Locals are hoping the Bettystown Court Hotel will reopen and encourage more tourists to the area

‘It’s vital that we get these buildings back into use’

Another area that has been plagued with vacant sites and unfinished developments in recent years is Laytown/Bettystown. A thriving and busy tourist destination in decades past, Celtic Tiger woes and a lack of resources for the ever expanding population left the area looking like a shadow of its former self. However efforts to bring the seaside town back to its former glory has seen the district starting to flourish once again.

The recent clean up of a derelict beachfront property in Bettystown, that had been covered in graffiti attracting anti-social behaviour has improved the appearance of the scenic area dramatically.

The well known property, which overlooks the beach and also has an entrance from the road, was home to a number of restaurants in the past, but has now been empty for years.

The property was added onto the Derelict Sites Register for County Meath last year.

"The owners made a huge effort at cleaning up the building and the site," said local Cllr Sharon Tolan. They have also installed safety lights and cameras so I hope this will deter any further antisocial behaviour.

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"While it is welcome to see it is cleaned up, it's still a shocking shame to see it lying there empty.

There are plenty of opportunities there with the grant schemes, you can access grants of up to 50k to get a derelict site back into use.

"It's important that we get these buildings back into use all around the county and the country."

Brian Chan's family owns the beach front house and he says although it was previously owned by an extended family member, it was only purchased by his father in August last year. He added that plans are in place to restore the building and his family are cooperating fully with the council in regard to cleaning up the site.

Cllr Tolan says although the unfinished Bettystown Court Development has been an eye sore for the area in recent year there is positive news afoot with the hotel now at the sale agreed stage.

"My understanding is that the hotel is sale agreed and we are just waiting on that news to see if that sale completes and then we will find out who the new owner is," she said. They have assured me that it is an hotelier who wants to open it as a hotel.

"There are a lot of unfinished apartments behind it. The draft maps went out for public consultation just before Christmas and I made a submission to have that development included in the new residential zoned land tax . The apartments are half finished, we have so many people looking for homes and something needs to be done about that.

If it is included, it means the owner will be taxed on that every year.

"The population of this area in East Meath is now 33,000. It's an up and coming area, it's a fabulous area to live in and there are lots of people willing to invest. Those people who own vacant sites better watch out, they will feel the wrath of these taxes, levies and fines if they don't move on them, either do something with them themselves or sell them on."

Liam Keane of Bettystown Tidy Towns says although the seaside town has seen progress, red tape and bureaucracy is holding things back.

"There is a lot of work going on in the area, the Centra and Macaris which has been really missed is getting rebuilt after the fire," he said. "The civic centre and library are being built and should be finished by November and the health centre is due to be finished by the middle of this year.

"It's just to get the landowners, developers and council to look at it and say what can we do for the area because you can do a lot. It has been lacking investment through the years. With all of these people coming to the area, we need services, there is nothing for young people.

"The council have plans for a community centre but if it's on the same time line as the library that could be five or seven years before anything happens.

"It's all getting tied up with bureaucracy between developers and the council and in the meantime residents are falling foul of all of that."

"Things are going in the right direction. The amount of natural amenities we have is unbelievable, we have a fantastic beach, seaside hotel, golf club with a links course, tennis club, in Laytown you have a pitch and put club, kite surfing, kayaking.

"We just need something to attract tourist to the area and that's lacking at the moment, there is an issue with ample parking close to the beach and that is going to be an ongoing issue."