Monday 2 February 2009

Local objections to autism centre

PLANS BY the Irish Society for Autism to build a residential centre for school-leavers with autism near Tralee, Co Kerry, have been appealed to An Bord Pleanála by local residents.

The Tralee centre would be the fifth residential unit in the country, and the chief executive of the society has said many more such centres would be needed to cater for the dramatic increase in the number of children with autism over the past decade.

The proposal is to renovate a house in a rural area near Ballyseedy, and construct selfcontained apartments and a day-activity centre around a central courtyard. These had been approved by Kerry County Council.

The idea is to encourage independent living by persons with autism. The centre would have a permanent staff of 18 and eight part-time workers for the workshops and care of the residents, the society said in its application.

Residents along the private road, while welcoming the development in principle, have complained of a “total lack of consultation with the neighbours” by the Irish Society for Autism.

They have asked An Bord Pleanála to set aside the permission because of the increase in traffic and concerns about effluent disposal, which they say should have been addressed by the council.

Irish Society for Autism chief executive Pat Matthews said yesterday he was confident the difficulties in Tralee were not insurmountable. He could sympathise with the residents’ anxieties about the road and effluent and would be able to reassure them.

He said the population of children with autism had increased dramatically in the past decade and many more such centres would be needed. It was estimated one child in every 160 in Ireland now had the condition.

“The population is growing significantly, and we are going to need a significant number of centres.”

Mr Matthews said the €2 million project would be the fifth residential centre provided nationally by the society, and Kerry’s first.

Irish Times

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