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Calls for penalties as works begin on ‘dangerous building’

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Councillor says more proactive approach would help tackle dereliction

REMEDIAL work to a dangerous building on Main Street in Tulla is expected to begin at the start of July, prompting hopes that disruption for pedestrians and motorists will come to an end in a matter of weeks.
In April, Clare County Council issued a ‘Dangerous Structures Notice’ to the owner of the vacant building, ordering them to address safety concerns.
The authority closed off a section of the footpath and put a temporary traffic management system in place in the interests of public safety.
The arrangement has been the source of considerable annoyance locally, particularly as the matter continued to drag on into the summer.
“People are very put out about this,” said Councillor Pat Hayes. “They’re particularly annoyed at the fact the situation has been allowed to continue for so long.
“You have (heavy goods vehicles) HGVs coming through town, from the Gort side, to do their essential deliveries and they’re meeting lines of traffic coming against them.
“This is also very inconvenient to visitors who are unaware of the situation until they access the area. It gives a bad impression to see derelict and dangerous buildings on the Main Street.
“This is a prime example of what happens when a reactive approach is taken, rather than a proactive one.”
Councillor Hayes acknowledged that there a range of different factors which lead to vacancy and dereliction, but insisted that those who purchase commercial property speculatively should have a greater obligation to keep buildings in good repair.
“There should be greater penalties, in my opinion, if an owner fails to take action and a structure becomes dangerous,” he said.
The Caher native also reiterated his criticisms of the existing schemes designed to reduce dereliction by incentivising property owners.
“I’ve been flagging this issue for some time,” the Fianna Fáil member said.
“We need to find a long-term solution to a problem that is affecting every village and town in Ireland and even the centre of Ennis.
“This is a prime site in the centre of Tulla and it needs to be developed. Everyone is talking now about the new rural strategy – Our Rural Future – and the work that is being done in some towns, but the fact is that none of the existing schemes are enough to incentivise property owners.
“In many cases, the earnings that a property will bring in rent will only cover a fraction of redevelopment costs.
“There should be a system whereby property owners who can’t or won’t maintain their buildings hand them over to the local authority or enter into a long-term lease arrangement.”
Councillor Hayes commended the efforts of the Council to address the situation in Tulla, but said the feedback he was receiving was that there had been a lot of leniency shown.
“The Killaloe Municipal District office have done their best with this,” he said.
“Under the law, when a building is identified as a dangerous structure, it falls to the Fire and Building Control Section to assess the risk.
“There have been repeated representations on this issue and the feeling is that it has dragged on and on.”
It is understood that the closure of the construction industry, under pandemic restrictions, in the first quarter of the year, created delays for the owner of the building in hiring a contractor to progress the safety works.
Now, however, Council officials have said they expect works to begin in early July, with a week to 10 days required to complete the works.

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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