Under the Urban Regeneration & Housing Act 2015, all Planning Authorities are required to establish and maintain a Vacant Sites Register. The Register must be in place by 1st January 2017 and will contain details of sites where the Planning Authority is of the opinion that it has been vacant for a minimum of 12 months preceding its entry on the Register.
Wicklow County Council undertook a preliminary assessment of the number and location of potential vacant sites within its functional area. These sites are being assessed in more detail against the criteria set out in the Act including:
- The site must be land exceeding an area of 0.05 hectares and zoned as either residential or regeneration land.
- In the case of residential land the site is:
1. Situated in an area in need of housing
2. The site is suitable for the provision of housing and
3. The site or the majority of the site is vacant or idle
- In the case of regeneration land:
1. The site, or the majority of the site is vacant or idle and
2. The site being vacant has an adverse effect on existing amenities or reduces the amenity provided by existing public infrastructure and facilities.
Vacant Site Register:
Wicklow County Council is in the process of satisfying itself that the sites identified by it to date have been vacant for the preceding 12 months. After this process, the Register, which was established on 1st January 2017, will be populated with appropriate details.
A number of preliminary inspections have been carried out to date, with potential sites in County Wicklow identified. Potential sites must be inspected and photographed. Following this a report must be prepared to include a general description of the site and any previous planning history. The Planning Authority will continue the process of identifying sites and reports will be finalised on any sites that meet the criteria as set out.
For a site to be entered on the Register, details of ownership, folio reference and the market value pertaining to the site must be ascertained. This information will be collated by Wicklow County Council once the reports as outlined above are finalised. The statutory process of notifying property owners of the intention to include their property on the Vacant Sites Register will commence during 2017.
Vacant Sites Levy:
The Planning Authority must notify property owners before 1st June 2018 that their sites, which have been included on the register, shall be charged a levy in respect of 2018. A demand for this levy will issue in January 2019 and every further year thereafter until the site is no longer vacant. The levy is payable in arrears beginning in 2019. As soon as possible after the entry of a site on the Vacant Site Register, the Planning Authority shall determine the market value of a vacant site. The levy shall be calculated at 3% of the market value of the site.
There are a number of options for the site owner to appeal the decision of the Planning Authority:
- Appeal Entry on the Register – an owner may appeal the entry of their site on the Register on the grounds that it was not vacant for 12 months. Appeal will be made to An Bord Pleanala.
- Appeal Continued Entry on Register – in June 2018, when the site owner is notified of the proposed levy to be paid in 2019, there is an opportunity to make a submission in relation to whether the site is still vacant. Initial submission should be made to Planning Authority, with leave to appeal decision to An Bord Pleanala.
- Appeal of Market Value – a site owner may appeal the market value arrived at by the Planning Authority to the Valuation Tribunal.
- Appeal Demand for Payment – a site owner may appeal to An Bord Pleanala when they receive a demand for payment. The appeal would be considered where the site was no longer vacant in the relevant year or the amount of levy was incorrectly calculated.
The burden of proof is on the site owner for each appeal mechanism.