The Urban Regeneration and Housing Act 2015 introduced the vacant site levy, which is a measure 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 must issue notices to owners of vacant sites by 1 November 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 some 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. As required under the Act, the planning authority must enter certain information on the register in relation to a vacant site, including name and address of owner, the folio reference, as appropriate, the market value together with the date of entry on the register.
My Department does not maintain a central register of vacant sites as each local authority administers the vacant site register in respect of their own functional area. As provided for under the Act, the register in respect of each local authority is available for inspection at its offices and online on its website.
On foot of a recent review of the on-line vacant site registers across all local authority areas, there are collectively almost 270 individual sites currently on the local registers. Over 150 of these sites were entered on the local vacant site registers on 1 January 2018 and will therefore be subject to the levy in 2019, unless development works are activated in the interim.
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, the most recent of which, in May 2018, was attended by officials from every local authority.
My Department will continue 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, my Department issued Circular PL 06/2018 on 3 October 2018. Part 3 of this Circular requested a progress report on implementation of the vacant site levy to be completed by the Director of Planning in each Local Authority and returned to the Department by 31 October 2018.