Derelict Sites Designation
The derelict sites legislation was designed primarily to prevent urban blight. However, the legislation applies both in urban and rural areas. The legislation imposes a general obligation on owners and occupiers of property to take reasonable steps to ensure the property does not become derelict.
Each local authority must maintain a register of derelict sites. A derelict site is land which detracts or is likely to detract to a material degree from the amenity or characteristics or appearance of lands in its neighbourhood. Local authorities have a general duty to ensure properties in their area do not become or remain derelict sites.
Enforcing Against Dereliction
Local authorities may serve a notice requiring the prevention or remediation of a derelict site. If it is of the opinion that it is necessary to prevent this or where directed by the Minister they may serve a notice on the owner or occupier. The notice may require measures which are considered necessary to prevent the continuation of the dereliction.
The period for works to be undertaken must be specified. Representations may be made within 14 days of service but in the period in which the notice is suspended, generally 14 days. The council must consider representations made in relation to the notice.
There is an obligation on the person, owner or occupier to comply with the notice. Where he fails to do so the local authority may enter the lands, do the works and recover the costs as a debt. Planning permission is not required for about works. A public body may be directed by the Department of the Environment and Local Government to dispose of land in the register of derelict sites.
A local authority may acquire a derelict site by agreement or compulsory. It must publish certain notices in accordance with the legislation. Persons who are served may submit objections. The Department then decides to confirm or not to confirm the acquisition.
Where the Minister consents the local authority may vest the site in itself. The local authority publishes a notice describing the size and specifying which map may be inspected. The Vesting Order operates the vested site in the local authority and comes into force within 21 days of the making of the order.
An Application for compensation may be made by the owner within 12 months. It is agreed by arbitration in accordance with normal compulsory acquisition procedures in default of agreement.
Derelict Site Levy
A derelict site levy can be placed on urban land if monies are outstanding on levies or orders that may be deducted set off against compensation.
The Minister may prescribe any area as an urban area (even outside an urban area) for the purpose of levies. The local authority may, once a site is entered on the derelict register, may have the lands valued and inform the owner of the valuation. The person may appeal to the Valuation Tribunal.
The local authority charge on the derelict site levy on the basis of the valuations. Interest levy is payable annually at a percentage of the value of the land. It becomes a charge on the land together with an interest on it becomes a charge on the land. There may be an extension of enforcement collection of the levy word where it may cause hardship.
Breaches of legislation are prosecutions which may be prosecuted by the local authority. There are powers under the legislation for local authorities to obtain details of ownership of the land.
The local authority may authorise persons who enter the land for the purpose of inspection. An application can be made to the District Court where the inspection cannot be undertaken with the consent of the occupier.
Each local authority other than former town councils is fire authorities under the fire services legislation. Local authorities must organise fighting services and retain a fire brigade.
Local authorities have obligations in relation to the prompt and efficient extinguishing of fires and the protection and rescue of persons from fires. Fire authorities may make arrangements with other authorities for the joint discharge of their functions.
There is a general duty in relation to fire safety on persons in control of properties. They must take all reasonable measures to guard against the outbreak of fear and to ensure as far as reasonably practicable the safety of persons on the fire.
Potentially Dangerous Building
A potentially dangerous building is one which would endanger life in the event of outbreak of fire by reason of numbers of persons who would reside or are accommodated, absence of fire protection equipment such as fire extinguisher, escape routes, fire detectors, warnings, emergency lighting, flammable material, absence of appropriate egress, absence of notices, explosives, dangerous materials, likelihood of spread of fire, inadequate lighting, adequate ventilation and heating or similar factors.
The legislation does not apply to a dwelling house or certain workplaces covered under separate fire safety legislation in respect to workplaces.
Fire Safety Notice
The local authority as fire authority may serve a notice on an owner or occupier prohibiting the use of a building or parts of a building or requiring work to be done. It may prohibit the use of the building or part for a purpose other than certain works are done or equipment provided or installed or removed. This is a fire safely notice.
Requirements may be made in relation to fire exit signs, lighting, fire extinguishing, detection equipment, means of escape, safe storage of materials, dangerous material, fire evacuation drills, and records.
If a fire safety notice requires the carrying out of works and the owner alleges the expense should be borne by another person either the owner or occupier may apply to the District Court for an order concerning the expenses and the recourse for them. The Court has the power to make such order as it thinks just.
Where flammable or dangerous substances or material used or stored adjacent buildings a notice may be served requiring works or removal to reduce the danger.
A register of fire safety notices must be kept.
A fire safety notice may be appealed to the District Court within 14 days. The grounds are that the person is not the owner or occupier, that the building is not potentially dangerous or the requirement involved unreasonable expense or interference with the use of the building. The District Court has a wide discretion to confirm the notice, confirm it with conditions or not confirm the notice.
Local authority fire officers have extensive powers to inspect buildings. It is an offence to obstruct an authorised person.
The fire authority can apply to the High Court requiring buildings to be immediately prohibited until specified measures have been taken to reduce the risks. The High Court may issue an Injunction on short-form Application.
There are a number of offences under the legislation dealing with contravention of the legislation. They may be prosecuted on summary offence or indictment.
Energy Performance Certificate
The legislation provided for energy performance certificates, ratings for new dwellings as and from 1st January 2007. The requirement also applies to non-domestic buildings from 1st January 2008. It applies to existing buildings sold or let from 1st January 2009.
Regulations may be made for large non-domestic building over one thousand square foot, taking account of economic technical feasibility of using alternative energy systems including district or block heating, combined heat, power heat pumps, using heat from the ground, energy supply systems, using renewable energy.
Alternative energy systems must be considered in the design of large buildings.
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