Last Ballymun residents to leave tower block
Final flats demolition to take place early next year
A block of flats on Sillogue Road in Ballymun which was dismantled early last year. Photograph : David Sleator
The last remaining residents of the Ballymun flats will be given the keys to their new homes this month, 16 years since regeneration of the 1960s’ high-rise suburb began.
More than 2,000 new social homes have been built and more than €900 million of public money spent since the project began in 1997. Just six tenants remain in the 15-storey Joseph Plunkett Tower. It and the remaining two eight-storey blocks will be demolished early next year.
The board of Ballymun Regeneration Ltd (BRL) will step down at the end of this year and a new organisation, the Ballymun Town Alliance, made up of local residents and business people, will be established. BRL will continue for a period in a wind-down phase, BRL chairman Ronan King said.
‘Overall fabric of city’
“BRL will continue, largely to deal with finalising contractual obligations, but the intent and design is that Ballymun will become part of the overall fabric of the city, that it will become just like any other neighbourhood.”
The change in the once no-go suburb is undeniable. In addition to the replacement housing, there are parks and playgrounds, a leisure centre and several community centres. However, the road to regeneration has not been without its obstacles.
Although the bulk of construction was completed when the State had money, the project was hit in 2007 by the discovery of pyrite, the mineral which can cause severe structural defects in buildings. More than €9 million has been spent on fixing the problem, a cost the State is seeking to recoup through a pending legal action against the quarry owners.
The pyrite problem may be resolved, but there is one glaring deficiency in Ballymun which has become a millstone around the neck of BRL.
“A town needs a heart and the failure to redevelop the shopping centre is one of the disappointments, the major disappointment, of the project,” Mr King said.
Treasury Holdings was to develop a new shopping centre on the site of the dilapidated Town Centre shopping precinct. The site is now in the hands of Nama.
“We are negotiating in the short term to improve the current centre but long term the shopping centre needs to be developed.”
BRL owns an adjacent site which may end up being used for an alternative shopping centre. Plans for a shopping complex have not been abandoned, Mr King said, but he conceded it would be two to three years before one is built.
Socially, Ballymun has progressed. Educational attainment has improved and teenagers are staying in school longer. Unemployment is still high but there are now some jobs, where previously there were none. However, Ballymun remains a highly supported community.
“There is a need to progressively reduce dependency. People need to take ownership of their town,” Mr King said.
A photographic exhibition, Ballymun People by Elizabeth and Charles Hand, to celebrate the completion of the project opens tonight in the Axis arts centre in Ballymun.