30/04/2019 - 03:26
By Kevin O'Neill
Cork City Council plans to develop a range of purpose-built housing estates for travellers over the next five years.
The schemes are in response to concerns over overcrowding and resident welfare on halting sites throughout the city centre.
The plans are mapped out in the council's draft Traveller Accommodation Programme 2019-2024, which has been put out for public consultation. If approved, the new strategy will be effective from July 1, 2019, until July 30, 2024, replacing the current strategy, which is in place since 2014.
The draft strategy identifies the need to make changes at all the authorised and unofficial halting sites in the city.
Spring Lane, it notes, is a ten bay site that is 'significantly overcrowded'. It has 38 family units on the site. 'Overcrowding, deficiencies in welfare facilities as well as ever-changing challenges with general health and safety and anti-social behaviour due to the scale of the population of the site' are all identified as issues.
To combat this, Cork City Council hopes to develop a permanent group housing scheme on the adjoining Ellis's Yard, a vacant site next to Spring Lane, which has previously been the subject of significant volumes of illegal dumping. It is already zoned for traveller specific accommodation and a planning notice is due to be published before the end of the year, with construction starting next year.
The halting site at Carrigrohane Road is located on a flood plain which flooded in 2009, and is subject to overcrowding. The council hopes to develop a group housing scheme for these residents, too, with the site already earmarked for relocation under the existing strategy. The process will take place from 2022 to 2026, with a site and funding yet to be identified.
The Meelagh Group Housing Scheme in Mahon was built in 2005 at a cost of €3 million. The draft programme report said there is evidence of overcrowding at the site. An application to refurbish it has already been submitted. Land to the rear of the Meelagh is under consideration for development to cater for overcrowding.
St Anthony's Park in Hollyhill opened in 2015. It cost €5 million and is already overcrowded is due to 'children of tenants setting up their own family units' on the site, it said. A possible extension of the estate in 2021 is mooted in the report.
The council plans to find alternative accommodation for families living on an unauthorised halting site at Corcoran's Quay, while a group housing scheme is planned as the solution to an unauthorised site at Nash's Boreen. Both of these halting sites are on the northside of Cork city.
In preparing its new strategy, Cork City Council carried out an assessment of need among traveller families in the city. Residents at the housing schemes were asked to take part. In total, 95 surveys were issued. Just 47 were returned.
87% of respondents said that they were not happy with their current accommodation, with overcrowding and the standard of accommodation highlighted as the primary reasons.
47% said they would prefer group housing schemes, such as those at Meelagh and St Anthony's Park. Another 47% said standard social housing, with just 6% identifying halting sites as their preferred option. 40% of families said they would consider a HAP social housing tenancy.
All families were asked if they felt a need for a transient site, with 68% saying that they didn't feel it was necessary.
The draft Traveller Accommodation Programme is available to view at Cork City Hall until June 30, 2019 or on www.corkcity.ie.