Convern over Abbeyfeale’s ghost estate

Norma Prendiville

Reporter:

Norma Prendiville

Cllr Seamus Browne: There have been question marks over this estate from the beginning
CONTROVERSY continues to dog the Cois na Feile ghost estate in Abbeyfeale, half of which has been transferred to the Cluid Housing Association for social housing.

CONTROVERSY continues to dog the Cois na Feile ghost estate in Abbeyfeale, half of which has been transferred to the Cluid Housing Association for social housing.

Earlier this year, local councillors described the project as an unholy mess, and raised concerns at the high cost of the project, estimated at over €3m for 12 houses.

But now a group of local residents is raising its voice in protest as Limerick City and County Council tries to push ahead with the sewerage connection and the public footpath, which the original developer failed to provide.

Over 100 people attended a meeting on Monday night where concerns about the plans for the ghost estate were aired and a further meeting is planned for next Tuesday.

“There have been question marks over this estate from the very beginning,” Sinn Fein’s Cllr Seamus Browne said afterwards.

“How or why was planning permission ever granted for a housing estate on land that was zoned for commercial purposes? And how can the council or Cluid justify placing families in what is effectively a ghost estate on the edge of town?”

Cllr Browne also complained that local people were not given the opportunity to make their views known when the decision was taken by the council to switch half the estate from private to social housing.

“Without sewerage or a public footpath, these houses can’t be occupied,” he told the Limerick Leader. But, he claimed, Limerick City and County Council was now leaning hard on local residents in an effort to obtain the land needed for the footpath and get the controversial project finished and ready for occupation.

At a meeting of Limerick City and County Council in May, director of housing Caroline Curley said the council had not ruled out compulsory purchase orders.

The saga of Cois Feile dates back to 2006, when permission was granted for a 24-house estate beyond the speed limit on the Clash Road, Abbeyfeale on land formerly owned by the council. But the houses were never completed, and in 2007, the council agreed to buy 12 houses which were to be transferred to Cluid for social housing. The original cost of the project was put at €2.37m with a loan from the Housing Finance Agency. But because this money, could not be recouped from the Department of the Environment until the houses were occupied, the council has been paying interest.

So far, €1.4m has been spent but in May councillors sanctioned a further loan of €739,118 in order to complete the project. Otherwise, Ms Curley said, they would be left servicing a loan on the unfinished housing estate. The final cost is estimated at €3.144m or over €260,000 per house.

A spokesman for Cluid, said in May, they were looking forward to the completion of the project which is now expected in March 2016.

Pat Hartnett, who was elected as chair of the Clash residents’ group, said they believed the road was too narrow for a footpath. He is expecting an even bigger turn-out at next Tuesday’s meeting which will take place in the Glórach Community Theatre, at 8.30pm.

At that meeting also, councillors were told that, originally, the cost of acquiring and finishing the 12 units for social housing was €2.37m. This money was borrowed from the Housing Finance Agency but the council could not recoup this money from the Department of the Environment until the houses were occupied. €1.4m had already been spent on the project, councillors were told, but the cost of servicing the loan plus the additional works that needed to be done would push the final cost to €3.6m. Councillors agreed to sanction a further loan of €739,118 in order to complete the project. Otherwise, Ms Curley said, they would be left servicing a loan on the unfinished housing estate.