CORK'S two local authorities have been urged to work together to convert a derelict hospital into a communal living project.
Our Lady's Hospital, a former mental health institution, on the Lee Road was severely damaged last July when a fire overtook the St Kevin's block of the old Victorian building in Shanakiel.
Douglas-based Councillor Deirdre Forde (FG) believes the old hospital is a prime site for looking at creating innovative housing developments to allow young professionals to live close to the city centre.
Communal living generally involves private bed and toilet spaces coupled with communal kitchens and living areas and is used in parts of Europe, the UK and China.
“I looked at a programme on television recently where they highlighted communal living in areas that are very expensive. Rents are reasonable and people have communal live spaces that are managed,” she said.
“Take our Our Lady's Hospital that has been burned down. That is owned by the HSE as far I'm aware. Why can't there be some kind of a proposal for that building where the council would take it on in conjunction with the HSE or buy it from them? Let's get the two councils working together to redevelop it into [a housing] project for people.
“I'm sure there would be lots of people that would take it up. It's within walking distance to the city, yet it's lying idle,” she added.
Ms Forde said she realises the negative connotations in relation to the building's history but believes the site could be used for a positive purpose in the future while retaining respect for its past.
She intends to raise the issue at the next HSE regional health forum.
“I am going to ask if we can explore a way of getting the two local authorities together with the HSE to raise it to the ground, bless the site and come up with an entirely new building that would have a communal living aspect to it but would give people a sense of independence,” Ms Forde said.
“It would be pragmatic because it would be cost-effective. There are several reasons why people would say it shouldn't be done but a memorial could be incorporated for the people that died there.
“Rather than letting it go to rot, we should explore all options. If nobody starts the ball rolling that building could be there for another 15 years with nothing being done about it,” Ms Forde added.
While Cork County Council chief executive Tim Lucey has said the local authority is meeting all its targets, several representatives have expressed frustration at the lack of progress in Government-led housing projects in their areas.
Ms Forde said it is time to look at different ways of providing housing and has urged County Council to appoint an official to meet with all political parties to discuss ideas on providing housing.
“I don't know if we are being innovative enough. We are certainly stuck in a glut for the last 12 months,” she said.
“The Government has announced increased funding for housing and yet we are being told that these are stuck in red tape.
“We're hearing all these noises but solutions are not coming to the fore.
“Cut to the chase and appoint one person at the Council to meet with the different parties in relation to housing suggestions,” she added.