Under the Urban Regeneration and Housing Act 2015 (“the Act”) all Planning Authorities are required to introduce and maintain a Register of vacant sites within their boundaries. The purpose of the Act is to reduce the number of properties lying dormant in areas in need of housing or development and, significantly for property owners, vacant sites on the Register are subject to an annual levy based on the market value of the property. Initially the levy was 3%. It has since been increased to 7%.
The Council must assess whether or not a site is eligible for entry on the Register. The Council will inspect the site. The site must be over 0.05 hectares and zoned for either residential purposes or regeneration purposes. The most likely purpose in Roscommon will be residential. If the site is zoned residential, it must meet the following criteria for inclusion on the Register:
i) Situated in an area in need of housing.
ii) The site must be suitable for the provision of housing.
iii) The site or the majority of the site is vacant or idle.
iv) If the current use of the site is unauthorised, then the site will be considered vacant. For example, if you do not have the requisite planning to operate a site as a Carpark, then for the purposes of the Act, the use as a Carpark will be disregarded in making an assessment under the above criteria.
v) If your property is on the Register on the 1st of January of the relevant year then your property will be liable for the levy for that year, payable in January of the following year.
When the Council has decided that a site meets the criteria for entry on the Register, they will issue a Notification to the land owner. The land owner will have 28 days from the receipt of this Notice to make Submissions to the Planning Authority challenging their proposed entry on the Register. It is important that you act quickly once you are notified of the proposed entry on the Register.
If the Council still decides to put the site on the Register you may appeal the decision to An Bord Pleanala.
Unpaid levies will be come a Charge on land which will prevent the sale of the land until the levy has been paid. In Roscommon Town there have been 7 properties put on the Register as of April 2019. Many more sites have been proposed. In Boyle and Elphin, only 3 sites have been put on the Register. The Council shall use the levy and the threat of the levy with the development of Town Plans. Land owners are warned not to ignore the Notices.