The editorial in the Leinster Express last week highlighted the growing problem of derelict sites.
Due to the extent of this problem in some towns and villages in Laois, I introduced a Derelict Sites (Amendment) Bill 2014 to help make it easier for Local Authorities to deal with the growing problem.
The number of derelict sites has escalated due to the slump in the property market and changing shopping patterns.
These sites can bring down the image of a whole town and often attract anti-social activity.
At present Local Authorities are hampered in dealing with derelict sites due to the weak legislation that exists in the Derelict Sites Act 1990.
Under current legislation the timespan to complete the process of enforcement can take years.
My Bill, the Derelict Sites Bill 2014, would reduce the period to 90 days in total if a Local Authority wanted to pursue it quickly.
The penalties provided for in the 1990 Act currently stand at only 3% of the value of the site.
I included a 5% penalty to persuade the owners to improve the site and make it safe.
Local Authorities must also have the power to enter the site and carry out the necessary work to deal with issues of health and safety, or nuisances, and be able to recover any costs they incur from the property owner.
Having to wait a couple of years to enter a derelict site is not acceptable.
Owners of these properties, which are sometimes banks, have a responsibility to maintain their sites in a reasonable condition.
The Sinn Féin Bill would give Local Authorities extra powers to ensure that happens and I would encourage other parties to support it.
The existing legislation has not been updated since 1990 and has many faults. Clearly more power needs to given to local authorities to prosecute the owners in a timely manner.
The other issue that needs to be addressed is to get people back living in town centres and villages and Sinn Féin supports the zoning of these sites for residential development.
Our towns and villages need to be brought back to life.
Sinn Féin TD