Under the vacant site levy provisions of the Urban Regeneration and Housing Act 2015, planning authorities are empowered to apply a vacant site levy of 3% of the market value of relevant vacant sites. These arrangements commenced in respect of vacant sites included on local authority vacant site registers prior to 1 January 2018 with payment of the levy due in January 2019.
While all 31 local authorities have established vacant site registers, not all registers have been populated to date as some local authorities are undertaking the necessary preparatory work in this regard, such as identifying relevant vacant sites, their registered owners and commissioning the market valuations of such sites.
My Department does not maintain a central register of vacant sites as each local authority administers the vacant site register in respect of their functional area. As provided for under the Act, the register in respect of each local authority is available for inspection at its offices and on-line on its website.
Following enquiries made by my Department with both Galway City and Galway County Councils, I understand that Galway City Council entered four sites on its register in March this year in respect of which the levy will be liable if the sites remain on the register on 1 January 2020 and no development work is activated on the sites in question in the interim. Details regarding the registered owners of the sites in question can be viewed on the Council's vacant sites register on its website. Galway County Council is continuing to undertake the necessary preparatory and site assessment work before entering sites on its register. Therefore, no levy income has accrued to the two Councils to date.
In relation to implementation of the levy provisions generally, on foot of a review of the on-line registers, I understand that a total of 22 planning authorities have populated their vacant site registers with over 380 sites, of which over 120 were listed on the registers on 1 January 2018 and in respect of which the levy could be applied in January 2019.
While application of the levy provisions is a matter for individual local authorities, my Department continues to monitor implementation of the levy to ensure that it is being effectively applied, in line with its intended purpose of incentivising the development of vacant or under-utilised sites in urban areas. To support this work, progress reports were requested from local authorities and the responses received are currently being examined by my Department to see what further implementation supports may be required.
My Department will continue to engage proactively with local authorities to ensure the vacant site levy achieves its full potential.