OPW pledges there will be a full public consultation process should project at Carhookeal site be given the green light
AN official with the Office of Public Works (OPW) has said it could take up to a fortnight before it would be known if a site in Mallow would be suited to the construction of modular homes to house Ukrainian refugee families.
An update on proposals for the Cork County Council owned site at Carhookeal has been provided to local county councillors during an online briefing on the controversial issue with officials from the OPW and the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.
Describing the meeting as “constructive”, Cllr Tony O’Shea (FG) said the OPW had apologised to local elected representatives for the manner in which the issue had been handled to date.
“We had plenty of questions for the officials, in particular the manner in which the scheme had been rolled out, putting local public representatives in the position where we had no answers to the many questions posed by people to us,” said Cllr O’Shea.
“Chief among these was why there had been no public consultation process before the contractors had moved in on site. Officials apologised for putting us in this position before providing us with a fuller picture,” he added.
Officials confirmed that contractors are still in the process of assessing the suitability of the site for 30, two-bedroomed modular homes, each of which will house a maximum of four people.
It is understood that the modular homes will cost between €125,000 and €150,000 each to erect, with the money for the homes coming through a European Union funding stream.
They will be among 800 similar units planned for sites around the country, with site investigations also understood to be ongoing at another location in West Cork.
“We were informed that it could take up to two-weeks before the site investigation works are complete. We have been further assured that should the site was deemed suitable, a consultation process with the residents of nearby estates will be initiated immediately,” said Cllr O’Shea.
“During the meeting I insisted that we be given a contact email for members of the local community to raise any concerns and to get answers of their questions and queries. These can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org,” he added.
Responding to concerns aired by some local residents that the homes might be allocated to undocumented migrants, Cllr O’Shea said officials had confirmed this would not be the case.
“The officials were very specific in that the homes would only be allocated to families arriving in Ireland fleeing from the war in Ukraine,” said Cllr O’Shea.
Under legislation enacted last year planning permission is not required for modular homes, should they go ahead, for three-years as the project is classed as an emergency measure.
Cllr O’Shea said that under the legislation ownership of the modular homes, which will have a lifespan of approximately 60-years, will be handed to Cork County Council once the stipulated three-year period has expired.
He said that, providing the war in Ukraine is over and the occupants are repatriated to their homeland, the houses may then be used by the local authority to home applicants from their housing waiting list.
Cllr O’Shea said it has always been his presumption that the Carhookeal site would have been used for social housing at some point in the future.
He went on to say that he could fully understand the frustration felt by local people who have been on the council housing list for years to then hear about modular units being built on a council owned site in the town.
Cllr O’Shea suggested that building modular homes for people on council waiting lists might be a way to address the current housing crisis, not just in Cork but across the country.
“While we are producing houses, I would be the first to admit that we need more social housing. At the end of the day, it’s not right to have people on the housing list for 10 or 12 years. We have sites that have been identified for modular housing, one of which in Mallow has been lying idle for years,” said Cllr O’Shea.
“To the best of my knowledge we have never built modular houses and to be honest I see nothing wrong with the idea of building them on council owned sites for people on the waiting list,” he added.