Laois County Council have confirmed that they have served an enforcement notice on the illegal encampment of caravans at Shannon Road in Mountrath.
The notice was served by the local authority on Monday, of last week, January 20. Under due process the subject of the notice has two weeks in which to reply in the first instance.
That deadline will therefore expire on Monday next, February 3.
The clarification around the enforcement notice, the time-frames involved and the process thereafter was sought at the January monthly meeting of Laois County Council yesterday (Monday).
The issue was first highlighted by Cllr James Kelly who also received support for his concerns from Cllrs Conor Bergin and John Joe Fennelly.
Cllr Kelly claimed that the town of Mountrath was “under siege and in lockdown” due to the influx of a convoy of caravans onto a private site on Shannon Road.
The meeting of the local authority heard allegations that local residents felt intimidated and were in fear of going up the town or socialising. Local pubs had closed their doors and other businesses were also being affected. Elderly residents are afraid to stir outdoors.
Concerns were also expressed about sanitation, noise, fire hazards and health and safety. Eye witness accounts that there are at least 12 caravans and assorted vehicles with generators after setting up on the site.
There is a noticeable increased Garda presence in the area.
The new Director of Services for Planning at the Council, Mr Joe Delaney noted that it was accepted that the local authority officials had acted fairly quickly once the matter was brought to their attention.
“The process is that we normally investigate these issues and we did so in this case and acted fairly quickly. The enforcement notice was served last Monday and the subject has two weeks in which to reply.
“If they do not act on it and if there is no co-operation then will go to court at the next available sitting. We will prepare to have a case ready if required and continue to follow the matter up through the planning and legally and any other avenues open to us.”
Cllr Kelly queried that if the land owner doesn’t reply or if there is no engagement then the matter goes to the Circuit Court?
“I would hope that those involved will respect the judicial process and the enforcement notice in the first instance. We will continue to liaise with our legal advisers and take cognisance of the process that is underway,” outlined Director of Services, Mr Delaney.
Cllr Kelly observed that notwithstanding the prompt response by the local authority officials the entire process is extremely slow. He said that based on 191 such complaints received in 2019, only 12 of them were enforced within the courts.
“As we speak the situation there is getting worse as more and more caravans are going on the site. People are very worried,” he cautioned.