An interesting article in today’s Examiner looking at the issue of unfinished estates, developers and bonds, and the plight of those seeking to get estates completed to an acceptable standard.  See here.  The Examiner received information from 28 county councils concerning the taking-in of estates by local authorities, wherein they take over the control and maintenance of ‘public roads and footpaths, public lighting, fire hydrants, water mains, treatment plants, public open spaces and playgrounds.’  There is little point re-iterating the article, which does a good job of explaining the main issues.  The following, however, caught our eye: ‘Co Roscommon puts at 86 its number of unfinished estates. Cavan has 55.’  

The NIRSA research reported on IAN concerning ‘ghost estates‘ (estates of 10 or more houses where 50% are vacant or underconstruction) puts the number of ghost estates for Roscommon at 35 and Cavan at 21.  A ghost estate is a particular kind of unfinished estate, wherein there is a lack of residents or the estate is still under-construction. The Examiner survey starts to give us some idea of those estates, that could have been built any time in the last 12 years, which although they are not half-empty, are nonetheless unfinished in that they fail to fully comply with the planning permission conditions and therefore have not been taken over by the local authority. The Roscommon and Cavan figures, if they were replicated across other counties, would suggest that there are about 1500 unfinished estates in the country, of which 621 are ghost estates.  Without hard data, the true number of unfinished estates is speculation, but it is clear that there are certainly more unfinished estates than the NIRSA estimate of ghost estates.

These unfinished estates as well as being a problem for residents, are potentially a large headache for local authorities, as unlike many ghost estates they will probably not be heading into NAMA (given that most, if not all, the properties have been sold) and the bond in many cases will be insufficient to cover the full completion costs, and yet they will need to be finished off and taken-in.  According to the Examiner, in Wexford alone, planning enforcement action has been taken against ‘developers in more than 90 cases over the past two years’. There are clearly a lot more enforcement actions to take place and much of the bill, as with so much of the present crisis, may ultimately fall on the taxpayer.

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