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Affordable housing for Westport convent site scrapped

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Anton McNulty

A PROPOSAL to build affordable housing on the old convent site in Westport is set to be scrapped as it would prove too expensive to develop.
Twenty-five affordable housing units had been earmarked for development on the site of the old convent in Westport but feasibility studies of the historic site have proved that it will be too expensive to develop.
Members of the Westport/Belmullet Municipal District met with council officials at a workshop yesterday (Monday) morning and were informed that alternative sites will have to be located for an affordable housing scheme in Westport.
Mr Tom Gilligan, Director of Services with responsibility for housing told yesterday’s (Monday) meeting of Mayo County Council that they hope to submit an application to the Department of Housing for affordable housing in Westport which will act as a pilot project for the county.
“We certainly are ambitious enough to apply for affordable housing and that is what we are in the process of doing,” he told the meeting during a fractious discussion on housing.
“We have not applied yet but we had a workshop with members of the Westport/Belmullet MD and the intention is to submit an application for affordable housing. We will do a pilot in relation to that and we are identifying the land. There was a proposal we had but unfortunately it looks like it will be too expensive and we won’t be able to utilise that so we are looking for alternative pieces of land.”
The council executive came under fire for failing to apply for affordable housing and were accused by Independent councillor Michael Kilcoyne of not living in the real world. He had earlier asked for a report on what plans the council had regarding affordable housing in the county.
“The Taoiseach said send up the stuff [housing applications] and we will grant the money. When the stuff is not sent up it is very hard to grant the money. I think you live in a different world. I asked for a report but I got the gist of it now and nothing is being done,” he said.
Mr Gilligan dismissed any suggestion that they were not working to develop affordable housing and he understood that people are under pressure when it comes to housing. He said that Mayo County Council was not one of the local authorities who got an allocation for affordable housing but they hoped the pilot scheme in Westport will convince the department officials there is a need for affordable housing in the county.
Kevin Kelly, the Chief Executive of Mayo County Council added that they cannot implement a scheme that is not available to them but stressed they and other local authorities were working on it.
“It is not like there isn’t conversations going on a regular basis not just in respect of Mayo but in any of the counties that have been excluded form the affordable scheme,” he said.