23 May 2008

In much the same casual way that the half billion overrun and six year delay on the Ballymun Regeneration Project was casually dropped into the middle pages of the newspapers, delays/overruns on the Moyross/Southill projects in Limerick were similarly underplayed in recent press reports.

‘LIMERICK'S regeneration agencies have moved to allay fears that there are problems delivering the ambitious [regeneration] projects, after the date for publishing master plans was moved to later in the year,’ said the Times, later revealing – but not pursuing the significance of the fact - that a further 400 houses are likely to be demolished as part of the scheme.

If we are to assume that, say, €100,000 was originally to be spent in renovating each of the 400 houses in question and that, if they are to be demolished and replaced at a cost €220,000, the project is already potentially overrunning by €40,000,000 (not to mention inevitable delays in dealing with planning, engaging additional consultants, drawing up project briefs, etc).

Who decides if this massive extra amount is to be spent? How will it be justified? What procedures will be followed to ensure that this new development won’t throw the project out of whack, etc.? (Note to Gillian Tallon, Secretary General of the DoE – this is where the rest of us expect the painful experience you gained on Ballymun coming into play on our behalf - start making notes.)

Incidentally, in the past fifteen years lots and lots of money has already been spent on various upgrading schemes in Moyross and Southill. The whole of Castlepark in Moyross, for example, was practically rebuilt after dozens of houses had been burnt out and abandoned. In Southill, a rolling renewal scheme in the late 90s cost quite a bundle as well. They were, in their time, the projects which would put Southill and Moyross in turnaround. Are the significant losses these failures incurred being included in the ledger for the overall cost of the latest regeneration project? And if these previous projects failed to solve the city’s social problems, what’s to say the latest effort will fare better?

I think its time we should take the brave step and face up to the reality of these situations. If we want to make a real difference in our disadvantaged areas we should be investing effort in the people, not putting money into the pockets of the housebuilders.

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