Friday 7 September 2007

Councils dismiss fears of new land grab by squatters

DUBLIN local authorities have insisted they do not face a problem with people securing squatters' rights on publicly-owned land.

Yesterday it emerged that Fingal County Council had paid out almost €2m to Travellers to vacate lands on Dunsink Lane in Finglas they have lived on for over a dozen years.

The most recent settlements, confirmed by the council yesterday, involved three families who received a total of €850,000 to leave the area.

It follows another settlement of €1.1m made earlier this year to traveller David Joyce, who agreed to leave land he had squatted on in the north Dublin suburb.

People living on a 42-acre site are being paid to leave the area so a massive public park can be built in the north of the city.

Fingal County Council issued compulsory purchase orders compelling people to sell up three years ago, and the council now has possession of most of the 42-acres it is seeking to acquire.

Most people had lived in the area since Dunsink was a landfill, and up to 50 families have been served with a CPO ordering them to sell their property back to the council.

However, many of the occupants are in family groups, and the council has been settling claims on that basis.

There had been "some duplication'' of claims, and it was not possible to ascertain how many valid claims were made or how much it would eventually cost. Some claims have yet to be settled, and legal action has been taken by families who do not wish to move.

"Correspondence has been received from a number of families claiming possessory title to plots of the lands within the CPO area," a spokesperson said yesterday.

"While the examination of these claims has not been completed, there does appear to be significant duplication of claims. Therefore, it is not possible at this stage to accurately estimate the number of claims that have been made.

"Some families remain in the area subject to the CPO. As there are also a number of other settlements along Dunsink Lane, including both illegal and authorised camps, some Traveller accommodation and some local authority housing, it is difficult therefore to estimate the total number of families living in that area."

Yesterday, County Manager David O'Connor said it was hoped to construct a public park of up to 200-acres in an area stretching from the Navan Road to Dunsink Lane and bordered by the M50 motorway once the process was complete.

The council must also "make safe" the site of the Dunsink dump, which could take some time.

"We feel it has the opportunity to be reinvented as an amenity for the entire Dublin 15 and Finglas area," he said.

"Sports such as gaelic football, soccer and rugby will be accommodated in Abbotstown and less mainstream sports such as mountain biking could be catered for.

"Here we can make the landscape anything we want. We have Dunsink Observatory, and could create an amphitheatre so that people could look at the stars.

It is also possible to use certain types of planting to take the poison out of the ground, and we have started some of these strategies already."

The other Dublin local authorities stated that they found they did not have problems with people claiming squatters' rights on lands owned by the council, and did not expect claims seeking "adverse possession" to be made.

Irish Independent

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