Social housing plan approved even though 70 homes lie empty
A NEW social housing project of 50 homes has been given the green light -- despite 70 finished houses already lying empty in the same town.
And, in a separate development, councillors have awarded the €5.2m contract to a company in the North, despite there being more than 8,000 people in the town on the live register.
Louth County Council had issued invitations to tender for the construction work at Mell in Drogheda because there was a "scarcity of vacant units and residential developments in Drogheda".
It cited an official government report as evidence of this, but the National Housing Development Survey states that there are 484 empty homes in Drogheda alone. Some are ready for occupants while others are at various stages of construction and planning.
Last night, a spokesman for the council defended the decision to build the homes at Boice Court and to send the contract North.
However, the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises (ISME) association has accused the council of "not having the Irish economy to the forefront".
Louth County Council said it initially opted for a tender that was priced lower -- but that southern-based company pulled out.
The council then offered the contract to O'Hanlon and Farrell Contracts Ltd, Newry, as it was the "most economically advantageous provider".
A total of eight companies had tendered, two of which were based in the North.
A spokesman said the next cheapest tender was for €6m -- but ISME said it would have made more economic sense for the region to opt for a higher contract from a southern firm.
"It's absolute madness," said Mark Fielding of ISME, asking what it is bringing to the Louth area.
"The profits will certainly go to the North, they will certainly employ Northern Ireland people and they will be purchasing materials in the North.
"The money is seeping out of the system and is doing absolutely nothing for the (Irish) economy."
He accused the council of looking for the "easiest way out" so that it would not have to "write a report" on why it did not opt for the cheapest tender put before it.
However, the council said it simply "couldn't afford" to opt for a more expensive southern company. All budgets to local authorities have been slashed over the past two years.
"We couldn't pay €800,000 more to get an Irish company," a council spokesman said.
"And if we went for a more expensive (tender), we'd be asked why we went for it."