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Affordable houses earmarked for Westport convent site


Anton McNulty

TWENTY-five affordable housing units have been earmarked for development on the site of the old convent in Westport, while the convent building will be developed into apartments for the elderly.
The information was revealed to councillors in the Westport/Belmullet Municipal District by the Head of Housing Simon Shevlin, who explained that the council have met with officials in the Department of Housing in advancing the project.
Mr Shevlin explained that the plan for the former Convent of Mercy building was to divide it into 14 one-bedroom and two two-bedroom apartments.
The lack of affordable housing in Westport has long been a bone of contention among Westport-based councillors who feel young people are being priced out of housing in the town. Cllr Peter Flynn welcomed the development of the convent site but also added it is not enough.
“While I welcome the talk of 25 affordable housing at the convent site, it falls well short of what is required. I think it will be an expensive site to be developed and I think that site is more suited to town houses rather than family houses but at this point in time all we want is houses in the wider Westport area,” he said.
In relation to the controversial social housing project on the Golf Course Road in Westport, Cllr Flynn asked for the council to request from the department if they can still include include some affordable housing on the site.
“Every department document talks about a mixed development of affordable and social housing and yet we are going ahead with 50 social houses. The planning permission is in place now, there is no turning back but I will ask can we go with a 50/50 approach here,” he said.
Cllr Flynn also commented that an archeological survey was now taking place on the Golf Course Road site and he was informed this was to take six months to complete. However, Mr Shevlin said he understood the survey was completed but will check up on the matter.
Mr Shevlin also announced that plans were advancing for the development of 20 social houses in Achill Sound and 16 in Mulranny. Cllr Paul McNamara welcomed the news saying that there was a big demand for housing in the Achill area especially with the lack of rental accommodation.
In relation to the houses affected by pyrite, Mr Shevlin said that the government committee on the pyrite problem was to report back to the government at the end of July and Director of Services Tom Gilligan was the council representative.
Erris-based councillor Gerry Coyle said the €5,000 needed to pay an engineer to inspect a house to see if it is affected by pyrite should be paid for by the State as people could not afford it. He also called for an exemption on VAT for building materials for rebuilding affected houses and an exemption on having to reapply for planning permission.