Wednesday, 29 October 2008

€3bn plan to rebuild worst areas of Limerick

A €3 BILLION plan for the largest regeneration project in the State's history was unveiled in Limerick yesterday.

The Limerick Regeneration Plan aims to totally transform some of the city's most-deprived housing estates over the next ten years, with the demolition of some 3,000 homes.

The public cost of transforming Moyross, Southill, Ballinacurra Weston and St Mary's Park between 2009 and 2018 is estimated at €1.67 billion with a further investment of €1 billion expected from the private sector.

Replacement housing, estimated to be in the region of 2,400 homes, will be built to house existing families who wish to stay in these areas.

However, in order to help redress the current and historic social imbalance in the housing mix, all additional housing above that will be private and/or affordable housing, according to the 200-page document unveiled yesterday.

The draft plan proposes the construction of at least 5,000 additional private homes in the three areas.

Currently, over 52 per cent of householders in the estates own their homes, while 48 per cent are renting from the local authority.

The draft plan provides for that mix to change to 20 per cent social/rented and 80 per cent private ownership. The significance of the massive plan for Limerick is highlighted in the words of Southill parish priest Fr Pat Hogan in the opening pages of the blueprint unveiled yesterday.

"Critical historical moments come to cities rarely, maybe every odd century, this is one for Limerick," he said.

Fr Hogan said pockets of poverty "on a par with some of the worst in the world" were allowed to develop in certain parts of Limerick. With Limerick regeneration an opportunity "is being given to build a new city and a new citizenry", he wrote.

Meanwhile, Brendan Kenny, the man tasked with driving the regeneration plan over the next decade, admitted that he is seeking funding at a bad time.

"The reality is, yes, we are going to Government looking for funding at probably the worst economic climate over the last 30 maybe 50 years, which is ironic for the people living in the regeneration areas, that they lived through an unprecedented economic boom over the last 15 years and really didn't benefit from it," he said.

"We are confident of getting continued support from Government for this vital project, however Government departments will need to carefully assess all the implications of this draft plan, in particular the funding issues," he said.

It is exactly a year since the regeneration agencies started working on their plan to transform some of the most deprived parts of Limerick city, and just over two years since the horrific arson attack in Moyross on children Gavin and Milly Murray-McNamara, which underpinned the whole process.

Gavin and Milly were aged four and six respectively when the car they were sitting in was petrol-bombed in September 2006 by local youths.The children's mother Sheila had earlier refused a lift to a number of youths, one of whom decided to burn her car in revenge.

The north side and south side regeneration agencies were established after the Government commissioned former Dublin city manager John Fitzgerald to report on how to tackle the social, criminal and economic problems in Limerick's troubled estates.

Mr Fitzgerald yesterday stressed that those engaged in anti-social activities would not be accommodated in the regenerated areas.

"We have made it quite clear that those who are engaged in criminal activity or serious social problems will not be accommodated in the new areas. That is what people have looked for and that is what they are entitled to," he said.

"Already that message has got out there. There are people who might have felt that they had some kind of licence to be disruptive before who have suddenly realised it is in their interests not to cause the kind of havoc that they did cause in those areas."

The draft plan unveiled yesterday focuses on the three key pillars of physical, economic and social regeneration. Mr Kenny said job opportunities were critical to the success of the plan.

Key objectives include the development of educational facilities, construction of town squares, and a new business park in Moyross.

The Irish Times

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