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Sunday 31 August 2014

Builder begins to demolish part of estate where tragic toddler drowned

Published 19/11/2013 | 20:24

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Demolition began at the Glenatore 'Ghost Housing Estate' in Athlone today. Photo: David Walsh
Demolition began at the Glenatore 'Ghost Housing Estate' in Athlone today. Photo: David Walsh
Two year-old Liam died after falling into a pool of water on the Glenatore estate.
Two year-old Liam Keogh died after falling into a pool of water on the Glenatore estate.

DEMOLITION work has begun on an unfinished section of an estate where a two-year-old drowned.

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Liam Kelly died in February 2012 after wandering through a hole in the fence at Glenatore estate in Athlone, Co Westmeath, and falling into a pool of water.

Athway Construction, which is headed by local man Tony Diskin and businessman Aidan Connolly, began pulling down more than a dozen uninhabited dwellings located in a significant segment of the scheme which has been deemed unviable.

The move comes in the same week that Minister of State for Housing, Jan O’Sullivan announced a plan to demolish 40 of the state’s worst ghost estates next year.

It also follows a court order ruling issued last month which decreed that remedial works should start on the Glenatore estate. This was issued after Westmeath County Council took legal action against Athway over alleged failure to carry out a previous planning enforcement notice about these works.

At a sitting of the Athlone District Court last month, the developers gave a commitment to carry out an agreed list of works by the end of March.

Immediately following the death of Liam Keogh last year, families in the adjoining Rindoon estate related how they had been living in constant fear that their children would wander onto the site while one described the site as a “death trap”.

Little Liam had run onto the site to follow his pet dog. At the time pictures of the site showed an area strewn with barbed wire, broken tiles, rusty metal and marshy pools of stagnant water.

A source at Westmeath County Council told the Irish Independent that the Council had given the developers a comprehensive list of work to be carried out. He said that once these works had been carried out, the Council would then be prepared to take the estate in hand.

The developers were granted permission for 66 homes in 2005, a good number of them housed in apartment blocks. But by 2011 it was reported that just five properties were occupied.

The Department of the Environment has been working with local authorities to identify estates with no hope of commercial viability and that council officials had been in touch with the property developers and their banks to draw up plans for dealing with the worst cases.

A spokesman for the Minister said owners were now considering whether to comply with requests by the local authorities to clear the sites or propose alternative plans to deal with them.

But even as the demolition got under way at Glenatore, a local estate agent was busy marketing the salvaged units in the estate which have now been finished out.

The literature describes them as: “an exclusive development superbly located close to Lough Ree in Coosan” and as “one of the most prestigious residential areas in Athlone”,

It concluded: “Glenatore is a development of very high-quality houses, apartments and duplex homes.”

By Mark Keenan

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