Council Affairs: Ghosts resurfacing over Ballywilliam Estate

Limerick County Council Offices in Dooradoyle.

MY old mucker Cllr Stephen Keary has been making headlines in recent days over a ghost estate in Rathkeale, which he believes should be completed and provided to young working couples through an affordable/social housing scheme.

There are 33 homes on the otherworldly Ballywilliam Estate, none of which are fully completed and this is despite work starting on the project 15 years ago. This Cllr Keary, rightfully believes, is a “national disgrace”.

The site has been left idle and fallen into total disrepair since work stopped five years ago. And if that weren’t bad enough, councillors were told it would cost up to €1million to demolish the houses and turn the estate back into a green-fields site.

Limerick City and County Council have since successfully compulsorily purchased the site and say they have invested considerably in their efforts to tackle the derelict estate.

Since then — at considerable cost — the Council explained, various consultants, including Engineers and Quantity Surveyors were appointed to survey the properties and provide reports as to the future options open to them.

Sign up for the weekly Limerick Post newsletter

“It is a complex site due to 33 individual properties all at different stages of completion. In addition there are underground works and services being surveyed. Based on reports received to date, it has been determined to extend investigative works on the site.”

According to the local authority, works cannot be further progressed until an arbitration process is completed and they are currently awaiting a date for a hearing. They even cited “a number of complications” including the presence of invasive Japanese Knotweed which causes serious structural damage to buildings.

“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. Japanese Knotweed has also been identified on site  and the process of treating and removing this is ongoing. Japanese Knotweed limits the works that can be done while the eradication process is ongoing.”

You know the drill — nothing to see here, move it along quietly!

If the O’Connell Street debacle has shown us anything, the cogs of power don’t move with any great purpose down in City Hall.

Never a man to mince his words, which you have to admire him for, Cllr Keary takes a different viewpoint to that of the local authority and has hit out at structural engineers that suggested the properties will need to be demolished due to issues with foundations. He was having none of the Council’s ‘just good friends’ nonsense.

A qualified civil engineer, and part-time farmer, the Fine Gael man believes the houses can be completed and now wants the Council to consider offering the site to a developer.

This, he reckons, is the only way the houses will ever be finished.

Actually, there was a lovely photograph in the Irish Independent last week of Cllr Keary looking longingly through the fencing into the phantasmal Rathkeale estate and putting the world to rights. He was like a man with the bit between his teeth, only mad to get this shambles straightened out.

And with the sniff of a local election already in the air, you can be sure we will be hearing plenty more from councillors giving out about the need for the local authority to be getting the lead out about one thing or another in the coming months. As electioneering gets into full swing, rest assured, council management, will be taken to task over half-finished and half-arsed jobs aplenty.

That aside though, and despite the irony of Cllr Keary’s party being in government at present, he did raise very valid concerns, about dereliction and homelessness.

The Croagh man called for the Council to “get off their butts and get on with the job”. Keary has such faith in the local authority that he’s of the view that they would be far better to offer it for nothing to a developer who could possibly complete a lot of the 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.”

So, there you have it. As it turns out, it’s not only Limerick City that’s dying on its feet. County towns are hurting just as much.

I mean, does anyone “remember the good old days before the ghost town?”