A new initiative has been set up by the Department of the Environment to document the condition of all housing estates across the country. This inventory was due to include details on the overall number of housing developments, completed and occupied developments, units ready for sale, units near completion, units at specific earlier stages of construction, and units not started at all. A pilot survey has just been completed in County Laois and Minister of States for Planning Ciaran Cuff is expecting national results on a county by county basis in September.

The results from the Laois pilot survey suggested that in addition to the financial consequences of high level of excess housing vacancy there were also visual, environmental and pressing health implications (IT 09/08/10).

The Laois pilot survey found:

  • Serious public health and safety issues at one-quarter of the surveyed sites such as open sewers and manholes, water contamination and unsecured building sites
  • One-third of recently completed housing developments are currently vacant
  • A fifth of completed units are without adequate water, sewage or road access
  • Alarmingly the survey also found that an additional 40% of planning permissions granted in Laois has not even got to the construction phase as yet (Independent.ie 09/08/10)

Another worrying aspect of the planning process has also been revealed through the survey. It now seems that developer’s insurance bonds, if paid to the Local Authority at all, were in no way adequate or sufficient and in lots of cases will not meet the needs of the clean-up operation. According to a senior Government official, developer’s and speculators were able to ignore preconditions and press ahead with their plans.

“Even in some cases where there were conditions to pay bonds; a lot of them just went ahead and started developing without discharging any of the pre-commencement conditions”

There is no doubt that the findings from the complete national survey will provide some startling figures. We need this and it will hopefully provide a strong evidence based platform from where a recovery strategy can be planned.

Justin Gleeson