Dublin and Donegal only counties to put sites on register to stop the hoarding of land

More than €27m of sites owned by Dublin City Council

Dublin City and Donegal County Councils are the only local authorities to have published any entries on the register of vacant sites set up to to stop the hoarding of land that could be used for housing.

Most local authorities have “established” a register, as they were required to under planning legislation by January 1st, but the published registers remain blank.

The register of vacant sites allows local authorities to impose a 3 per cent levy on property owners who fail to develop prime housing land.

Some local authorities said they were in the process of amending their development plan to allow for the register to be established. A small number of council planning departments said they did not currently have a register.


Wexford County Council said it had given notice to three property owners that it intended to place their properties on the register. Roscommon County Council said there were no vacant sites in Roscommon.

Levy limits

To be hit with the levy, the vacant sites must be bigger than 0.05 of a hectare, excluding gardens. The majority of the site must be “vacant or idle” for more than 12 months, be zoned for residential or regeneration purposes, and be in an area in need of housing.

Bernard Greene, senior planner with Leitrim County Council, which has yet to publish a register, said it might be difficult for some local authorities to find properties which meet the terms of the legislation.

“We haven’t had an application for housing development for more than a decade in Leitrim. It is very difficult to penalise a landowner for not bringing sites forward for development in those circumstances.”

The council is preparing a variation to its development plan to accommodate the register and had presented a housing review to council members, Mr Greene said. “We didn’t see the point in doing what some local authorities did earlier this year which was to just publish a vacant register.”

While Dublin City Council has so far published details of 36 sites, and Donegal has published four, the other Dublin local authorities, which do have a high demand for housing, have not published any sites.

Fingal County Council, which has the fastest growing population in the State, said it was carrying out a survey to identify vacant sites. Dún Laoghaire Rathdown said it anticipated initial notification letters would be issued to the owners of sites shortly.

South Dublin County Council has advanced further, having identified about 70 sites that could be considered vacant under the 2015 Act, and having issued notifications to 29 owners so far. "Of these 29 sites, an initial eight sites have been determined as vacant and will be entered on the register shortly," it said.

Donegal’s four vacant sites are all in private ownership, and range in value from €32,670 to €252,600.

Dublin City Council's 36 sites have values up to €12.5 million. Six sites owned by the council have a combined value of more than €27 million. Most of these are former flat complexes the council plans to redevelop such as O'Devaney Gardens and Dominick Street. Another is the old Readymix Concrete site in Eastwall bought for €23 million by the Docklands Development Authority, which has been subsumed into the council. It is now worth €5.5 million.

Docklands development

The most expensive site on the register is a Nama-owned site on Sheriff Street valued at €12.5 million, which Nama said would be developed “as part of an overall strategy” under the Docklands Strategic Development Zone. Nama is listed as owning a €930,000 site at Vicar Street, but a spokesman said it “does not have an involvement” with this site.

The Minister for Justice is listed as owning a €900,000 site on Old Kilmainham Road. A spokesman for the Department of Justice said The Irish Prison Service and the city council were in discussions on the future of the site and a decision on the matter was expected before the end of the year.

St James’s and the Mater hospitals are listed as owning a site each on the register.

Other prominent sites on the register include a €5.4 million site beside the former Carlton Cinema on O'Connell Street which has been vacant since the 1970s and is part of the planned Dublin Central shopping development; the €12 million Bailey Gibson site on the South Circular Road; and a car park next to Apollo House valued at €1.2 million. This site is part of a planning application currently before An Bord Pleanála, and receivers Mazars said they would appeal the vacant sites listing.

The levy will be charged from 2018, but will not be payable until 2019.

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly is Dublin Editor of The Irish Times