| 6°C Dublin

Five years and €116m but no new houses in Limerick

THE senior civil servant who has spearheaded the multi-million-euro regeneration project of the country's most deprived estates is set to leave the post -- without a single house having been built.

Brendan Kenny, chief executive officer of the Limerick Regeneration Agencies, confirmed to the Sunday Independent that his contract in Limerick expires this June and he expects to return to work in Dublin City Council.

The agencies were established by the Government in June 2007 to tackle social problems within Limerick's deprived estates.

At the time, the sprawling urban area of Limerick city was already governed by three local authorities -- Limerick City Council and Limerick and Clare County Councils -- but a series of violent incidents led to a public outcry for immediate action.

The Regeneration Agencies have a five-year lifespan and this will come to an end in June. The two city agencies -- northside and southside -- are set to become part of a new local authority which includes the amalgamation of Limerick City and County Councils, although no definitive implementation plan has been established.

Mr Kenny said that nobody from the Government had met with him or his staff to inform them of what would happen to their posts or roles after June.

"I don't know," he admitted. "I have a contract until June 14, so at that stage unless there is any significant change to the plan, I return to my post in Dublin City Council. I am on secondment from Dublin, but we don't know how things are going to pan out.

"There is an implementation group chaired by Denis Brosnan working on all those kind of issues which has to come up with an implementation plan. It had been hoped that it would have been published before Christmas, but we hope to see that published in the next few weeks. That will give a bit more clarity."

Mr Kenny admitted there were concerns in Moyross, Southill, St Mary's Park and Ballinacurra-Weston as the job was so far "only half-done".

Building work on the first 33 homes in Moyross only began last year and it is hoped that it will be completed by this November.

"People are saying not one house has been built -- we accept that. We are about two years behind, but there will be a noticeable shift this year and in the following years," said Mr Kenny.

"There is a concern that the emphasis and the focus could get lost. It is a tall order to merge two local authorities and to incorporate the regeneration process between now and June.

"I would still be confident. We have always said regeneration should be part of local government.

"It makes a lot of sense that regeneration would be part of a reformed local government structure, but the focus and intensive work for regeneration needs to continue for a couple of years. The investment must continue, but there is still a long haul there."

To date, €116m has been spent by the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government on Limerick's regeneration. The vast majority -- €91m -- has gone to Limerick City Council.

The local authority confirmed that it paid almost €20m to demolish 700 homes across the city. A further €53m was used to buy 365 homes -- the vast majority in Limerick city -- for transferring families from regeneration areas.

Almost €9m was spent on securing 176 homes listed for demolition. These are mainly private homes. A further €2m has been spent on regeneration staff based in Limerick City Council and €5m on a housing development on Lord Edward Street and two other smaller sites.

In 2009 and 2010, Limerick and Clare county councils were financed with almost €10m to provide accommodation for people from Limerick city's regeneration areas.

Sunday Independent