PLANS for 62 social houses in Stradbally should be scrapped in favour of a community/health centre and amenity park, according to an Emo councillor.
Cllr Tom Mulhall says the long-term plan for 62 homes on a county council-owned site at Carraig Glas is not needed. Instead, a new health centre and community centre, together with recreational facilities, should be provided on part of the site.
The first phase of the Carraig Glas project, providing 18 new social houses, was submitted to the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government by Laois Co Council for approval on 2 July last.
The council bought the Carraig Glas site for over €1m in 2006 at the height of the ‘celtic tiger’ years. It is the largest local authority-owned site available for social housing in Laois. According to cllr Mulhall, the money was borrowed from the Housing Finance Agency on the agreement that the entire site be used for housing.
In a statement last week, cllr Mulhall said 18 social houses are enough for the town and long-term plans for a further 44 homes at Carraig Glas should be shelved.
He said: “I am pleading with the county council to reconsider this housing development at the site and maybe look at a smaller, more convenient site for a smaller number of houses.”
The Fine Gael councillor pointed out that, at present, only 29 people on the housing waiting list have Stradbally addresses. There are 16 houses under construction for the over-55s and people with slight disabilities at Court View and the county council recently purchased six houses at The Orchard.
Planning permission has also been granted for a private development of 73 houses at the rear of Church Avenue, with seven units earmarked for social housing.
Cllr Mulhall added: “Stradbally has no community centre, a very outdated health centre and a number of vacant residential and business units. The site at Carraig Glas, which already has a children’s playground and had very successful allotments, would be very suitable for an amenity area. There could also be a community centre and all-weather pitch on this site. I feel this could be very do-able with collaboration between the people of Stradbally, the local councillors and the county council.”
When contacted for his views, Stradbally resident and Fianna Fáil councillor Paschal McEvoy said he agreed that 62 social houses are not needed and a community centre is a more pressing need in the town.
He said: “If we get that first phase of 18 houses at Carraig Glas for families on the housing list, I would be very happy with that. I have people calling me on a daily basis looking for a house and there is definitely a need there, but I agree there is no need for 62 houses.”
Cllr McEvoy said he is working with Stradbally Community Development Association (SCDA) and county council officials on a proposed community centre at the Carraig Glas site. He also suggested that the county council could make sites at Carraig Glas available for affordable housing, for people who are “caught in the middle,” as their income is too high to qualify for social housing and too low to obtain a mortgage.
He said: “I am encouraging the county council to make some of the land at Carraig Glas available for building affordable homes. Meanwhile, the SCDA is doing trojan work on plans to build a community centre, which is badly-needed in the town.”
The 18-home first phase of the Carraig Glas project is being provided under the Rebuilding Ireland construction programme.