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The Daily Record

Wednesday, January 8 2014 €1.49/£1.29

Minister vows to tackle ghost estates

Promises to resolve “this most distressing remnant and symbol of the doomed Celtic Tiger years” By Barbara Crabtree Housing minister Jan O’Sullivan today released the second annual report detailing the progress made in relation to unfinished housing estates around the country. Speaking today at the Custom House, the Minister said that she was pleased with this year’s results as “they point to significant progress in bringing to a conclusion this most distressing remnant and symbol of the doomed Celtic Tiger years.” Describing this year’s strategy as “the last pieces of the jigsaw”, the report describes in details the plans laid out by the housing department to deal with the ghost estates which litter the Irish countryside. Minister O’Sullivan has stated that the last remaining unfinished housing estates will be completed within this government’s lifetime. The report includes results from the national housing development survey. The survey has been tracking the extent and condition of unfinished housing

developments since 2010 and this year has reported many positive findings. In 2010, there were 2,846 unfinished developments. This year, that number has been reduced by 55% to 1,258. The number of completed vacant units in these unfinished developments

Minister Jan O’Sullivan has also shrunk in the last three years by an impressive 72%, from 23,250 to 6,350. It is hoped that the gradual recovery in the housing market of recent months will continue to deplete this figure. Looking to the future, the report states that “it is imperative that the banking and property sectors become fully functioning again.” Local authorities are continuing to pursue developers to comply with their obligations under planning regulations. Site resolution processes will be

the main vehicle used to tackle unfinished developments. Over the past year this method has shown success, with over 500 developments being brought to a resolution point this way in 2013. It is hoped that with the property market getting stronger in the past few months, particularly in Dublin, the minds of various interests will be concentrated and the fate of ‘ghost estates’ will be resolved at a faster rate in the future. Minister O’Sullivan also stressed that the government’s priority is to complete any partially inhabited estates around the country. In this year’s budget, €10 million was set aside for the completion of infrastructure in estates which have little or no safety bond in place. These bonds are provided by the developer to the local authority for the completion of roads and other essential services. In some cases, bonds have expired and in others no bonds were put in place at all. Minister O’Sullivan described this issue as “Legacies of a boom time with no regulation”. The Public Safety Initiative will be wound up in 2014. Continued on page 2


The daily Record 08 Jnauary 2014

Minister vows to tackle ghost estates

By Barbara Crabtree Continued from page 1 Set up in 2011, this initiative provided local authorities with funding to complete necessary public safety works left unfinished by developers, such as fencing off hazardous areas and capping pipes. €4.74 million was made available, with €2.78 million being paid out to date. Applications for this funding have dwindled to almost zero, a development welcomed by the housing department as “a signal of further progress”. When asked about the current bond system which allowed developers to build 200-bedroom developments with no insurance policy, Housing Department spokesman Frank Walsh stated that new guidelines were issued to local authorities last summer. A study has been conducted by

grow in the future. The cost of clearing these estates will not be taken from the public purse. The majority of these sites are owned by developers, all of whom the Housing Department has been in touch with. Discussions were held with local authorities to identify problem areas A spokesman for Minister O’Sullivan said: “The vast majority of these estates are only at the stage where foundations are laid or groundworks carried out. We are looking to return them to green field status.” The estates on this list are thought to be completely unoccupied; however in the unlikely event of people being displaced, the Minister has stated that they will deal directly with the property developer or local authority

An unfinished housing estate in Co. Longford the Housing Department technical committee and legislation may need to be addressed. This report comes less than two weeks after the Housing Department identified 40 ghost estates which will be demolished in the next 12 months. This number, less than 3% of the total unfinished estates in the country, may 2

to find suitable alternative accommodation. The locations cannot currently be identified due to confidentiality concerns. The owners, primarily small property de velopers or banks, have been in regular consultation with the Housing Department. If necessary, the Government can utilize

the derelict properties act and seize the development, but this option will hopefully be avoided. Thus far all parties concerned have come to an amicable agreement through a collaborative approach. The estates are thought to be primarily in Leitrim, Roscommon, Longford, Cavan and Offaly, as these counties have the highest rate of unoccupied properties per 1,000 dwellings.

The daily Record 08 Jnauary 2014

DCU Announces new online learning system The National Institute of Digital Learning, a new e-learning initiative for students from first to third level, was launched yesterday at Dublin City University by Education Minister Ruairí

speed broadband by 2015. The primary focus of eDCU will be to enhance their current programmes. They aim to provide an online master’s programme in Irish studies which they hope

Minister Quinn at the event in DCU Quinn. Described as “a new centre of excellence which will pioneer major developments in online, distance and blended learning”, this initiative seeks to enhance access to education and create an open source for all teachers to download the best class notes available to them. It is estimated that 3.9 million downloads of class notes were attempted in 2013, an indication of the importance e-learning has now and will have in the future. Minister Quinn spoke of “optimizing the very way in which people learn” and of the need for a new digital strategy to be developed for schools. He promised to dedicate €40 million in funding to digital learning and outlined plans to ensure all primary schools across the country have access to high

will appeal to the wide Irish diaspora across the globe. The President of the college, Brian Mac Craith, announced that Mark Brown would be fulfilling the role of Chair of the Institute along with being Director of the innovative program. Irish Digital Champion David Puttnam spoke at the event and likened Ireland to an English soccer team by saying “We might not be the biggest in the world, but if we work hard enough, we can finish fourth and get into Europe”. He showed a poignant clip of the demolishment of Cinema Paradiso as a way to demonstrate how “there is not going back from this development” while speaking of the fearlessness that is necessary in attacking the digital era with an open mind in order to succeed.

Angry gamers protest Xtra Vision over Xbox rules Xtra Vision has revoked its policy stating that customers cannot purchase an Xbox One unless they also buy a game along with it. The rule came to light yesterday when an unhappy customer posted about his experience online, where he was denied a console which he had already paid for. The story spread like wildfire and Xtra Vision faced a huge backlash from angry gamers. The new console is completely sold out around the country, and some customers were forced to take unwanted refunds. Despite originally defending the policy, Xtra Vision has bowed to pressure and apologised to customers. Consumers’ Association of Ireland chief Dermott Jewell said that customers were under no legal obligation to purchase an additional game and Xtra Vision had “breached consumer law”.

Furious: Fans left fuming over game mix-up 3


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