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700 households on council waiting list in Castlebar

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Residents resist proposed social-housing development

Ger Flanagan

BETWEEN 10 and 12 percent of the population of Castlebar need help with their housing, according to outgoing Head of Housing in Mayo County Council, Paul Benson.
Mr Benson made the comments at last Thursday’s meeting of the Castlebar Municipal District, where he urged councillors and estate residents to accept the proposed construction of 22 dwelling houses and associated site-development works at Lios na Circe, Castlebar.
Mr Benson said 22 houses was ‘only a drop in the ocean’ of Castlebar’s housing needs, revealing that there are over 700 households on the housing waiting list in the town. Just over half of that number are approved applicants, half of which have been waiting for more than three years.
Construction of the homes will take a minimum of two years from approval by the councillors, he explained. He added that ‘in two years time he would hate to think what the property market will be like in Castlebar’, as there is currently no private construction under way to help deal with the crisis.
Objections
THE new development in the estate would be an extension of the initial development of Lios na Circe, which began 12 years ago. The delay in the latest phase’s progress has been due to the objections raised by the residents in relation to a new entry road for the estate and health and safety concerns.
The health and safety issues concern the middle road of the Lios na Circe estate, which passes a playground before entering the proposed development area. Mayo County Council revealed plans for traffic-calming measures, such as pedestrian crossings and a ‘pinch point’ in the road. They also proposed moving the playground to a green area on the estate. These proposals have not allayed the residents’ fears, however.
Karen McHale of the Lios na Circe Residents’ Association said: “We want to reiterate that we’re not against the development of social housing, but our qualms are with the health and safety of the children.
“There are 41 under-18s in the estate and the proposed traffic calming measures … we would have concerns over the stopping and starting of the cars and the exhaust fumes they give off,” she said. “We don’t have front gardens in our houses, so we have no space to protect ourselves from the traffic.”
Members of the residents’ association added that they would be willing to accept Mayo County Council’s proposal for an access road at the north of the estate, but they requested that it run adjacent to an existing road.
Mr Benson expressed his concerns that this would not be a possibility due to the proposed future development of training pitches and car parks for the Castlebar Mitchels LGFA on those grounds.

Impasse
Cllr Henry Kenny (FG) described the situation as a ‘major dilemma’, but he called for ‘some form of an agreement’ from the council to get the plans over the line.
Cllr Cyril Burke (FG) highlighted the need for houses in the town, adding that he has received ‘two calls from people that are homeless in Castlebar’ in recent weeks.
To try to find a way passed the impasse, the councillors gathered proposed that the council proceed with the alternate access at the north of the estate as requested by the residents; that funding should be sought for a community centre for the residents; and that the existing houses could be ‘upgraded’ if necessary.
John Condon, Director of Services for Mayo County Council concluded that if these proposals were deemed logistically possible and approved, funding would then be sought from the Department of Housing to continue with the development.

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