Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Half of €3bn suburb revamp bill to be paid by taxpayer

THE cost of regenerating four of the country's most deprived suburbs would be over €3bn -- with the taxpayer picking up the bill for more than half of the overhaul.

In total, the Government would have to pay just over €1.7bn for the 10-year redevelopment of the Limerick suburbs of Southill, Ballina- curra-Weston, St Mary's Park and Moyross.

It is hoped that a further €1.4bn would come from private investment.

But at the presentation of the masterplan to the city council yesterday, Brendan Kenny, the chief executive of Limerick Regeneration Agencies, said that all involved were "very conscious of the new economic environment".

"But we stress that the investment proposed will be required over a 10-year period and that, ultimately, a successful regeneration project will deliver considerable economic benefits and savings for the State."

John Fitzgerald, chairman of Limerick Regeneration Agencies, also issued a stern warning that there would be no place in the new estates for any person involved in criminal activity.

The affected areas in Limerick have been plagued by gangland violence and high levels of anti-social behaviour.

The masterplan focuses on three key pillars of regeneration: social, economic and physical. Mr Kenny said that physical regeneration would be the most visible and had already predominated public debate in relation to the project, but he said social regeneration was the "most critical element of all".

The social regeneration aspect sets out about 50 different actions while, in relation to housing, the draft plan sets out to demolish 3,000 houses in a bid to have 80pc of residents as owners of their new homes.

Currently, in the regeneration areas, 52pc of residents own their properties while 48pc rent their homes from the local authority -- resulting in these estates having the highest concentration of of social housing in the country.

Speaking of the significance of the regeneration project, Southill Parish Priest Fr Pat Hogan said: "Critical historical moments come to cities rarely, maybe every odd century. This is one for Limerick."

Limerick Regeneration Agencies chairman Mr Fitzgerald said the estimated figures "are robust and conservative, but they are not final figures".


"We have made that quite clear in the report . . . that almost half of the total cost is private sector investment. Somewhere, between now and the end of next year, we will have an opportunity to check out the appetite that is there in the private sector for private housing, offices, shops and job creation -- which is what is going to change these places," Mr Fitzgerald said.

"If we simply replace social housing with more social housing it is not going to solve anything. The whole idea is that at the end of this project we are going to have a better social mix," he added.

The former Dublin City Manager also issued a stern warning to criminals in the affected areas, saying: "We have made it quite clear that those who are engaged in criminal activity or serious social problems will not be accommodated."

"There are people who might have felt 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," Mr Fitzgerald added.

Last night, Limerick City councillors welcomed the masterplan ahead of a planned full meeting to discuss the 205-page document.

Barry Duggan
Irish Independent

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