Residents’ campaign fails as councillors approve social housing

Cllr Michael Finnerty at Garbally Drive in Ballinasloe where social houses are planned. Photo: Gerry Stronge.

A major battle to prevent ten social houses from being built in a Ballinasloe estate failed this week after councillors voted by a large majority to allow the development to proceed.

It is now hoped the new homes will be completed and occupied by the end of the year.

But a number of Fianna Fail councillors, who voted against the €1.7 million development of the social housing scheme, have come in for some stinging criticism for their decision to oppose the provision of the new dwellings.

They have been accused of having no regard for those on the housing waiting list. “They should be ashamed of themselves,” remarked Cllr Pete Roche of Fine Gael.

This week members of Galway County Council were asked to approve planning for the ten houses in Garbally Drive, Ballinasloe. A total of 26 voted in favour of the houses going ahead, three were opposed while three councillors abstained.

A meeting of Galway County Council, at which some residents of Garbally Drive were present, was told that there were 332 families in the Ballinasloe area waiting to be housed. Of these, there are 63 requiring three-bedroom homes.

The 10 houses that are to be built in the estate will all be three-bedroom and it means that the housing waiting list in the area will be significantly reduced. Tenders for the development will be sought over the coming weeks.

The residents in Garbally Drive opposed the development of the houses amid concerns they had over potential flooding and that they may give rise to traffic problems in the estate.

They engaged a hydrologist and an engineer to examine the Council’s proposal for the housing.

In their submission to the Council, the residents were concerned about the presence of a turlough in the area and believed that this would contribute to the potential for flooding. They also said that a turlough is a natural habitat for wildlife.

But local Fine Gael councillor Michael Finnerty proposed that the social housing plan should be granted planning permission and was seconded by Cllr Dermot Connolly of Sinn Fein.

Cllr Finnerty said that he had inspected the hydrologist’s report and was satisfied that the development of housing would not cause a flooding problem in the estate.

As part of the social housing plan, four sides will be given over to the local Gaelscoil and Cllr Finnerty said that the development would provide homes for some good neighbours.

“All of the new occupants will be fully vetted and I am sure that the new home owners will have the height of respect for the dwellings that will be allocated to them,” he said.

However, Fianna Fail councillors Donal Burke from Ballinasloe, Tuam’s Donagh Killilea and Cathaoirleach of Galway County Council Cllr Michael Connolly voted against the plan. Their decision to do so has come in for some severe criticism.

Fine Gael’s Cllr Pete Roche said that he was ‘flabbergasted’ that three Fianna Fail councillors would vote against the plan.

“We have a huge housing crisis on our hands and for these councillors to try and deny families a home is absolutely disgraceful and they should be ashamed of themselves,” he told The Connacht Tribune.

He added that all three councillors were elected for the good of the people they represent and said that their decision to oppose social housing is “nothing short of mind-boggling”.