Following the devastating news received by the residents of St Catherine’s Halting Site (Wetlands) on the outskirts of the city that funding for a proposed housing development would not be met in 2013, Green Party Councillor Malcolm Noonan has proposed that the proceeds of the sale of the site at the Hebron Road Roundabout to McDonalds could be used to start the development while Kilkenny County Council await an allocation for 2014.
‘The site at Hebron should never have been sold for a drive through fast food facility; it is the main entry point to the city off of the M9 and is inappropriate for a heritage city. Furthermore the development which has been granted planning permission is not compatible with objectives of traveller health development given that St Mary’s Housing Project and Halting Site is located beside the granted drive through restaurant’ he said.
Councillor Noonan was the only member of Kilkenny County Council to vote against the sale of the site to McDonald’s despite the cash windfall to the Local Authority and the promise that part of the proceeds would be ring fenced for a Traveller Horse Project. ‘This sale should never have been agreed but now that it has, our immediate priority as a Housing Authority is to end the appalling accommodation situation in St Catherine’s. The €800,000 plus revenue from the sale of the Hebron Site could go a long way towards the capital investment required and would make it more attainable for the Department of Environment to meet the shortfall next year’ he said.
“I have spoken to Environment Minister Phil Hogan about the conditions in St Catherine’s and I am hopeful that he will prioritise it in the 2014 capital programme. However we need to give these families some hope now. I met with the families on the day that they were told of the bad news and they are devastated, they see no way out and are tired of broken promises. I will also be asking the Chairman of The Local Traveller Accommodation Committee Cllr Andrew McGuinness to raise the possibility of using the funds to address the housing crisis in St Catherine’s,”he said.
He added that Kilkenny County Council has agreed to address urgent accommodation issues in the short term such as lack of running hot water, damp and mould, clothes washing facilities and water supply to some of the trailers.
Cllr Noonan acknowledged that both the elected members and Council staff expressed disappointment with the lack of allocation for the housing project but he concluded by saying that it is now imperative that that disappointment be turned to determination to secure the funding for this long overdue housing project. “The families and in particular the children of St Catherine’s need our full support to ensure that their most basic of rights in the Irish State are met,” Cllr Noonan said.