Plans to build 650 housing units on a 38 acre development site in the Lissywollen area are advancing, councillors were told at April’s meeting of the Athlone Municipal District.
Westmeath County Council appealed to contractors for expressions of interest last week for the first phase of the project, which entails the building of a 1km access road and the delivery of 200 homes by the end of 2021. This will be made up of 140 private residential houses and 60 social houses.
A sum of €1.37m for the 1km access road, which will be a continuation of the current road that serves the Brawney development, has been allocated through the Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund (LIHAF ).
The entire project will not be completed until 2025 at a cost of €120m. The overall breakdown of the 600 homes, which will be located to the east and west of the current Brawney housing estate, will be 70 per cent private and 30 per cent social units.
The council plans to draw up a shortlist of five contractors by December, 2018. A contractor will then be appointed by March, 2019.
Mayor Aengus O’Rourke welcomed the news, commenting on the serious lack of private and social housing in Athlone. However, he added that the money for the development has been in place since 2017, and expressed frustration that it will be eight years later before the entire development is complete.
Mayor O’Rourke said the delay in the process showed the “lack of agility” the council has in terms of tackling the housing crisis. Centre Parcs is almost ready, he said, while Athlone waits eight years for 600 homes.
His sentiment was echoed by his party colleague Cllr Frankie Keena. Cllr Keena said that Athlone has been granted regional growth status through the National Planning Framework, but that such a status will count for nothing if the homes are not in place to match projected population increases.
Cllr Keena added that Brawney residents have expressed some concern regarding the works taking place on their doorstep, and stressed the need to keep them informed throughout the duration of the project.
Sinn Féin councillor Paul Hogan said it is important to get the link road right. If done so he said the road will improve connectivity and accessibility in the area.
Fine Gael’s John Dolan lamented the length of the project, saying the council could fill all 600 proposed units today.
While it is estimated that up to 650 units could be built as part of the project, the final number will be agreed upon during consultations between the council and interested contractors.