Controversial plans for social housing in Limerick rejected

Nick Rabbitts at City Hall

Reporter:

Nick Rabbitts at City Hall

Cllr John Costelloe

Cllr John Costelloe

SINN Fein and Fianna Fail councillors have joined forces to block a social housing development on the northside of Limerick.

A planning application came before members of the metropolitan district at this month’s council meeting seeking two units at Sexton Street North and three at the Quarry Road in Thomondgate.

The plans have proved deeply unpopular among locals, with a public meeting at the St Munchin’s Community Centre attracting almost 100 people.

Residents are concerned at a loss of green space, and the fact the homes will be built on gable ends.

Ahead of the vote at City Hall on Monday, Seamus Hanrahan, the director of service for housing, urged elected members “to consider the broader picture”, pointing out that Limerick will need 25,000 new dwellings by 2040 to meet its National Planning Framework targets.

Also, he said under Rebuilding Ireland, 1,365 units are also needed.

“I think it’s fair to say every square inch needs to take account of itself. Look at what can be done, and what we have already illustrated can be done,” Mr Hanrahan said.

However, members turned on the executive, with councillor Séighin Ó Ceallaigh saying: “It’s disgraceful that someone can come in here and lecture local representatives. I do not feel comfortable being lectured about my principles in relation to this.”

His Sinn Fein colleague, Cllr John Costelloe criticised council bosses for not making him initially aware of the plans.

“The first I heard of these houses was when I was stopped by someone in the street. It smacks of desperation.”

Independent councillor Frankie Daly added: “No-one is against social housing. It’s just the way this is being done is nothing short of a disgrace.”

Fianna Fail councillor Kieran O’Hanlon said there are “hundreds” of elderly people living in three-bed homes which they are not using.

“Many of these are more than willing to move into sheltered accommodation and make these homes available to families. We need to change our attitude,” he said.

Mayor James Collins added: “The solution to the housing crisis is not to build gable ends on homes. Shoehorning homes in is not the solution to providing property.”

But Fine Gael councillor Michael Hourigan said he was in favour of the plan, and said: “As you can imagine I am incredibly disappointed local party interests have won out over the need to provide our constituents with homes.”

With a show of hands, Fianna Fail’s four councillors present joined with Sinn Fein’s three members, plus Independents John Gilligan and Frankie Daly to block the plan nine votes to eight.