Sunday 14 December 2008

Fallout from collapse of Croke Villas PPP

THERE ARE 42 concrete steps up to John Ellis's top-floor flat in Croke Villas just off the Ballybough Road in Dublin's north inner city. He climbs them several times each day with his 12-year-old grandson on his shoulder.

"It could be six times a day I carry him up and down. Going down to school in the morning and back up, and then if he wants to go down and play or if we're to go out for anything. I'm not going to leave him upstairs. All the other kids get to go out and play."

Jonathan's wheelchair sits outside at the bottom of the stairs. It has been stolen two or three times, by people from outside the flats, John says - no one who knows Jonathan would take it.

There are no lifts in the 1960s flat complex, there is no shed to store the wheelchair in. It's too heavy to bring up the stairs and even if you could get it up, there'd be nowhere in the small two-bedroom flat to put it.

Three generations of the Ellis family live in the flat. John shares a bedroom with his son Graham.

In the back bedroom John's wife Rose shares a bed with her 14-year-old grandson Darryl. Jonathan, because of his cerebral palsy, has a small bed to himself.

Downstairs in the only other room in the house, apart from a tiny kitchenette, John's daughter Samantha sleeps on the couch.

The family is one of 36 living in overcrowded conditions in Croke Villas who were to have been rehoused under a public private partnership (PPP) regeneration scheme between Dublin City Council and Bennett Developments Ltd.

Earlier this week the city council announced that the PPP could not go ahead because of the "prevailing economic climate and global credit crunch".

John had hoped his family would be in their new home this Christmas with a table for his family to have their dinner on. Now he doesn't know when, or if, they'll have a new place to live.

"I'll just wait. I don't want to be pushing all the time. If they say it will be done in 18 months that's okay, but I've heard 18 months before, and it's come and gone."

Rose, however, has run out of patience.

"I'm devastated. I'm 32 years in this kip - I don't mean to call it that, I try to do everything I can to have it nice but we're all on top of each other. I'm in cancer remission at the moment, I need my own bed, Jonathan needs ramps so he can get around. We can't stay here any longer."

Maria Burnett has chronic asthma and also lives on the top floor in a two-bedroom flat with her two daughters, one of whom is pregnant, and two grandchildren.

"I've a letter from the Mater hospital saying I should be in a house, I should be somewhere with a ground floor. I'm on a breathing machine in the flat, I'm always in and out of hospital, and when the ambulance comes they have the stairs to face."

Maria is on crutches following a fall and finds the wet stairs almost impossible to manage. She is desperate to leave the flats, but can't move away because she needs to be near her mother who is in the same complex. She had pinned all her hopes on the regeneration project.

"To be honest, it's crap living here, but I feel like I'm stuck."

In another block in the complex, across a barren playing area strewn with bits of broken glass and plastic from where a car was rammed through a gate several weeks ago, lives Tricia Skelly.

She's lived in Croke Villas for 33 years and raised her six children there. The flats were officially opened by Princess Grace and Prince Rainier of Monaco, but says Tricia, any initial cachet they might have lent to the place is long gone.

"We're seen as vermin. Even to people in the area, because we're in this complex we're nobodies. Well I'm not nobody, I'm as good as anyone else and like anyone else, I want the best for my children.

"They're entitled to a good environment, a good education and somewhere to live that's as good as anywhere else. I just want a house, I think I deserve a house."

The council has not yet said whether it will now redevelop the complex using its own resources, following the failure of the PPP. It is due to update the residents on its plans next week.

Irish Times

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