Only three per cent of almost €6million grant spent on Guinness site

People Before Profit campaigner Ruairí Fahy at the Guinness site on Upper Carey's Road.

ONLY €180,000 of a €5.8million grant to develop infrastructure to enable construction on the Guinness site on Upper Carey’s Road in Limerick City has been spent, according to documents released to People Before Profit Limerick campaigner Ruairí Fahy.

In a document circulated to People Before Profit councillors in Dublin, the Land Development Agency (LDA) and Limerick City and County Council (LCCC) discussed using the ‘Shanganagh model’ – the first project to be backed by the LDA in partnership with Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council – as a means for funding development on the Guinness site, Mr Fahy claims.

“Under this model, the Council retains ownership of the lands but enters into a long-term lease agreement with the LDA. This allows the Strategic Site Fund grant to be used on the site without breaking competition rules,” the People Before Profit campaigner told the Limerick Post.

“As the different funding schemes were being discussed and no decision was taken, an officer in the Local Government Management Agency stated in February 2022 that LCCC ‘are anxious to move with this because, if they can’t progress the site, they need to move on from it’,” he told the Limerick Post.

“[In] the document circulated to councillors in Dublin regarding the Shanganagh site, average rents were stated to be €1,200, 40 per cent below market rate. In the documents, there were viability concerns around the project due to ‘hyperinflation’ in construction in 2021 with the Department of Housing worrying that construction costs had increased by 8-10 per cent between July 2021 and March 2022. This inflation also affected Shanganagh with average rental prices now around €1,400. For Limerick, this would place rental costs for a cost-rental scheme at, or even slightly above current market rates.”

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People Before Profit TDs highlighted the problems of funding for the LDA in the Dáil. They proposed to create an integrated publicly funded building company instead of relying on piecemeal schemes and trying to jump through hoops to keep the developments “off balance sheet”.

“When the plan was originally announced by the Land Development Agency in 2020, it stated that 400 homes would be constructed by 2023 council-owned lands,” Mr Fahy said.

“The funding was originally announced in 2019 by then Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy, as part of an €84million package under the Strategic Sites fund. The goal of the funding was to ‘provide key facilitating infrastructure, on public lands, to support the delivery of affordable homes to purchase or rent’.”

Mr Fahy takes the view that the Government needs to admit that the housing model they have been pushing for decades has failed.

In a joint comment from Limerick City and County Council and the LDA in relation to the land in question, the bodies said they are actively progressing plans for housing on the former Guinness site on Carey’s Road.

This process, the Limerick Post was told, involves careful planning and potentially extending the area earmarked for housing through the possible acquisition of other land adjoining the Guinness lands, which are included in the Colbert Quarter Spatial Framework.

“In addition, work is ongoing with CIE to protect the future provision of the Foynes rail link, which would bound the site. The Council and the LDA intend to soon appoint a design team to draft detailed proposals for the site with an emphasis on maximising the potential for affordable and social housing and ensuring a high-quality development is achieved. As part of this process, the Council and the LDA will be utilising all government subsidies including a number of measures that were announced recently,” the statement concluded.