Rathkeale haunted by ghost estate dereliction

The 33-house derelict Ballywilliam estate in Rathkeale.

IT IS a “national disgrace” that a 33-home ghost estate in Rathkeale has been left unfinished for over a decade, and in the middle of a housing crisis, a local government party councillor said.

Former mayor of Limerick Stephen Keary (FG) called on Limerick City and County Council to “get off their butts and get on with the job” of cleaning up the site and finishing building the homes.

The unfinished Ballywilliam estate, which was granted permission in 2005, was vested to the Council in October 2021, however it appears the estate will continue to lay unfinished for some time after a Council spokesman told the Limerick Post that it planned to “extend investigative works on the site”.

The spokesman added: “LCCC received claims for compensation from the individual previous property owners in February 2022. The arbitration case is ongoing and a date for an arbitration hearing is awaited.”

Frustrated by the continued “major eyesore” in the Limerick town, Cllr Keary said that, in his opinion, the “majority” of the houses could be completed, despite an engineer advising the Council that the properties were unfit for purpose and required demolition.

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Cllr Keary, the Leas-Chathaoirleach of the Municipal District of Adare-Ratheakle, suggested the houses be finished and provided to young working couples through an affordable/social housing scheme and/or completed and provided to Ukrainian refugees fleeing the invasion of their country by Russian forces.

“It is a national disgrace to have it left in such a state over so many years, it’s the least the Council owe to the people of Rathkeale, and I’m speaking on behalf of the people of Rathkeale,” he said.

According to the former mayor, the site was originally purchased by a Limerick City businessman in 2004 and the properties sold to members of the Travelling community with about 27 individuals owning the uncompleted houses.

“Subsequently, some of the windows were removed or stolen, some of the lead was taken off of the roofs, and they’re are in a shambolic state now, it looks very dry bad on a main regional route into a town,” said Cllr Keary.

Councillors were taken on a tour of the site several months ago and informed that an engineer had indicated that all of the properties should be demolished as they are not fit to be completed.

Cllr Keary, who called for more stringent planning laws preventing ghost estates, said councillors were told it would cost up to €1million to demolish the 33 houses and turn the estate back into a green-fields site, which in his opinion “wouldn’t make economic sense”.

“They would be far better to offer it for nothing to a developer who could possibly complete a lot of those houses into living accommodation. It’s my opinion that most of those houses are fit to be completed. I asked on a number of occasions that they get a second opinion on the engineers report but I got no response.”

“It would also bring back a bit of vibrancy into the town, which is much needed, the town is gone dead.”

A Council spokesman said that since the Council took over the estate in October 2021, it had “at considerable cost” employed “various consultants, including engineers and quantity surveyors, to survey the properties and provide reports as to the future options open to the council”.

“It is a complex site due to 33 individual properties all at different stages of completion. Based on reports received to date, it has been determined to extend investigative works on the site.”

“In addition, since the properties have vested into the name of the council, LCCC has spent considerable sums cleaning the site, fencing and securing the site and removing stray horses.”

The Council spokesman said a process of clearing Japanese Knotweed on the site was “ongoing” and that the weed “limits the works that can be done”.