The Urban Regeneration and Housing Act 2015 introduced a new measure, the vacant site levy, which is aimed at incentivising the development of vacant, under-utilised sites in urban areas. Under the Act, planning authorities are required to establish a register of vacant sites in their areas, beginning on 1 January 2017. Planning authorities have issued notices to owners of vacant sites by 1 June this year in respect of vacant sites included on their respective registers on 1 January 2018, indicating that the levy will apply to those sites on 1 January 2019.
While all 31 local authorities have established vacant site registers, not all registers have been populated to date as local authorities are undertaking the necessary preparatory work in this regard, i.e. identifying qualifying 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. However, on foot of a recent review of the on-line vacant site registers across all local authority areas, I understand that 14 authorities have populated their vacant site registers to date, of which 11 had sites on their registers in 2017 and before 1 January 2018, with three other authorities populating their registers during January 2018.
My Department has actively engaged with local authorities in relation to the implementation of the vacant site levy in order to ensure a consistent application of the levy provisions across all city and county areas and to facilitate the sharing of best practice. My Department has provided guidance and advice and also organised three separate information seminars for local authorities, most recently on 1 May 2018, which was attended by officials from every local authority.
My Department will continue to monitor implementation of the levy to ensure that it is being fully used, in line with its intended purpose of incentivising the development of vacant or under-utilised sites in urban areas.