Thursday, 29 April 2004
Probation and Welfare Service.
I welcome the Minister of State. The matter I wish to raise concerns the provision of a new location for the probation and welfare service in Dublin 15. I know the Minister of State is very familiar with this issue and is working to try to identify and secure another location for the service.
The service is very much needed in the Dublin 15 area and I support the decision to provide one but, as the Minister of State knows, many of the residents of Blanchardstown village have great concerns about locating it in the old AIB building on Main Street because of its proximity to a residential area and other facilities. They have expressed their opinions to the Minister of State and all the other relevant public representatives and have requested that an alternative site be made available. I understand the Office of Public Works is reviewing the matter. Will the Minister of State inform me of the progress of this review?
We are aware that another vacant property closer to the town centre has been identified by the residents as more appropriate for the probation and welfare service. It is on a bus route and this would facilitate the clients visiting it. I support the residents in their call for another location for the service and I hope that, with the help of the Minister of State, we will be able to identify a site and provide the service as soon as possible.
I am replying on behalf of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell. The former AIB premises, Main Street, Blanchardstown, was acquired by the Office of Public Works on behalf of the probation and welfare service for €1.5 million in 2002. The acquisition reflects the policy of the service to localise its offices in the communities it serves. Currently, the only District Court team working from the probation and welfare service headquarters in Smithfield is the team that covers Dublin 7 and Dublin 15.
Having acquired the premises, the Office of Public Works consulted Fingal County Council under the Planning and Development Regulations 2001 and provision was made for the necessary change of use. The Office of Public Works is now ready to place a contract to refurbish the premises in accordance with the requirements of the probation service. The overall project budget is €2.9 million.
Concern was expressed by local residents about this development. There is no evidence that the presence of a probation office in any location is a threat to public safety. However, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform has requested the Office of Public Works to examine alternative options in the Blanchardstown area with a view to identifying a suitable site. In an effort to do so, the Office of Public Works has contacted all estate agents in the Blanchardstown area. Replies received from the estate agents are being examined.