Westmeath County Council could face a bill of up to €40,000 for the demolition of a ghost estate in the village of Ballingore.
Works are currently underway to restore the six acre site just behind the Bodhran pub to greenfield status, knocking three almost complete bungalows, and filling in a number of dangerous holes.
The work is being carried out under legislation governing derelict sites, but as there is confusion as to who exactly owns the development, there may be difficulty in reclaiming the funds.
However, an official at Westmeath County Council says they were forced to take action because “we were left in a quandary when the owner left the site in that dangerous, unsightly manner”.
They began work partly in response to public demand and “local residents were pressing us to take action”.
“Reluctantly”, the council is taking the action under the legislation instead of continuing to wait for those responsible.
Notice has been served on the person believed to be the owner and two diggers and a number of men are working on the site now.
This is a source of satisfaction to Councillor Colm Arthur who says locals are relieved work is finally taking place.
He says he has been asking the council to deal with the eyesore since he was elected in 2009.
“The developer wasn’t engaging in any way with Westmeath County Council,” he says and if he had, Cllr Arthur says the three houses may have been saved, something the locals would have liked.
“It was seen as the beginning of bigger things in Ballingore at the time. But obviously things have changed now and economic situations are as they are.”
The houses have been significantly damaged by vandals, with graffiti visible from the road.
“They’ve absolutely been torn asunder, by maybe anti-social behaviour, gangs, or people meeting up here, and using them as dens for parties or whatever and it has been a problem in the area,” says the councillor who is also relieved the site has finally been fenced off.
“For the last eight years it has been wide open to the public,” he says. “It’s been an absolute hellhole because you’ve had huge, deep holes there, uncovered, un-fenced off.
“It’s been a health and safety nightmare, so Westmeath County Council had to act to do something with the site,” he concludes.
The development, had it gone ahead, could almost have doubled the population of the village which has between 25 and 30 houses.
Completed, it would have brought essential services to the village which would have led to the possibility of further developments, but with the oversupply of housing and zoned land in the county, it is unlikely that development will now take place.