The plight of residents left living in unfinished estates resembling ‘builder’s yards’ was highlighted in the Galway City Council chamber last week with the passing of motions calling for immediate Government funding and changes to legislation to prevent guilty developers making future planning applications.
Raising the issue was Cllr Terry O’Flaherty (Ind ) who put forward a motion calling for the city council to make strong representations to Government departments to secure immediate funding for unfinished estates in the Doughiska area, namely Fearran Ri, Fionnuisce, and Caislean Thorlach. Addressing the chamber Cllr O’Flaherty described how these estates have been left in a dire state for the past six years, that bonds have yet to be drawn down, and that it will cost several hundred thousand euro to finish the estates. “It’s time the council stepped in and did its part. The residents deserve it,” said Cllr O’Flaherty, who added there is a €10 million Government fund available for these types of estates.
Supporting the motion Cllr Declan McDonnell (Ind ) pointed out how one of the bonds was covered by the now liquidated Anglo Irish Bank and is therefore “uncollectable”. He added : “The people living in these estates deserve more than just talking, we need to take action.” It is understood that the bond that cannot be drawn down is worth €130,000.
According to Cllr Frank Fahy (FG ) there are serious issues that need to be addressed in these estates with the cost of finishing works in Fearran Ri estimated at around €131,763 and in Fionnuisce the cost is €423,000. Calling for a full report to be made available Cllr Fahy described how he himself inspected a manhole in one of these estates where there was evidence of cross contamination as well as sewerage seeping into Merlin stream. “There was €500,000 written off in planning fees in that general area. Somebody with the council was not doing their job when this development was taking place and developers were allowed to do what they liked without paying the fees. It’s a disgrace and it has come back on the tax payers,” said Cllr Fahy.
It was then that Cllr Colette Connolly put forward the motion calling for changes to the national legislation permitting local authorities to refuse permission to developers who have a history of leaving estates unfinished. “There are lessons to be learnt about the inadequacy of the bonds. These developers are not gone, there’s nothing to stop them filing planning permission again with the council for future developments. I would like to see developers who left unfinished estates never to be allowed to submit applications again,” she said.
Both Cllr Donal Lyons (Ind ) and City Mayor Cllr Pádraig Conneely reminded the council not to forget other unfinished estates in the city including Clybaun Court in Knocknacarra, and Rosan Glas and Cúl Gharrai in Rahoon. Sympathising with the people living in such estates, Mayor Conneely said: “Some have bought houses for around €450,000 and it’s like a builder’s yard, a tip. Children can’t even play outside because of open sewers. Someone has to be brought to bear.”
Acting director of services Billy Dunne told the chamber council staff have been working closely with residents of the three Doughiska estates over the past year and have carried out some works including installing public lighting. A submission for funding in relation to all three estates is also being prepared. Another director of services, Thomas Connell, explained that the council has pursued developers “all the way”. He added that one bond has been drawn down while the remaining bonds are being pursued.
Referring to Cllr Fahy’s criticism that council staff were not doing their job city manager Brendan McGrath replied: “We pursued the development contributions in the courts but where a company has gone into liquidation even if we won the case we would still get nothing. There is no point in throwing good money after bad.” He then assured councillors that this issue was receiving the necessary attention.