*A vacant property in Tulla. Photograph: Páraic McMahon
Derelict houses and empty properties in the heart of Tulla are contributing to “a daunting feeling” for locals and passers by.
Clare County Council were called on by Cllr Pat Hayes (FF) to engage with owners of vacant premises in Tulla “to access the potential use of these sites and how they can be best developed in the future”. He brought the matter to the attention of elected representatives and Council officials at the September sitting of the Killaloe Municipal District.
Hayes welcomed planned housing developments in the area but stated that the question was regularly being put to him as to what the Council were doing about the centre of Tulla. “If we are going to build our 25 houses I’d ask that we have a decent village to walk through. There isn’t much point building on the periphery, it’s a national issue as much as anything else. A lot of people don’t have the money to do much with them but at the same time they are sitting there derelict, Tulla Tidy Towns are making a great effort to keep the town looking nice. If properties are sitting there and not developed I’m asking that we do something”.
“Every town and village has empty premises whether they are derelict or not is another thing, they are owned by people living miles away who don’t give two hoots. We need to get people back in the main streets, we have a homelessness crisis, people would be more than happy to have a house in the main street,” Cllr Pat Burke (FG) commented.
A survey was suggested by Cllr Joe Cooney (FG) to determine the amount of vacant properties and their owners, “Write to the owners and if they are in a position to get back to them and if they are not to work with the Council to upgrade them”. He added, “It is a disgrace to see the centre of Tulla and a number of derelict houses inside in it”.
Director of Service, Anne Haugh stated that the principle job of the Council’s vacant homes officers is “to identify vacant properties and make contact with owners”. Were the local authority to invest in refurbishing the properties, they would then be used as social housing units. “Where there is potential we are very interested in turning them around, they would be social housing units let’s be clear about that, for the local authority to turn them around is through the buy and renew scheme”. She flagged that with some “town centre properties it can be difficult to meet rent”.
Following the Kilkishen example is the way forward for Tulla in the eyes of Cllr Alan O’Callaghan (FF). “The village of Kilkishen has big work done over the past number of years and it is seeing the improvement now, there is a major fresh look now through paint scheme, it looks 100 times better. When you drive through Tulla it looks daunting”.
“Not enough money” would cover such work in the buy and renew scheme, Cllr Hayes felt. “I’d like someone from the housing section, rural development and planning section that three people take on Tulla as a pilot scheme and see what we can do”.
Locations such as Tulla and Tuamgraney had already been identified by the local authority, Haugh stated. “Our vacant homes officer will work with the rural development officer to identify properties, we may know something on the ownership already, then we have to decide if there is potential in any of those for social housing. We have seen examples in this area where the only option is to demolish and rebuild which can be cost prohibited by the Department”. She stressed that the Council were “very anxious” to assist with dereliction in Tulla and that such works would “tick two boxes”, namely rural regeneration and providing accommodation.