DEALING WITH REGENERATION
The Weston Gardens
Residents' Association (WGRA) was the only independent residents'
group in the designated Southside regeneration area when regeneration
first came to town in 2007.
The WGRA had secured
funding from central government for the regeneration of our
small estate in 2006 and plans were advertised in 2007, but
were suspended pending publication of the Fitzgerald Report.
The WGRA had negotiated
for six years with Limerick City Council to regenerate our area,
and while we were not entirely happy with the Plans it was a
'take it or leave it' situation.
(chairman), Cathal McCarthy, spoke to John Fitzgerald in March
2007 and was told that Weston Gardens was not part of his report.
Despite this and despite not being mentioned in the Fitzgerald
Report, Limerick City Council insisted that we were to be
We welcomed the publication
of the Fitzgerald Report and supported most of it's recommendations.
had several meetings with the CEO of the Regeneration Agencies,
Brendan Kenny, from June 2007 to September 2007 and made it
clear that we were opposed to the demolition of our homes. We
were assured that this was not a problem and were asked to help
set up a committee for the general area.
In September 2007
we were told that there were objections from residents in Ballinacurra
Weston to our participation. We didn't believe this and decided
to write to Mr. Kenny. If we hadn't received a reply within
3 weeks we would publish the letter.
On Wednesday, October
24th, 2007 we
took out a full page ad in the Limerick Leader: We
Won't Play Your Regeneration Game!
While we adopted
a hard-line in the letter;"We have no faith, trust or
confidence in the Southside Regeneration Agency and do not wish
to be included in its remit.", we hoped that this would
act as a catalyst to kick-start formal negotiations.
We were successful
and a series of meetings were held between the WGRA and the
Southside Regeneration Agency (SRA).
We negotiated directly
with SRA CEO Brendan Kenny and SRA Director of Regeneration
In November 2007
we were told what was possible for our estate through regeneration
without demolition. We were also told that we could expect between
€200,000 - €150,000 for our homes should we decide
to sell. This was conditional on every household agreeing to
sell. We explained that we weren't interested in selling for
that price as most of our residents are mortgage free and want
In December 2007
we presented Mr. Kenny with formal proposals for the regeneration
of our area, entitled Renewal, Integration, Regeneration,
our proposals were based on what we were told was possible
To say the least,
Mr. Kenny was not pleased and ultimately refused to acknowledge
that the Agency had received proposals from our association
in their Vision Document, which was to be published in January
We were given an
opportunity to read a draft of the Vision Document and asked
to submit changes. When we asked that Agency simply acknowledge
reciept of our proposals we were told that it had already gone
We contacted the
printers, whose details were on the draft, and found out that
it wouldn't go to print for another week!
When it was published,
the Agency's Vision Document stated that "The agency
will work closely with the residents of Weston Gardens, adjacent
to Clarina/Crecora in development of solutions to the serious
problems that they have over the years". That never
In March 2008, the
Agency disengaged with us because of our refusal to participate
in the local residents forum without representation on the Southside
Regeneration Committee. We also had concerns that pressure would
be put on us to agree to the demolition of our homes and that
when we wouldn't, we would be blamed for 'holding up regeneration'.
Once again, we found
ourselves negotiating in public. Mr. Kenny started by making
an announcement on 3rd June at a public meeting that our area
was not under the remit of the SRA and that our homes "would
not be touched" as they were "privately owned".
We responded by issuing
a press release, which was reported and severely edited by the
Limerick Leader; the article quoted Brendan Hayden as saying
that the Agency is waiting for us to make up our minds and would
welcome any proposals or suggestions we might have, but neglected
to say that the Agency had received proposals from us in December
We took out another
full-page ad in the Limerick leader, publishing an abridged
version of our proposals:
Brendan Kenny responded
by requesting 'one on one' meetings. This time we were offered
between €150,000 and €100,000 for our homes, we were
told that the price had lowered because of the downturn in the
market. Once again we refused.
We were then told
that the SRA was handing us back to the Council, which no longer
had the money to regenerate our area. We informed Mr. Kenny
that we would be seeking a Judicial Review of his decision and
we were quickly reinstated, with the promise that we could write
our own piece for the 'Master' Plans.
This wasn't to be,
instead we were to edit the Agency's version. This proved to
be an ordeal and as a result there are two different versions
in the public domain.
The printed version
states "...Weston Gardens should be included
in the southside regeneration process...", whereas
the online .pdf version states "...Weston Gardens will
be included in the southside regeneration process..."
Although we had submitted
our changes before the 'deadline', again we were told that they
had already gone to print!
The online version
reads as follows:
is a private housing estate consisting of nine terrace houses
three of which (no.1-3) were burnt out in 2001. Limerick City
Council acquired these derelict/empty houses in 2005. This
small estate has endured problems with illegal dumping, criminal
and anti-social behaviour. There are also problems with access
to and exit from Lord Edward Street i.e. narrowness of road
and no turning point, and as a result refuse collection lorries
cannot enter the estate.
As a result of
all this Weston Gardens will be included in the southside
regeneration process and further discussions and negotiations
will be held with owners/residents in order to seek agreement
on a long-term solution. Inclusion in the regeneration process
will not require demolition.
We have written to
Mr. Kenny and the SRA several times since in an attempt to discuss
matters further. Our correspondence continues to be ignored.