year in 2020 to act as a deterrent against dereliction and land hoarding.
If a council doesn’t register properties as derelict, it is losing out on income from the levies: Cork County Council collected just €900 in Derelict Sites Levies between 2017 and 2022,The Corkman reported last November.
Although vacancy and dereliction are defined separately, buildings which are derelict have most often been vacant for long periods of time.
We can get an idea of how many houses have been vacant and for how long from Census information. 12,286 Co Cork properties, that are not holiday homes by their definition, were vacant at Census 2022.
4,956 of these were also were vacant six years earlier in 2016, while 2,312 of these were also vacant at Census 2011.
Cork County operates a separate Vacant Sites Register, which had a grand total of four properties on it at the start of 2023. The Vacant Sites Levy, separate from Derelict Sites, is due to be replaced by the new Residential Zoned Land Tax in 2024.
Council response: “aesthetics,” “informal communication”and sites removed from register
We requested an interview with Cork County Council’s Director of Housing to discuss the local authority’s approach to dereliction. We did not receive a response to this request.
An emailed statement from Cork County Council’s press office said that the issue of dereliction is “currently under review.”
“It should be noted that the Council is actively assessing potential urban sites that detract from, or have the potential to detract from, the area's aesthetics,” the statement read.
“The study to date has determined that certain properties formerly classed as derelict no longer meet the legal definition of a derelict site and these have been removed from consideration.”
“Prioritising informal communication with property owners (where known) in order to agree on solutions to render sites non-derelict is a current Council priority. When such efforts prove ineffective, the formal provisions of the legislation are activated.”
How easy was it to access the county derelict sites register?
County Cork is divided into eight MDs. By law, under the Derelict Sites Act 1990, each MD office must keep a derelict sites register available for the public to view.
The Derelict Sites Act pre-dates common internet usage, but many local authorities, including Cork City Council, now use mapping technology to make their derelict sites registers available online.
This may be especially important for homeowners’ family members living abroad or further afield, or people with access issues who cannot travel to MD offices.
The Open Data Directive signed into Irish law in 2021 provides for public information to be made freely available “in open formats and to open standards,” via application software (APIs) wherever possible.
However, Cork County Council say they have “no plans” to make the derelict sites register of Ireland’s largest county available in a digital format.
“There are no plans to make the Derelict Sites Registers available online, as these are living documents and there are updates to them on an ongoing basis,” a press spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
Tripe + Drisheen first requested a digital version of the county’s Derelict Sites Register while researching the story of 9 Beecher Street in Mallow, where the remains of the property’s owner, Mr Tim O’Sullivan, were found on January 13 this year. Mr O’Sullivan’s house had been placed on the Derelict Sites Register on December 8.
310km to view each register
However, two weeks after our request to see the register, having first been told that the information was being “collated,” the press office sent an email saying they would not send the information electronically and that Tripe + Drisheen would have to visit each MD office in person to view the public records.
To visit each MD office is a 310km round trip.
So Tripe + Drisheen emailed each MD office separately asking for an emailed version of the derelict sites register for that MD. We simultaneously lodged an AIE (Access to Information on the Environment) request for the register, although it is information that is legally mandated to be in the public domain, and continued to engage with Cork County Council’s press office, who eventually did send us most of the register.
One week before the AIE return was made, a month after we first made enquiries, Cork County Council’s press office finally confirmed that no derelict sites register was available for West Cork MD, allowing us to begin collating the countywide register.
When we requested a register from each office, how did the MD offices respond?
Dereliction by Municipal District (MD)
Fermoy MD office emailed back promptly: their register, for an area covering the towns of Fermoy, Charleville and Mitchelstown, has 14 properties listed. One house, at Mill Lane in Glanworth, has been on the register since 2002.
East Cork MD: The office emailed back to say there is only one site on the register at present, a house in Castlemartyr. “There is a review of all derelicts sites in Youghal and Midleton being carried in 2023 so this situation will change,” the staff member said. We requested the details on this house as it would appear on the register. We got no response and the address of this property, 1 Main Street, Castlemartyr, on the list since 2010, was eventually released by the press office and under AIE.
Bandon/Kinsale MD responded to an initial email after one week, saying that the register would be available to view in the MD office in Kinsale in a further week’s time. When asked to email a copy, they refused. When Tripe + Drisheen emailed again pointing out the Open Data Directive 2021, the staff member sent a one-line email saying “Bandon Kinsale MD is awaiting legal opinion on the matter and will revert shortly.” They never reverted. Bandon/Kinsale’s derelict sites register was eventually released by the press office and under AIE. It revealed four properties, all placed on the register in December 2022.
West Cork MD office refused to provide a derelict sites register. It later emerged that this is because is doesn’t exist. It took one month to confirm with Cork County Council that this is the case.
Mallow/Kanturk MD sent us the register promptly: it is comprised of 15 properties. The house that has been on the register for the longest is 8 Egmont Place, Kanturk, which was placed on the register in 2002. The most recent is 9 Beecher St, where the remains of Mr Tim O’Sullivan were discovered this year.
Carrigaline MD office made no response at all to emailed queries or to attempted phone calls, so Tripe + Drisheen paid a visit to Cork County Hall, home of Carrigaline MD’s Office. However, we were told by another County Hall employee in the planning office that Carrigaline MD Office is not publicly available and we might need to make an appointment. AIE and an email from the press office revealed that there are 7 properties on the Carrigaline MD register.
Blarney - Macroom MD office took five days to respond in full, having first sent on a list without full addresses or the date they were placed on the register. They list seven derelict sites, the oldest of which, at Mill Lane in Millstreet, has been listed since 2005.
Cobh MD office responded in six days. There are 11 properties listed in Cobh MD, with the oldest entry, 23-24 West Beach, Cobh, dating to 2018.
Some other Tripe + Drisheen coverage on dereliction:
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