Council gets funding approval for housing next to Spring Lane

The council also stated that a “comprehensive assessment” of how it will address the accommodation needs of the site residents for the next few years is being finalised.
Council gets funding approval for housing next to Spring Lane

The council said it plans to refurbish/redesign the original 10 bays at Spring Lane for the families who wish to remain at the site.  Picture: Larry Cummins

CORK City Council has obtained stage one funding approval from the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage for a group Traveller housing scheme next to the halting site at Spring Lane in Ballyvolane.

The council said the necessary assessments, surveys and designs to inform the Part 8 process for the scheme at Ellis’s Yard are being prepared.

The detail was contained in a report issued to councillors ahead of a full council meeting of Cork City Council earlier this week and forms part of the council’s efforts to address the Ombudsman for Children’s Office (OCO) recommendations following the publication of a scathing report on living conditions at Spring Lane published in May.

The OCO report included a recommendation that a risk assessment be carried out in co-operation with the residents, including children, to address the health and safety risks at the site.

It said that particular consideration should be given to the connection to plumbing and sewerage, the refurbishment of toilet and shower facilities, the removal of fire safety hazards, the clearing of the children’s passage to school, and the consistent provision of waste management, pest control, electrical, and other maintenance.

The report also stated that the matter of illegal dumping on the site should be addressed as a matter of priority.

Following a motion submitted by Solidarity councillor Fiona Ryan, who called on Cork City Council’s chief executive Ann Doherty to provide “an urgent detailed timeframe for implementation of the key 10 recommendations” in the OCO report, councillors were provided with a lengthy report outlining steps the council has taken to date and other measures it plans to implement to address the recommendations made.

Council report 

In its report, the council said “significant progress” has been made to date and that the executive “continues to engage with the OCO” which included a six-month review in December.

The council said a risk assessment, supplied to the OCO, has been carried out by an experienced consulting engineer and a number of mitigation measures have and are currently being put in place to address concerns raised and to deliver short-term solutions.

The council plans to refurbish/redesign the original 10 bays at Spring Lane for the families who wish to remain at the site, which will include the welfare units, electrics, water, and sanitary servic
The council plans to refurbish/redesign the original 10 bays at Spring Lane for the families who wish to remain at the site, which will include the welfare units, electrics, water, and sanitary servic

These include upgrading of the potable water and water distribution network; regularisation and improvement of the existing school access pathway and an enhanced response maintenance system at the site with a dedicated phone line including out of hours service for emergency repairs. Extensive sewer surveys have also been carried out to eliminate issues and the council said there are weekly visits by a drain clean company until a permanent solution is implemented.

The council said it plans to refurbish/redesign the original 10 bays at Spring Lane for the families who wish to remain at the site, which will include the welfare units, electrics, water, and sanitary services in parallel with the delivery of the group housing scheme at Ellis’s Yard.

It said a dedicated Project Implementation Team has been established to aid the delivery of this work.

“In the intervening period, temporary welfare pods are being provided and this work is ongoing,” the council said.

The council said it provides an industrial-sized skip service to the site which is collected now on a twice-weekly basis and that pest control services are in operation at the site.

Accommodation needs

In its report, the council also stated that a “comprehensive assessment” of how it will address the accommodation needs of the site residents for the next few years is being finalised.

It said this is being done in conjunction with the residents, Traveller representative bodies and the Traveller Accommodation Unit (TAU).

The council said it engaged the services of external professional stakeholder engagement experts to meet with each individual household and assess their accommodation requirements and that this intervention has provided the council with “a clear assessment of the numbers of households that will accept standard local authority housing, has identified those that wish to remain in a refurbished Spring Lane site, those that wish to move to the group housing scheme at Ellis’s Yard or a group housing scheme at another location”.

“This assessment will set out a strategy for addressing the accommodation needs of Spring Lane residents for each year from 2021 to 2024 inclusive.

“The city council’s ability to deliver on expectations will, of course, be contingent on availability within existing housing stock, the demands of the growing social housing support waiting list (currently circa, 4,500 approved households) and willingness of the residents of Spring Lane to be flexible regarding the type and location of supports they are willing to accept to meet their housing needs,” it added.

In the report, the council said it is “determined to address in full the recommendations of the OCO report and implement the measures outlined in the current Traveller Accommodation Programme for the benefit of all the residents especially the children at Spring Lane”.

Speaking at the council meeting earlier this week, director of services in the housing directorate, Niall Ó Donnabháin, said:

“The relevant focus that has been applied by the housing directorate is inordinate in trying to deal with the issues on Spring Lane and in terms of the wider Traveller community.”

Mr Ó Donnabháin said it is “not an easy challenge” and that solutions are required are “on a family-by-family basis”.

He said a “significant cohort” of those at Spring Lane are looking to move to more settled accommodation. I do believe there is huge progress being made and we will continue to see that progress over the next 12 to 24 months. You can’t magic up solutions like this overnight,” he said. “The provision of long-term housing solutions and accommodation solutions for these families needs to be done right and done correctly from the start.”

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