Westmeath County Council has been left with a shortfall of €8,000 after demolishing three houses in a ghost estate in the village of Ballinagore.
A meeting of Kilbeggan area councillors on Friday learned that the demolition and remedial works to restore the site to greenfield status had cost the council a total of €34,000, some €26,000 of which had been recouped through development levies paid by the developer.
“This was one of the few cases where the council took it on themselves to render a site derelict. It involves a cost to the council and it is not a route we go down lightly,” said acting director of services Hugh O’Reilly.
The responsibility to maintain the site has now been handed over to the landowner, following the recent demolition of three houses by the council.
While councillors were pleased to see the derelict houses removed and the site made safe, there was significant regret that it had come to the stage where demolition was the only viable option.
“While people are delighted it has been fenced off, we will rue the day when we had to knock down three perfectly habitable houses at a time when social housing is at a premium,” said Cllr Paul Daly.
Cllr Gerry Corcoran said that while he appreciated the difficult position in which the council had been placed, “no one likes to see houses knocked down when perhaps some of them could have been saved”.
“I have mixed feelings - the problem is the services were simply not there to look after the houses if they were kept. We should put our minds to how the site will be maintained,” he added.
Mr O’Reilly said the houses had been 60 to 70 per cent completed but had been “totally vandalised and gutted”.
“We looked at all the options but services were the issue; planning was granted on the basis that a sewerage system was provided for the village. From a maintenance point of view, the site is in the ownership of the original landowner, and our objective is to put it back into greenfield status.”
Meanwhile Cllr Joe Flanagan said the council had been left with “nothing now except a bill”.
“We’ve been left with a bill for the restoration of the site; maybe we should have retained at least one house. It seems like the landowner has won,” he said.