KEY DIRECTORS of the Limerick Regeneration Agencies were ready to resign in June in response to mounting concerns over the lack of progress in the Limerick regeneration programme, new documents show.
In a letter released under the Freedom of Information Act, chief executive of the Limerick Regeneration Agencies Brendan Kenny told the Department of the Environment that “the current difficulties in getting the physical programme of development under way can only contribute towards already growing concerns locally that the whole regeneration process is under threat”.
In his letter dated June 8th, Mr Kenny said: “There are currently significant concerns, anger and despondency amongst the four communities and among many of the local stakeholders about the perceived continuation of the ‘destruction’ (including relocation) of these communities with very little movement on rebuilding, as was clearly indicated in the Government’s approval of June 2010.”
Mr Kenny said the concerns outlined “have culminated in the possible resignation of some key local directors of the regeneration agencies which could do considerable damage to the process and in a public way”.
The regeneration agencies did not know at the time its budget for the year, with the €9.5 million budget only approved last month. The overall allocation to the programme this year is €35 million.
Mr Kenny wrote: “As we now approach the mid-point of the year, we continue to operate in a void working only on the assumption that confirmed budget allocations will be similar to 2010”.
The principal officer with the department, Jim Ganley, said: “Despite the significant investment to date with the regeneration programme, it is disappointing that the community is increasingly dissatisfied with the process and that some stakeholders may opt out of the process.”
He added: “In order to keep a focus on regeneration and the many benefits that will flow from it, there is an onus on the department, the city council and the agencies to work together in addressing this.”
Mr Kenny said in an interview yesterday that “uncertainty has been the biggest enemy of the regeneration project to date”.
However, he added that the first building scheme in the project got under way last month “and we’re in a good space now, but overall, I am not satisfied with the rate of progress”.
Under the master plan, the first building project was due to start in autumn 2009 “and the delay in starting has been disappointing and frustrating”.
He added: “The letter is an example of frustrations we have sometimes, but we have a very good relationship with the department. We would be nowhere without them.” The building work now under way had removed the prospect of the key directors resigning. “It has changed the mood. Things have moved on since I wrote that letter.”
A statement from the Department of the Environment said yesterday the department remained “fully committed to the project and will continue to prioritise funding for the regeneration in Limerick despite the current exchequer funding constraints”.
It said the programme was considered “critical both in terms of improving the living standards and socio-economic outcomes of the communities living in the areas of Moyross, Southill, Ballinacurra Weston and St Mary’s Park, and for the wider development of Limerick city as a major urban centre in the mid-west”.
The statement went on: “Already, new housing has commenced in Moyross, with other projects in Southill and Ballincurra Weston at an advanced stage of planning . . . The department is very anxious that these good works would continue.”