Deprived estate may lose €120m fund over bridge row
Published 03/12/2010 | 05:00
ONE of the country's most deprived housing developments has lost over €5m in regeneration funding in the past two years because of a row over a bridge.
Community leaders in the Cranmore estate in Sligo have been unable to draw down the much-needed funds because the ongoing regeneration project is only part of a bigger plan, which must include the construction of a bridge and relief road in the eastern part of the town.
Housing Minister Michael Finneran has now given Sligo Borough Council just weeks to rescind a previous decision and approve the controversial east link bridge across the Garavogue River or face losing over €120m in regeneration funding.
The sprawling estate, which has been blighted by social problems in the past, turned the corner six years ago when a major regeneration project got under way.
But its future now hangs in the balance after it emerged that a €3m allocation could not be drawn down this year and a further €2.5m was lost last year because the project was not proceeding in tandem with the construction of the bridge and relief road.
But hundreds of residents, whose homes will be blocked from the river by high walls if the project goes ahead, have called for the bridge to be located up to 300 metres east of the proposed location where its impact would be less negative.
However, spokesperson for Cranmore Community Development, Michelle McMorrow, yesterday called on the town councillors to reverse their decision. "In the times that we are now in, when communities are crying out for funding, it is unthinkable that we could lose over €120m in funding if councillors don't vote in favour of the development of the east link bridge," she said.
The bridge and relief road have long been seen as a vital piece of infrastructure for the eastward expansion and development of the town. But the project was deleted from the town's development plan in December 2008 following a vote in the council chamber and members called on the county manager to come up with alternative routes.
This week, 10 members of Sligo Borough Council were issued with a stark ultimatum from Mr Finneran, who said that unless they gave the go-ahead to the bridge they could kiss goodbye to a major regeneration project in the eastern end of the town and even lose Sligo's Gateway status.
Objectors have accused the minister of blackmail.
"We believe the minister is acting beyond his remit and we regard this ultimatum as blackmail on a community of pensioners," a spokesperson said.