Saturday 3 December 2016

RTE refused to allow modular homes on D4 campus 'because it would disrupt Fair City filming'

Laura Larkin

Published 30/10/2015 | 07:05

Tony Tormey (Paul Brennan), Clelia Murphy (Niamh Brennan) and Richard McWilliams (Michael O'Brien with whom Niamh is having an on-screen affair with) on the set of RTE's Fair City celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the popular soap. Picture Colin Keegan/Collins
Tony Tormey (Paul Brennan), Clelia Murphy (Niamh Brennan) and Richard McWilliams (Michael O'Brien with whom Niamh is having an on-screen affair with) on the set of RTE's Fair City celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the popular soap. Picture Colin Keegan/Collins

RTE rejected a request to provide space for modular homes for homeless families on its Donnybrook campus - in part because it could disrupt the filming of Fair City, the Herald can reveal.

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The State broadcaster said that to build the homes on their 31-acre Montrose site would interfere with the day-to-day running of RTE.

Some 500 modular homes are to be built around Dublin to ease the homelessness crisis in the city.

On October 5, Sinn Fein councillor Chris Andrews wrote to RTE asking them to consider making land available on a temporary basis for the homes.

Impede

RTE's head of property and services Paul Silke responded three days later saying that the request had been reviewed, but the station had ruled out building the units there.

"We feel it would seriously impede the day-to-day operation of RTE. The area surrounding our built facilities is in constant use for external filming for the various TV shows including 'Fair City' and our new children's show 'Dig In' which encourages children to become involved with their own gardens," Mr Silke wrote.

"In addition, maintaining the security of the campus, already difficult due to its accessibility to the public, would become exponentially more difficult if we were to lose control of vehicular and pedestrian access," the letter reads.

"The RTE site is already extremely busy with over 2,000 vehicle movements on an average day.

"In your letter you mention that you understand 'road infrastructure and services are there' ... that is simply not the case," Mr Silke told Cllr Andrews.

"Neither drainage, roads, footpaths, nor indeed power are in place to service such a proposal," his letter continues.

Mr Silke said that RTE regretted that they couldn't agree to the city councillor's request.

"A production environment like ours is not suited to your proposal which would also involve considerable capital investment," the letter concludes.

Mr Andrews told the Herald that he was dissatisfied with the response and has asked RTE to reconsider.

"I think it shows a lack of willingness to engage with a serious issue.

"RTE needs to do less hand-wringing and take more action," he said.

"It's a very big site and it's clearly underutilised. RTE must have a community and social remit," he added.

He pointed out a New Era report earlier this year which showed 20pc of RTE's campus was underdeveloped, with another 21pc used for car parking.

The sprawling campus was large enough to accommodate families comfortably, Mr Andrews argued.

"There are areas you can go into and you'd think you were in the countryside. It's a realistic and real opportunity for RTE to show a commitment to social responsibility."

In response to a query from the Herald, RTE re-iterated the same concerns relating to the interference with its operations.

A spokeswoman also confirmed that neither the Government nor Dublin City Council had approached RTE to ask them for use of the lands for modular homes.

"Decisions regarding the RTE site remain under consideration by the RTE Board and no further developments will be accommodated at this time," she said.

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