Thursday 22 May 2008

'No indication' Thornton Hall has stalled

THERE ARE "no indications" that the Thornton Hall prison project has stalled following the developer's withdrawal from five Dublin public private partnership (PPP) social housing schemes, the Dáil has heard.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen also said "no further suggestion has been made beyond those which are in the public domain", of projects at risk.

"The Thornton Hall project was a different PPP model, which relates to the building of a prison and a staged annualised payment thereafter and there has been no indication to me from the Minister for Justice that that project has been stalled."

He added that "we're not at the final process there yet. We're advanced in the process but it's not at a final stage."

Mr Cowen was being questioned by Labour leader Eamon Gilmore about the implications for the €900 million projects to regenerate St Michael's Estate, O'Devaney Gardens, Dominick Street, convent lands in Seán MacDermot Street, and Infirmary Road, following the decision by developer Bernard McNamara to pull out of the housing projects on the grounds that they were "unviable".

Mr Cowen said he had asked the Minister for the Environment to prepare a report for him based on Monday's developments.

Mr Gilmore said that "the same developer is the proposed builder of Thornton Hall. It was supposed to have been brought to the Dáil today and tomorrow for approval and I note that it has been withdrawn.

"What hope can you give those people that the regeneration will go ahead and what alternative arrangements are going to be put in place to ensure the regeneration proceeds as planned? Can you explain why the same developer was given the contract on all of those schemes?"

The Labour leader stressed that the "concept of PPP is not that it's a PPP when times are good. It should also be a PPP when times are tightening and it's not an arrangement whereby the public end takes all the risk and the private end pulls out when things get a bit more tricky".

Mr Cowen said members of the regeneration boards had a meeting with the city council on Monday and "there is a continuing commitment by the city council to prioritise the prospect for regeneration . . . which may involve obviously going to others who had expressed an interest in taking up PPP, and at that stage see if there is a prospect of any other involvement who may be able to proceed".

Irish Times

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