Housing loan for West Limerick town is approved

Nick Rabbitts


Nick Rabbitts

Cllr John Sheahan: 'We are caught between a rock and a hard place'
COUNCILLORS have approved the drawing down of a loan which will allow the completion of a housing development in Abbeyfeale.

COUNCILLORS have approved the drawing down of a loan which will allow the completion of a housing development in Abbeyfeale.

Twelve houses in the Cois na Féile estate now look set to be finished after councillors approved a loan of €739,118 from the Housing Finance Agency, to be paid to the voluntary housing group Cluid.

The units are to be three-bed houses.

Originally 24 units, the estate was granted planning permission in 2006. Only the shells were completed.

Twelve units were bought and transferred to Cluid under the Government’s voluntary housing scheme.

The project was originally estimated to cost €2.37m or €180,000 per unit, with the money borrowed by the council.

It was expected it would be reimbursed by the Department of the Environment.

Now, despite opposition, councillors have decided to approve the further loan, with one because they feel they have no option but to.

The council is currently paying interest on €1.44m of the €2.3m loan already drawn down, and councillors say they cannot allow the impasse to continue.

“We are caught between a rock and a hard place here. If we talk away from this, we will be down €1.44m, and we will have serviced this debt for the last three years. But if we sit on our hands, we will still be accruing charges,” said Fine Gael leader Cllr John Sheahan.

Director of service Caroline Curley added: “If we do not get a contractor onto the site, we will be left servicing a loan on the unfinished housing estate.”

There are also fears the estate will remain disconnected from the town of Abbeyfeale.

This is because the original developer failed to honour a planning obligation develop a footpath and streetlighting from the area.

It is unclear whether this will be delivered, but Ms Curley said the council had not ruled out taking a compulsory purchase order to see the works completed.

It was the fear that this would not be delivered which caused Cllr Jerome Scanlan, Fine Gael, to call for the plan to be deferred again.

He said: “We are going nowhere unless we have footpaths to and from the town. If this footpath cannot be developed, the we have no business spending money on this.”

Sinn Fein councillor Seamus Browne agreed, saying: “We must be mindful of how we use tax payers money. If we approve this, we will be servicing the interest through our own cashflow.”

But Cllr Francis Foley, Fianna Fail, said: “We need to put this to bed”.

“We cannot justify losing €1.44m. I think we have no choice but to go forward,” he added.

Cllr Liam Galvin, Fine Gael, agreed, but stressed the houses cannot be completed without footpaths and public lighting.

The loan was approved after Cllr Michael Collins, Fianna Fail, seconded Cllr Foley’s proposal.