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Justice Department hit with €27,000 levy by Dublin City Council for vacant site it is trying to transfer to the council

The site at 51A Old Kilmainham Road, Dublin 8, has been vacant for a number of years.

The vacant site in Dublin.
The vacant site in Dublin.
Image: Google Maps

THE MINISTER FOR Justice has lost an appeal against a €27,000 vacant site levy being issued by Dublin City Council on a site due to be transferred to the council for use as social housing.  

The Irish Prison Service (IPS) – which is an Executive Agency of the Justice Department and overseen by the Minister for Justice – owns a vacant site at the corner of Old Kilmainham Road and South Circular Road in the south of the city. 

The site at 51A Old Kilmainham Road, Dublin 8, has been vacant for a number of years and was entered into the Vacant Sites Register in April 2017.

According to planning documents, the Department of Justice and DCC are in discussions to transfer the site to DCC at a nominal value for the development of a social housing project. DCC is then due to lease the site to the housing charity Novas Initiatives.

Novas applied for planning permission in January 2015 and was granted permission in January 2016 (after significant local objection) for the development of 13 apartments on the site which will be used as social housing. 

However, since the initial agreement DCC informed the IPS that they (the council) required a freehold ownership title to the site (meaning they own it outright permanently), rather than a leasehold title (meaning the ownership is for a limited number of years).

This wasn’t possible – according to the documents – as the site is a leasehold with about 750 years left to run. DCC has sought confirmation from Novas whether a leasehold title would be acceptable. Once this confirmation is received, the site can then be transferred to DCC.

Vacant Site Levy

In the meantime, the site has remained vacant and in the ownership of the IPS (ultimately being owned by the Department of Justice) and was entered into the Vacant Sites Register. 

Since the beginning of 2017, local authorities (in this case DCC) have been required to keep a register of lands in their area that are suitable for housing but have not been put forward for development.

These lands are then subjected to a yearly levy aimed at encouraging owners to develop the site and prevent land hoarding. The levy is charged at 3% of the determined value of the site. 

A valuation of the site was issued by the City Valuers Office in May, 2018, for €900,000 and the Minister for Justice was notified of this. A Demand for Payment of €27,000 (3% of total value) was then issued to the minister in February of this year.

Appeal 

The IPS appealed this charge to An Bord Pleanála (ABP), explaining its position in relation to the site and its desire to transfer it to DCC. 

According to the ABP Inspector’s report, the IPS stated it was surprised at the levy being issued on the site it was hoping to transfer to DCC. The IPS stated that it was “fully committed to transferring the site to DCC and in this context, wish to appeal against the demand”.

Its decision, ABP looked at the appeal under two criteria:

  1. Whether the site was still vacant on 1 January of this year
  2. Whether the €27,000 amount was incorrectly calculated 

ABP dismissed the appeal, finding that the site was still vacant as defined under the Urban Regeneration and Housing Act 2015 and still in ownership of the Minister for Justice. 

Planners also noted the neglected condition of the site and its impact on other properties in the area and the evidence of anti-social behaviour there. It directed that the Demand for Payment of €27,000 from the Minister for Justice still stands. 

TheJournal.ie has contacted Dublin City Council, the Department of Justice, the Irish Prison Service and Novas for comment, but no responses were received by the time of publication. 

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About the author:

Cormac Fitzgerald

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