LOCAL councilors have denounced Dunnes Stores’ refusal to allow twenty modern flats above its Macroom premises to be let to potential tenants amid a housing crisis.

The apartments are part of the downtown complex on the Fair Green site in the Fitzgerald Square area. The complex was built in 2005 after the Neville family sold the site to Dunnes Stores. It was once the site of the Neville family bakery.

Such is the demand for rental accommodation in Macroom that the town and surrounding areas have been granted rent control zone status.

This week there were no residential properties for rent from local auctioneer and estate agent Killian Lynch, while a search of the Daft.ie website yielded just one property for rent in the city and its surroundings.

Although there is no legal requirement for Dunnes Stores to let the flats built above Macroom’s store, local thought is that the town center complex might not have obtained planning permission if it hadn’t included the accommodation element.

The non-availability of apartments in the complex comes at a time when the city is dealing with an influx of people seeking to live there as the city prepares for the bypass era. Macroom’s N22 bypass should be ready for road users before the end of this year.

According to Cllr Ted Lucey, Dunnes Shops have not been responsive enough to requests from Cork County Council to engage with them on the issue of flats being made available to provide accommodation.

“Even having as a planning condition that they build apartments, it seems, doesn’t mean they have to make the apartments available.

“It’s a shame they’re empty and I think they’re well equipped.

“They just don’t want to cooperate with anyone, as far as I know.

“The bottom line is I’d like to see someone living there the way things are.”

He thinks it would be ideal for Ukrainian refugees for whom housing is currently being sought, and when this war ends there will still be plenty of demand for such housing.

“Dunnes have a really good business there thanks to the local people supporting them and I think they can definitely give something back – when they build something they should provide it to people.”

According to Cllr Martin Coughlan, it is completely unsatisfactory that the apartments are not occupied given the current circumstances and needs.

“There is a housing crisis in the country and it is slanderous to see them dumped there,” Cllr Coughlan said.

He said the issue should be the focus of the county council’s planning enforcement section.

Efforts to contact Dunnes Stores for comment proved unsuccessful.

The 20 empty apartments are not the only element of the building for which the building permit was applied for successfully but in vain. In 2017 Dunnes Stores obtained planning permission to develop a restaurant on the first floor of the building.

It hasn’t transpired yet.

What could move things forward is Minister Darragh O’Brien’s stated intention to institute a tax on vacant buildings/property and introduce it in the next budget when presented to the Oireachtas in October. The possibility of a tax debt may force a move.