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Compulsory purchase orders issued for four south Mayo derelict sites

FOUR derelict sites in the Claremorris-Swinford Municipal District have started progressing towards compulsory purchase by Mayo County Council.

Three of the sites are in Ballinrobe, with one in Claremorris, and they will be used to provide housing.

The update was given to elected members of the municipal district at their monthly meeting.

Last March some 150 sites were identified across the district. Some were already on the derelict sites register and since then there has been a lot of activity to update it and include them all.

Senior engineer Conrad Harley said a new working group has been established within the council to tackle dereliction, identifying sites that can be used for social housing.

A new online register is also being developed, which will be more accessible and stakeholders can easily see where the sites are.

He also highlighted the Croí Cónaithe fund where grants of between €30,000 to €50,000 are available for properties in towns, though councillors were unhappy that it didn't extend to the rural areas where vacant homes could be brought back into use, boosting schools and local communities.

Claremorris Councillor Tom Connolly, who had requested the update on dereliction, said action is needed, with some properties in a despicable state.

Welcoming the positives in the report, Councillor Michael Burke said the longer issues are left unresolved, the worse they get.

He described dereliction as a 'blight on our communities', and if you live near a site your home was devalued and they also became places for unwanted visitors.

The council, he said, has a serious responsibility.

Councillor Damien Ryan commented on the levies imposed on sites – up from 3% to 7%, and he would push for 10%. 'Dispose or develop', he said, would focus minds.

It was not all about town centres either, he pointed out. There were properties on the approach roads that were within the urban speed limit and to date they have escaped the net. They needed to be assessed under the same criteria as a town centre streetscape.

Councillor Gerry Murray said the grants mentioned should be extended to country areas where schools are under pressure and there are vacant houses. Each family that moves to an area will have a positive impact.

Councillor Richard Finn agreed it was a shame it didn't extend to the country to bring properties back into use and 'turn on some lights in communities'.