Residents of Mullingar’s Ennel Court say they are sick of waiting for the council to sort their estate out while they are left to deal with derelict properties, rat infestations, and an unsafe environment for their children.
Such is their frustration that residents contacted RTE’s ‘Today with Pat Kenny’ radio programme, and a segment of the show is to focus on their concerns this morning (Friday ).
According to the estate’s residents, the council has promised several times to either refurbish the houses or buy back houses from those residents who bought them.
However, up to 24 of the 55 houses in the Ennel Court estate are currently empty. While work is underway to demolish nine of these, the remaining houses have been left empty and boarded up.
“The residents are fed up. At both entrances to the estate there are houses boarded up. In the front row four or five houses are now empty. People think there is no one living there,” one resident told the Advertiser.
“It is upsetting enough to have to walk past them every day, without dealing with rat-infested boarded-up houses. We very rarely see children out playing any more, there is nowhere safe for them to go.”
According to the residents, one family is paying out €150 quarterly to Rentokil to rid their home of rats. Another family, whose house adjoins an empty house, had to vacate their house in the middle of the night when the derelict house was vandalised and set on fire.
“We understand if the council is saying there is no money, but this has been going on since 1997. There are civic office buildings going up worth €40 million. Why is there no money to finish this? It is up to the council to clear out these properties,” said the resident.
“Some of us bought our own houses as an investment, but you couldn’t sell them or even rent them out at the moment.”
According to the residents, council workers recently resumed work on the demolition of a number of houses in the estate. However, they believe this will not completely solve the problem.
“Even if they pull these houses down, there are still boarded-up houses and no money to do anything about them. If they decide to buy our houses from us, they need to let us know. All we want is a decent place to live,” concluded the resident.
Acting director of services with Westmeath County Council, Declan Leonard, told the Advertiser that a submission was originally made to the Department of the Environment in the 1990s for improvement works at Ennel Court.
A pilot programme was carried out in 2004-5, when 10 units were refurbished. However, due to “public procurement issues”, this programme could not be continued and a new proposal was lodged, which is still with the department.
“The cost of refurbishing the houses is €160,000 each. Those who own their houses want us to buy them, but we have no money for this and the department is unlikely to give any to us at the moment. We are currently examining options for Ennel Court,” said Mr Leonard.