Minister orders report into Coosan tragedy on ghost estate

The report into the safety and security of the ghost estate in Athlone where a child died last week should be presented to the Government by the end of March, it was revealed this week.

After news of the tragic accident at the Glenatore estate in Coosan last Thursday, February 23, in which two-year-old Liam Keogh lost his life became known, Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Phil Hogan, instructed Westmeath County Council to investigate the issue and report directly to him.

The Department of the Environment has already put aside €5 million for 21 local authorities to carry out safety measures on such estates, but only €1.3 million of this has been paid out to date.

At just under €300,000, neighbouring county Longford is the local authority that has been allocated the most from this fund to date.

Westmeath has been allocated a total of just under €56,000 for three estates, and has already used €30,000 of this for two estates in Castlepollard. The outstanding €26,000 is earmarked for the Toorvally estate in Moate, and it is hoped this will be put to use in the next couple of months.

Minister Hogan has conceded that: “the legal process with liquidators and receivers has slowed the cleaning up of such estates”.

To qualify for money from this fund, an estate must be defined as Category 4, that is, abandoned by the developer and causing serious problems for residents.

According to Westmeath County Council, Glenatore is not as bad as this, and is defined as a Category 3 unfinished estate - “where the developer is in place but there is no on-site activity and the developer is responsible for managing the site from a public safety perspective”.

Permission to build 66 terraced houses and apartments was granted to Tony Diskin in a number of applications up to 2005, but fewer than 20 were built and only five occupied: however in a statement released from the county council this week: “Athlone Town Council is currently processing a planning application to retain and complete this development”.

Glenatore is one of around 40 estates in Westmeath in which residents are exempt from paying the new, €100 household tax because of the buildings’ unfinished condition.

This tragic accident is under investigation by An Garda Siochana and the Health and Safety Authority.

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