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St Mary’s Park residents have reservations (Limerick Leader)


PROPOSALS to demolish almost 500 houses in St Mary’s Park and replace them with 2,500 residential units have raised serious concerns among residents in the community.

Planning experts are proposing to rejuvenate Kings’ Island by building mixed housing which will include apartment blocks, private houses and affordable and social housing.

Elaine Bullman is the mother of twins, Larkin and Mikayla, who live in St Mary’s Park. The young mother has reservations about their future following yesterday’s meeting at King John’s Community Centre. “Everyone wants to know where are the people going to go? We didn’t get adequate answers,” she said. “My impression is that they’re going to knock houses and that people haven’t a say at all.”

Eileen Whelan, who was born and reared in St Mary’s Park, is in favour of the proposed redevelopment. The 66 year-old told the Limerick Leader, “We have to improve the area for the younger generation. We don’t want this place falling to the ground. I want to die knowing that the young people will have it. We can’t be selfish.”

Antoinette Hayes, also from St Mary’s Park, said a redeveloped waterfront: “would be lovely. It would brighten up the place.”

According to a survey carried out by Erinaceous Consultants, 70 per cent of residents want to return to live in the area. The city council has given an undertaking that everybody will be accommodated, but the details of the rehousing plan have yet to be worked out.

Yesterday’s meeting was heated as anxious residents demanded detailed answers from the consultants and council officials. Kieran Lehane, director of services in the housing section of Limerick City Council said: “We want to reach an agreement with everybody. If most people are happy to let the regeneration take place, the Government is willing to fund it. I’m not sure a couple of people should prevent the wishes of the majority.”

Local representatives came under fire from some residents. One man shouted “It’s the first time I’ve seen any of them.” Deputy Jan O’Sullivan, Labour, reacted angrily to the accusation. “Excuse me, I’ve been here for clinics every single week for the last 15 years.” She pointed to Cllr Gerry McLoughlin and Cllr John Gilligan who were also present and said “I don’t think it’s fair to say that, when we give excellent representation to this community.”

Cllr Gilligan, who lives locally in Lee Estate, got a tumultuous round of applause when he stood up and said “This is one of the best communities in Limerick city. Here is my community.” He said the project would not go ahead: “if it doesn’t have the support of everybody.”

Jas Sidhu is one of the consultants heading up the project. He reiterated that the proposals shown to people yesterday were “a rough framework.

Nothing has been decided.”

Was he expecting an angry response at the meeting? “They should be angry,” he replied “Nobody has done anything for them but it is important to channel that anger into something positive.”

26 September 2007



KING’S Island is to be transformed into a vibrant tourist hub and a dynamic urban centre once an extensive consultation process with residents has taken place.
All of the 500 houses in the 1930’s St Mary’s Park, the city’s first housing estate, will be bulldozed into the ground, with the two kilometre riverfront of the island to encompass a 90 acre urban quarter which will include 2.500 residential units and affordable housing, as well a shopping district and sports facilities.

The Island Field, as the area is commonly known, will become “the heartbeat of the city and an integral part of Limerick,” according to consultant Raj Kumar of Erinaceous Building Consultancy Services.

There was mixed reaction from residents who thronged King’s Island Community Centre yesterday morning to hear proposals for their neighbourhood. The centre was overflowing with hundreds of residents keen to get a view of the presentations by leading Limerick architect Hugh Murray and representatives of the consultants.

During the hour and half-long meeting local people were shown conceptual illustrations and photographs of regeneration projects that have transformed other European waterfronts.

Definitive architectural plans were not displayed by Mr Murray who said: “We are not proposing that these images represent how St Mary’s Park will look, we’re just showing you the possibilities.”

Residents in St Mary’s Park are being encouraged to take ownership of redevelopment plans. They are being asked to take part in all aspects of the consultation process.

A survey was commissioned by Limerick City Council and carried out by Erinaceous consultants to establish the feasibility of the project. Members of the consultancy firm formulated a questionnaire which was delivered to every household in St Mary’s Park. They received over 150 responses from the community. Interested stake-holders including potential investors, community groups and local councillors were consulted and the planning experts based their draft proposals on the feedback they received.

Raj Kumar told the large gathering that “the people who have solutions are right in this room. You are the key stakeholders.”

However, there was a lot of amusement among residents when Hugh Murray described the “micro-climate of the west side of the island” where he envisages “bars and restaurants on the waterfront.” Judging from the laughter that emerged from the audience it was obvious that local people considered some of the ideas fanciful. One amused local man said “We won’t have to go to Lanzarote any more so.”

More serious concerns were raised in a question and answer session following the presentations. Impatient residents wanted their housing needs addressed and asked where they would be rehoused and if they could return to St Mary’s Park following redevelopment. One angry woman shouted: “You are only interested in tourism.

It’ll only be pubs and hotels.”

Effort were made to allay people’s fears but many left the community centre with questions unanswered. Director of Housing at Limerick City Council, Kieran Lehane, said each household would be looked at on a case by case basis. “There is no intention to disadvantage anyone,” he said “Everyone will be treated fairly and equally.”

If the plans get the go ahead, developers will be on site demolishing the first houses in 2010.

26 September 2007

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