Residents at 'unsafe' estate seek home swap scheme
RESIDENTS AT a Longford housing estate declared “fundamentally unsafe” by the HSE are urging State agencies to facilitate a property swap with vacant homes in the region.
Longford County Council has applied to the Department of the Environment for funding to repair the sewerage network at Gleann Riada estate, where the build-up of natural gases underground has led to explosions in two homes.
However, many residents believe the estate is beyond repair and are calling for a more radical solution, starting with immediate evacuation of the almost 80 remaining occupied houses.
Last March an explosion blew the front window from one house. A smaller explosion took place in a different house earlier this month. The occupants of both houses where the explosions took place have left the estate.
The council has so far evacuated and rehoused one homeowner. The plea for a house-swap scheme comes amid a complaint from that homeowner, Anne Heffernan, that the council has stopped paying her rent on alternative accommodation.
Ms Heffernan said the council initially put her up in a hotel after deeming her home unsafe last July, due to dangerously high levels of hydrogen sulphide and carbon monoxide.
She subsequently moved into an apartment and “the council paid my rent for August and September”, she said.
“But in mid-September, they contacted my solicitors and said they would not longer pay for accommodation and I should seek alternative accommodation. The attitude seems to be: We have done our bit.”
The council was unable to answer detailed questions about its management of the estate late last week, while the department said it was limited in what it could say as the matter was the subject of legal proceedings.
But Ms Heffernan accused the authorities of “using the legal action as an excuse. They don’t want to communicate with us and yet they were the ones who told me I had to move out of my house.”
Almost 30 residents on the estate have contacted a solicitor about taking action against the council and other parties including Antrim-based developer Alastair Jackson, whose company Eassda Ireland built the estate before it folded it 2010 with massive debts.
Residents believe the council had knowledge that the area was a flood plain, with Ms Heffernan pointing out: “no one from Longford bought there”.
But, in a short statement, the council said: “It must be emphasised the problems arising were caused by substandard construction work.”
The council added it had made a funding submission to the department, and was “working closely with the residents to establish how best to deal with the issues identified in Gleann Riada”.
Echoing the view of most residents, Noelle McHale, a native of Co Mayo who bought her home in 2006 for €172,000, said: “I think evacuation is the only solution.