Dan Boyle: They All Don’t Fall Down

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From top: Plans to demolish buildings in North Main Street, the medieval heart of Cork city, have caused outrage; Dan Boyle

I can’t say I didn’t know what I was getting into. I’m not lacking for things to do, or issues to respond to. A re-baptism of some heat, if not exactly fire.

My electoral area contains the island City Centre. At its core is the historic spine of the city. Joined on the northside by Shandon Street, led out on the southside by Barrack Street.

In between are North and South Main Street. Once the beating heart of a proud city, years of neglect have reduced the streets to a shabby shell.

North Main Street had carried a particular pre-eminence. The city faced northwards. The North Gate its imposing portal. Here stood Skiddy’s Castle. A seventeenth century stone carving of the City Coat of Arms, its only remnant.

Here is the birthplace of Terence McSwiney, the commemoration of whose death we are meant to be marking in 2020. The plaque identifying the house where he was born, is now semi obscured by a defunct neon sign.

Where North Main Street begins, and South Main Street ends, there are a number of Eighteenth century buildings. Each has had various stages of uses. One through embossed lettering on its frontage, continues to boast its once much loved status as Hosford’s Bakery.

Like much of North Main Street these buildings, and the streetscape they compose, have been listed in the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

However there has been no parallel listing of these buildings as protected structures in the Cork City Development Plan.

In December 2015 these four buildings were placed on Cork City’s Derelict Sites Register. Joining them was a large site further up North Main Street which housed a business known as the Munster Furniture Centre.

Unfortunately that business would soon become the victim of a curious fire that would raze its premises to the ground.

Also joining these properties on the register on that same day in December 2015, were two further buildings on Barrack Street. All these properties have/had the same beneficial owners.

Not a penny of the Derelict Sites Levy due to Cork City Council, for these properties, has been paid since.

Last week a partial collapse occurred in one of the buildings. The owners of the building, who prior to this had shown complete indifference towards maintaining them, moved with great alacrity to commission an engineer’s report suggesting demolition.

Soon a demolition company were on site. The expectation being that the City Council would pay for the demolition work, creating a newly cleared site that would be infinitely more commercially valuable.

The narrative being created of entrepreneurial souls who had taken a punt, at the wrong time, is utter bollocks.

Greed has been the only motivator throughout this saga. Negligence and contempt of the City we love, the only tools that have been operated by these sleeveens.

In a dramatic change of tack Cork City Council has been facing down these ingrates. By making it clear that no public money would be used to demolish these buildings, we may have crossed The Rubicon (or at least the North Channel of The Lee) in how we deal with dereliction in Cork.

Let’s be having more of it.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator and serves as a Green Party councillor on Cork City Council. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

Pic: twitter

Previously: Get Medieval

14 thoughts on “Dan Boyle: They All Don’t Fall Down

    1. SB

      Since 2015, not 2019, surely? These levies need to be pursued more aggressively in future. If remaining unpaid for, say, two years running a “use it or lose it” clause to kick in and the property transfers to the state.

      Regarding unfortunate “accidents” resulting in protected buildings being destroyed, they need to be rebuilt as they were, as was done with ‘Archer’s Garage’ on Fenian St in Dublin. That was very gratifying to see.

      1. Otis Blue

        The legislation enabling the vacant site levy was established under the Urban Regeneration & Housing Act 2015.

        A site entered on the register is subject to the vacant site levy, payable in arrears each year beginning in 2019. The levy, which was 3% of the site’s market value in 2018 increased to 7% from 2019. If not paid, the levy can be recoverable as a simple contract debt through the Courts. Any levy due will remain to be a charge on the land until paid. From 2019, the owner of a vacant site who receives a demand for payment of the levy may appeal against same to An Bord Pleanála within 28 days of the date of the demand on grounds that the site is no longer vacant or that the calculation of the levy is incorrect. If ABP upholds the appeal, then either the entry shall be removed from the register and the demand cancelled or it will advise the Council of the correct amount of the levy and an amended demand shall issue.

        1. SB

          Ah yes, I forgot they’d (stupidly/corruptly) kicked the payment can down the road when they first introduced it, sorry about that.

  1. Hansel

    Well done Dan.
    This needs to be called out.

    On another note, I’ve personally reported buildings to the derelict property register but they don’t appear on the list.
    City Council needs to get tougher.

  2. Ian-O

    Thanks for that Dan, did not know that about Terence Mac Swiney’s birthplace, that’s a bloody disgrace!

    But that’s just how the dead are viewed, the living, not much better it would. The market or something, mumble, mumble, mumble.

    : (

  3. eoin

    If you can get a vacant site levy out of the O’Connors (either 3% or 7%), Dan, I will buy you a dandelion infusion or whatever beverage you people imbibe.

  4. V @vanessa_foran btw

    I’m a decedent of the Marsh myself Dan

    And my Granda’s people, on Popes Quay, now the ugly PVC fronted Town Houses/ Apartments, at the Bridge were known as the Boat People
    My Great Grand Mother had the fishing rights there on the NGB btw
    so anyone who wanted to fish (salmon) between the bridges had to buy permission from Mrs O’Brien. She was North Mall

    You know that house on Popes Quay, the workshop led down into a basement that was a portal to the tunnels under the city; my grandfather’s twin drowned in one of them during the Tan occupation.

    I don’t think there were used much after the end of the Civil War tbh
    So if you ever come across O’Brien’s and Weldon’s there on the canvas, you’ll know where one of them ended up.

    Anyway; Hon’ de Dan
    A part of Cork that’s definitely worth fighting for

  5. Glat1

    I lived in Cork before the turn of the century and was appalled at the time as developers took the roofs off listed buildings “for the safety of children who may play on them”. Buildings then suffered mysterious fires and were then demolished “on the advice of engineers”.

    Sad that 20 years later the tricks are still the same and that those in charge have not done anything to stop them.

    Just saying.

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