In 2008 it was advertised as an ‘exciting new development’, consisting of 90 top-of-the range homes, a creche facility, plenty of open space, accessible CCTV and ‘landscaping to die for’.
Today, residents of Cois Sruthain in Croom say they are living “in limbo” with inadequate street lighting, a green area which is unsafe for children to play on, unfinished roads and a poor water supply.
In the early hours of last Thursday morning, nine families were evacuated after a blaze broke out in a terrace of four unoccupied houses in the estate. Gardai are currently investigating how it started, but locals say the houses have been a base for anti-social behaviour for some time. In August, a 21-year-old local man was found dead in one of them.
Local woman Trina O’Dea said it was a “miracle” that no lives were lost as a result of the fire.
“It was bedlam. It was chaotic. It was the scariest experience of my life,” said the young mother.
“What happened here on Thursday morning could have cost a life. Those houses went so fast, they could easily have spread to the houses next door.”
According to Ms O’Dea, the alarm was raised by a passing truck driver who saw the flames rising from the empty houses. As the fire began to spread to neighbouring houses in the terrace, families living in the next group of houses left their homes and sought refuge with neighbours. Shortly afterwards, all nine families were evacuated by fire service personnel.
She pointed out that local gardai and Limerick City and County Council had been notified about problems associated with these four empty houses as recently as last September.
“We as residents have made numerous calls to the gardai throughout the months but unfortunately as I was recently advised by one such local garda is it getting increasingly difficult for the local gardai to do their job as there are only two gardai stationed locally on a part time basis and when they are on duty they are not only covering Croom but as far as Abbeyfeale - his words to me were ‘I’m here now and in 30 minutes I could be in Abbyfeale’,” said Ms O’Dea.
However, she stressed that anti-social behaviour is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to problems with the estate, which was built by the Roche Group.
“We are still an unfinished estate. I bought my house here in 2008 and nothing has changed here since,” she said.
According to Ms O’Dea, there are “very few” working lights in the estate, roads are unfinished with manhole covers sticking up and there have been ongoing problems with the water supply.
“I am looking out on a green area that has metal bars sticking out of it and reeds growing in the middle of it. It is not safe for children to play there,” she added.
“It is our right to have light, it is our right to have water, it is our right to be safe in our homes,” said Ms O’Dea.
She pointed out that the developers had lodged a bond with Limerick County Council when they got planning permission to build the estate.
“I implore Limerick City and County Council to get their hands on that bond and come in and help us. Please fix our estate and let’s get the ball rolling on building a proper community,” Ms O’Dea said.
Local Fianna Fail TD Niall Collins has pledged to continue to work with local residents to address the problems in the estate. “The residents are entitled to expect to be able to live in their home without the presence and menace of ongoing anti social activity and hopefully we are now getting to that point following last weeks events. Recently there was a very tragic death in these properties which shocked the community in Croom,” said Mr Collins.
“Following last weeks very dangerous fire in these houses I again immediately contacted the Council to have these burnt out properties deemed ‘dangerous structures’, once this was in place I contacted the Liquidator who was managing these properties and in fairness he moved very quickly to demolish these last Saturday morning.”