I propose to take Questions Nos. 63 and 66 together.
Local authorities have been provided with a number of powers and measures to deal with the issue of derelict properties both in larger urban settings and in smaller rural towns and villages. There also exists a framework of overarching policy and capital funding which provides support to development, including urban regeneration.
The Derelict Sites Act 1990 imposes a general duty on every owner and occupier of land to take all reasonable steps to ensure that the land does not become, or continue to be, a derelict site. The Act also imposes a duty on local authorities to take all reasonable steps, including the exercise of appropriate statutory powers, to ensure that any land within their functional area does not become, or continue to be, a derelict site. Local authority powers include requiring owners or occupiers to take appropriate measures on derelict sites, acquiring derelict sites by agreement or compulsorily, and applying a derelict sites levy on derelict sites. It is a matter for local authorities to determine the most appropriate use of the legislation within their respective functional areas.
Since 2018, my Department has requested local authorities to submit an annual return regarding the implementation of the Derelict Sites Act in respect of their functional areas and details of any new urban areas which it is proposed to prescribe for the purposes of the Act under section 21. These requests were conveyed by Circulars PL 08/2018, PL 08/2019, PL 10/2020 and PL 09/2021.
There are many reasons the number of properties on derelict sites registers may differ from the number identified on the GeoDirectory residential and commercial buildings database, including the fact that the Derelict Sites Act only applies to urban areas prescribed under section 21 of the Act. My Department continues to liaise with local authorities on the implementation of the Derelict Sites Act with a view to improving its effectiveness and continues to keep the relevant provisions under review. In this regard, in November 2021, my Department initiated a review of the Derelict Sites Act by requesting local authorities to identify issues and challenges that have arisen in the operation of the provisions of the Act and the derelict sites levy to date. The submissions received are now being examined with a view to further engagement with local authorities and to concluding the review in the current year.