Posted: Wednesday October 13 2010, Blog Tags:
A report is to be released shortly outlining the extent of the problem we face in relation to ‘Ghost Estates’. Estates that are already partly inhabited must be given priority. There are thousands living in unfinished estates all over the country. They certainly aren’t living in an estate as advertised in the colourful brochure!
A distressed mother has been forced to abandon her home on an unfinished “death trap” Inishowen housing estate after she feared for the safety of her child.
The woman’s brother told the Inish Times she “had no choice” but to flee Gerard’s Way in Carndonagh, which has been described by Deputy Mayor Cllr Padraig MacLochlainn as “the worst case” he has seen in the entire county.
The unfinished estate has two incomplete homes, open manholes, scaffolding still in place, large potholes, partially constructed footpaths and roads, and overgrown vegetation.
Describing the estate as a “death trap,” the young mother said she could not stay in the estate as it was “like a building site” and she could not let her child go outside as she feared for her safety.
Furthermore, the woman, who did not wish to be named, is now being crippled financially as she is renting another house while still paying the mortgage on her house in “Gerard’s Way.”
Donegal County Council cannot “take over” the estate as planning laws state a developer has five years to finish a development and enforcement proceedings also cannot be issued until that time period has lapsed.
However, it is understood the developer is in a “legal stranglehold” with the banks.
Deputy Mayor MacLochlainn told the Inish Times this has left residents “in limbo” and said “the system has failed” them.
He also added “questions must be asked” of the legal system which signed off on mortgages for homes on estates that had not been completed.
He said: “I would say openly, the system has failed.
“We can argue that the lawyers who acted on the residents’ behalf signed off on these mortgages when the estate was unfinished and questions have to be asked there.
“The planning system doesn’t allow for the takeover of estates within the first five years. Therefore, a developer can leave it unfinished and then three months before the five-year term is up can decide to do a bit of work on it again.
“The poor people who are paying the mortgages have been failed by the system. The Council is in a bind because they can’t legally take over the estate until it is completed and can’t enforce for five years.
“Questions need to be asked, the legal and planning systems are failing these people.’
Deputy Mayor MacLochlainn said the “biggest challenge” now facing Donegal County Council was the takeover of housing estates.
He said: “There are acres and acres of estates in the county unfinished and partially constructed. And I have to say, ‘Gerard’s Way’ is the worst case I have seen in Donegal.”
Last week, the first official Government estimate revealed the number of “ghost estates” in the country now stood at 2,700 – four times higher than first thought.
The majority of them are in the Midlands and the North West.
One-in-four unoccupied buildings in “ghost estates” are considered to pose serious safety risks due to issues such as sewers being left open and water contamination.
A report outlining the situation in each county is to be published in the coming weeks.
It was initially believed developer bonds or securities lodged with local authorities would finance an overhaul of half-finished estates.
However, while many bonds were not paid at all, in other cases they were so small they are now considered irrelevant due to the scale of the clean-up operation ahead.
Laura Glenn, Inish Times