Thursday, 30 April 2009
In the constituency I represent, Dublin North East, recent cutbacks announced by Dublin City Manager, Mr. John Tierney, to the affordable housing and regeneration programmes will impact very seriously on people in the parishes of Darndale, Belcamp and Priorswood in Dublin 17.
For over 20 years, community leaders in both areas have campaigned for the regeneration and improved re-development of their estates. Bodies such as the Belcamp Estate Steering Committee, Moatview Fairfield Development Association, Darndale Tenants and Residents Association, Darndale Belcamp Village Centre and Northside Partnership have campaigned for the completion of the Darndale estate regeneration and for the elimination of troublesome open spaces in Belcamp and Moatview estates by the construction of affordable and senior citizen housing at those locations.
The regeneration of Darndale estate, which began in the late 1980s, has greatly improved the layout and housing quality of this attractive Northside parish. The Darndale Community Development Association themselves identified the EU URBAN programme and I was delighted to strongly represent them at Dublin City Council and in Dáil Eireann to secure the funding to build the Darndale Village Centre of which we are all very proud. The original old shops site in the centre of the estate and a small portion of the north east of Buttercup estate were promised further regeneration and development. Following many local consultations in Darndale and discussions with Dublin City Council and with the Minister of State, Deputy Michael Finneran, this final phase of Darndale's regeneration was to include new affordable housing on the old shops site and a complete redesign of the north east corner of Buttercup estate.
My constituents have asked me repeatedly for the start-up date for these projects. Recently, I was informed that these two projects will probably not proceed in 2009 and may not even start in 2010. Darndale housing manager, Mr. John Egan, informed me recently that "there is no sign of this progressing soon. The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has requested a full re-appraisal and cost plan of the proposal in view of the new economic climate." He went on to state that even if a positive decision were made by the Minister, Deputy John Gormley, and the Minister of State, work would not commence this year. This is appalling news for the people of Darndale and Belcamp and I am asking the Minister of State this evening to state that he is fully committed to this regeneration and that it will start in 2009.
In Moatview and Belcamp estates and Priorswood parish, lengthy consultation, planning and other preparations have been made for infill affordable and senior citizen housing at a number of large urban open spaces. This programme began around the turn of the century with the construction of about 30 new homes at a large and previously difficult open site between Moatview Drive, Moatview Avenue and Moatview Gardens. Major preparatory works were carried out over the past three years at further large sites, including those between Moatview Close, Moatview Gardens and Belcamp Avenue and at a very difficult site between Moatview Drive, Belcamp Crescent and Belcamp Green. The major preparatory engineering works at the two sites involved massive excavations and the moving of drainage pipes and large drainage channels. This involved great disruption at the two sites and for householders in the surrounding streets. For the past year or more, the sites have been left almost derelict and Dublin City Council has totally failed to restore them and protect adjoining householders.
It was thus very upsetting for Moatview and Belcamp residents to receive the following report about a month ago from area manager, Ms Celine Reilly. Ms Reilly stated that "the tenders received from the Belcamp Moatview development are currently being evaluated by the City Council and when completed, the scheme will be evaluated and a decision made to either commence or postpone the development". I was recently informed that the Moatview and Belcamp redevelopments definitely will not proceed in 2009. This appalling news is a grave setback to Moatview and Belcamp and to the long and valiant campaign of wonderful community organisers such as the Belcamp steering committee.
I call this evening for the Minister to release urgently any necessary funding to Dublin City manager, Mr. John Tierney, and for the long needed regeneration works in Darndale, Belcamp and Priorswood parishes in Dublin 17 to go ahead immediately. Over 25 years, these valiant communities have worked hard to redesign and to improve their estates following profound planning and design failures by Dublin City Council and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. It is intolerable that the completion of this long and arduous campaign should be postponed to 2010 or even later. I call on the Minister of State this evening to take urgent action on both these projects.
Michael Finneran (Minister of State with special responsibility for Housing and Local Services, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Deputy for raising this important housing issue.
The Government's commitment to social housing takes a broad approach to supporting the development of sustainable communities. A crucial element of this approach is our commitment to supporting the development of sustainable communities in existing local authority estates through various improvement and regeneration initiatives. In particular, regeneration is focused on addressing the issues of social, educational and economic disadvantage experienced in some of the most challenging areas of the country.
This holistic approach looks beyond the physical infrastructure and considers all aspects of life in the areas concerned. In addition to improving the fabric of estates, each regeneration project should take a strategic approach to addressing the underlying causes of deprivation in the area, be they a lack of educational supports, or community facilities, or issues of anti-social behaviour, and where necessary they may involve a broad range of local and national statutory agencies, as well as community and business interests.
My Department supports an ambitious regeneration programme with projects ongoing in most of our cities and across a number of regional towns. The scope of the projects involved varies significantly, depending on the size of the estates involved and the particular challenges of the areas concerned. Regardless of scale, each project should address not just the physical improvements to the estate, but should also social inclusion. It is a matter for the housing authority concerned to decide on the type of regeneration proposal that is most appropriate for an area and to decide on the means by which the project should be delivered. It also falls to each individual housing authority to prioritise projects within its social housing investment programme and submit proposals in the usual way to my Department.
With regard to the issue of a regeneration programme for the Belcamp and Moatview area of Dublin, my Department has not yet received a proposal on this from Dublin City Council. From inquiries made to the council, I understand that work had been under way to develop a proposal, including the construction of affordable housing for a number of sites in this area. However, having regard to the current economic and budgetary climate, changes in the housing market and particularly the current availability of a large number of affordable units in the general area, the council has reviewed the proposal and now considers that the provision of additional affordable units would not be feasible at this time.
In so far as the regeneration of Buttercup Park in Darndale is concerned, Dublin City Council had submitted a proposal to my Department that included the construction of social housing, affordable homes and senior citizens' units. Officials from my Department wrote to the council last January about the proposed project, particularly about the need for affordable housing in the area. While a formal response is still awaited, I understand that the council will be submitting a revised proposal to my Department shortly.
As with all social housing investment programme projects, it will be a matter for the local authority to progress this proposal in accordance with the usual conditions and, subject to approval by my Department, to manage its delivery in the context of its overall social housing investment programme and in accordance with available allocations.
Finally, I would like to emphasise that my Department continues to work actively with Dublin City Council in connection with its broad range of housing programmes. In that context, I look forward to continued engagement with the council as it develops and implements its ambitious programme of regeneration.