A Mullingar Area councillor has launched a scathing attack on developers whom he believes are speculating on the value of their derelict sites rather than selling them for the benefit of the community.
Cllr Leonard, who is chair of the Mullingar Area Committee told his colleagues that the number of derelict properties in Kinnegad is killing the town which should be a jewel in Westmeath’s crown as a commercial centre if it was tapped into properly.
At less than 40 miles from Dublin and with a population of 3,000 and a further 6,500 people in the general catchment area, he said Kinnegad could be a goldmine.
Instead, developers “sit and speculate and continue to wait for their profits to rise” he said.
He said the levies imposed on derelict site owners are too small and so are the incentives to develop and build.
The failure of developers to engage with their derelict properties means the community and voluntary sector are picking up the pieces, he said.
Speaking after the meeting he clarified his view, insisting that developers who are not planning to develop their properties should use their properties or lose them.
Because the levies are not hefty enough, they can commercially sit on them until their value rises.
They should be made maintain them, or lose them after a certain period of time.
He said the council has dropped the commercial levies for the Main Street in Kinnegad.
The 3 per cent levy on derelict properties doesn’t represent the reality, he said.
Some of the site owners are in NAMA, he said, others are waiting “for the wheel to turn - maybe they missed the boat at the Celtic Tiger and are waiting for property to go up again and offload them”.
They are strangling the town, he said.
Wonderful businesses in the town are looking out at businesses which are allowed to sit derelict year after year, but Kinnegad’s Business Association has tried to encourage the developers to sell the properties so everyone in the community benefits.
The Tidy Towns committee are trying to make those properties presentable, even though they are privately owned, he said.
Their huge effort has seen the town’s Tidy Town’s score increase from 160 points to 238.
“If these derelict buildings weren’t there, God knows what points they’d get out. It’s not fair to the voluntary effort that’s there,” he said.
The issue was also raised by the Community and Voluntary Forum in their presentation on local issues. They called for more focus on enforcement on derelict sites in Kinnegad.