Saturday, 27 January 2007

Opposition to regeneration plans in Muirhevnamor and Cox’s Demesne

The Argus tells us of how Dundalk Town Council is facing massive organised opposition to regeneration plans in Muirhevnamor and Cox’s Demesne.

And the two estates have plans to put past rivalries to one side and join together to form a united front against elements of the multi-million euro draft plans. They are demanding officials start listening to them.

This unity represents a headache for council officials who were eager that their ideas would be accepted so that funding could be applied for from the Department of Environment before the end of this year.

It is expected that joint meetings between the council and the two estates will be held and common approaches will be agreed on between representatives in both areas.

Last month, Dundalk Town Council officials held public meetings in Muirhevnamor and Cox’s Demesne to outline their architects’ visions for the regeneration of the estates.

The meetings, which were very well attended by people in both areas, showed detailed draft plans for regeneration projects that would cost upwards of €60 million.

Controversially, it was revealed that up to 114 houses were earmarked for demolition in Muirhevnamor while the main bone of contention in Cox’s was the proposed destruction of 13 homes on the hill at Ashling Park.

Following intensive negotiation with people in Muirhevnamor, it was yesterday announced that a petition has been signed by more than 80 percent of residents outlining their opposition to aspects of the plan.

At Ait na Daoine, members of Muirhevnamor Community Council (MMCC) said that while they broadly welcomed the regeneration programme in the estate, the building and maintaining of trust was crucial to its implementation.

The petition, which gave the MMCC an overwhelming mandate to represent the views of residents, calls for representatives to be elected from across the estate to a steering group who would handle meetings with council officials about the regeneration programme.

MMCC claimed there was little consultation by officials ahead of the announcement that 114 homes will be demolished.

There is also massive opposition in principle to the plan to build 220 new houses on what residents say is an already overcrowded estate. In addition, the demolition of the OPDs and their accommodation in an ‘isolated’ area is also rejected.
RAPID board member Kevin Mulgrew said fragile trust was smashed when officials presented the plans to the public as a ‘fait acompli’.

He said, “The news two weeks before Christmas that people’s homes, some of whom have been here for more than 30 years, were going to be knocked shattered confidence and caused panic and rumour.

“We welcome the regeneration project overall, but there are large aspects that we want officials to reconsider.

“We are willing to sit down with them and talk about the issues, but there is no trust here towards the Town Council after years of neglect”.

He also pointed out that the Department of the Environment, who will oversee any large project like this, have no formal guidelines for regeneration of estates.

Doolargy Avenue resident Anna Bond was getting positive signals from the council over the last couple of years about acquiring a green area beside her home, but that’s all up in the air now.

At the start of December, she was informed that her home was to be demolished. She said, “The only reason that they gave for this is that they want to turn the houses to face a different direction and to put one more house in the row - it’s senseless”.

Community worker Tony Jordan said that while no-one could deny Muirhevanmor needed a major facelift, homes, not just houses, were being razed for little reason. Siobhan McGarrigle is facing the demolition of not just her own home, but also her mum’s house.

Resident Ciaran Bond said the council should look at the more immediate problems such as the fact that 19 houses are currently boarded up and the remedial works scheme has not achieved what it set out to.

He said, “A lot of the problems could be solved if the council was willing to look at simple alternatives.

“We have talked to them before about what we think would improve the estate and they went away and drew up this regeneration plans that contain nothing that we suggested”.

Other issues such as the blocking off of access to the Avenue Road from some parts of the estate, the realignment of Hoey’s lane, the building of around 80 flats and duplexes on a green site and the lack of provision of proper facilities are also major bones of contention.

The first meeting between residents of Aghameen and council officials was due to take place last (Tuesday) night.

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