RUMOURS that a new housing project on a former halting site in Portarlington is costing €2.7 million are being rubbished by Laois County Council Cathaoirleach Paul Mitchell.
A concerned Port resident, who didn’t wish to be identified, contacted the ‘Leinster Express’ and fumed, “Why is €2.7m being spent when the country is crying out for money? It is ridiculous. There are hundreds of empty houses in Port, some in NAMA, and why couldn’t the Council buy some of those houses for €30-€40,000 and house the travellers in those houses instead of forking out €2.7m.”
However, Port based Cllr Mitchell rejected the claim. “That is absolute rubbish, a hyped up figure. The houses are costing €727,832.19 (including VAT) to construct. The money is coming from central government. This has to be done. The County Council is obliged to provide traveller accommodation. The Hartys are living around Port so it isn’t like any new families will be housed there.”
In June 2011, Laois County Council moved a Part VIII planning application, for the construction of a group housing scheme (five three bedroom single storey houses and one four bedroom single storey house) including associated site development works and demolition of existing 10 bay halting site at Canal Road.
The halting site which opened in June 1993 was closed in 2008 on health and safety grounds. Ahead of construction of the six new houses, contractor Dave Fitzgerald began clearance work on the site last Monday week, November 12.
The concerned resident claimed, “Cllr Mitchell told us there’d be no problem. But travellers were there before and they totally wrecked the place. No one knew about this latest project until the diggers moved in.”
Mary Harty and members of her extended family will be accommodated in the new scheme which is the biggest Council contract to be signed this year and Cllr Mitchell said the homes will be top class and built to the highest specification.
“Mary Harty is a decent woman and she deserves a house. I think she had 11 kids and when I was teaching at school, going back 10 to 15 years ago, her family never had a house and they were living in caravan at the halting site. Her husband suffered a stroke. She really did her best and tried to educate her children. The matter of providing housing for them is going on so long now that a lot of her family have grown up and have children of their own.”
The concerned resident understood that Iarnrod Eireann had plans to further develop the local railway station and these couldn’t proceed now.
But Cllr Mitchell said that ‘never came up’ nor is there a planning application on file.