RESIDENTS with “genuine” concerns over a social housing development in Montenotte have been “caught in the firing line” of a political pitch battle, it has been claimed.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has accused Fine Gael of opposing a social housing project in the affluent Montennote area of Cork City on ideological grounds, but Fine Gael’s local councillor Joe Kavanagh has hit back, saying that the criticism is part of a Fianna Fáil attempt to retain a Dáil seat in the upcoming Cork North-Central by-election.
Construction company Murnane O’Shea Ltd has submitted an application to build 54 homes to be managed by an approved housing body on the grounds of St Dominic’s on Middle Glanmire Road in Montenotte.
Cork City Council is to acquire the new-build homes for social housing.
The homes are to be built on a 2.1-hectare site between a residential area and the St Dominic’s Institute and Retreat.
The application will change permission for 44 private homes originally granted on the site to a higher density social housing project.
Fine Gael city councillors have stated they will oppose the amended plans when they come before the council in January on the basis of local concern regarding the density of the new plans.
However, Mr Martin said this position is hypocritical in a time of a housing crisis and that the scheme is being politicised by Fine Gael, not his party.
He told The Echo: “There’s an ideological element to it, but there’s also a political and electoral element to it in opposing it.
“I’ve knocked on doors all over the northside in the last number of weeks and there are chronic prices on housing.
“Some people are 10 years on the waiting list before they get a house so the situation is absolutely chronic.
“We have many families under great pressure because their adult children are living with them and there are even grandchildren in the house too. We have significant overcrowding in houses.
“In terms of scale, this is not a huge project by any yardstick or measurement.
“It’s a discreet project, and certainly people’s concerns can be articulated and addressed through the planning process.
“Fundamentally, we have to build social housing, in addition to private housing, or before long we’ll have people 12 years on the housing list.
“To me, there’s an attempt to politicise this scheme.
“Nationally, Fine Gael have a problem with building social houses. If you look at their record, it speaks for itself in terms of the number of houses that have been built directly by councils,” Mr Martin added.
A public meeting organised by local residents, with up to 80 people in attendance, took place at the Silverspsrings Hotel last Tuesday.
All local representatives on the Cork City North-West ward, with the exception of two, attended the meeting.
There was no Fianna Fáil representation among them.
All representatives were asked for their stance on the plans and the Fine Gael party members present — Mr Kavanagh and City Hall party leader Des Cahill — were the only ones who said they would be opposed.
Mr Kavanagh said there are genuine concerns over density, infrastructure, traffic management, and access to the areas and there is no opposition to social housing from his party.
“It’s unfortunate for the residents to be caught up in the firing line,” he told The Echo.
“The only people that matter are the current residents and the future residents that are proposed to be put into the homes. We have to make sure this is right for them and the current population.”
Mr Kavanagh added that he believes that local opposition to the 54-home project will become clear in the public consultation on the planning process and he expects “a couple of hundred” submissions.