26 September 2002 Edition

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Developers anger Lucan locals


Do you remember the Planning dispute over the Laraghcon development at Lucan? Shannon Homes wanted to build nearly 300 homes and an industrial warehousing facility right bang over one of the most beautiful unspoilt country sites in Dublin, at Lucan, on the banks of the river Liffey?

Shannon Homes finally got their planning permission from An Bórd Pleanála in August last year, after eight years of virulent dispute and whispered allegations of corruption. The value of the land jumped from £5,000 an acre to £50,000 - a ten-fold increase. Permission was granted in the teeth of opposition by local residents and the advice of planning officials.

Last Friday (20 September) families who live in the old artisan cottages, Milbank, between the huge 72-acre site and the river, got a heavy-handed reminder.

The developers moved in with diggers to take the small strip of land beside one of the narrowest and busiest roads in the country, Lucan to Chapelizod. Residents of Milbank have parked their cars on the strip for the past decade or more. The developers started to push mounds of earth down on the spot, to hem in the cars and force residents to remove the cars so they could fence in the strip for site works. They fenced off more than half of the strip, lifting one of the cars out of their way into the ditch.

A History

Lucan Planning Council, Lucan Community Council, the Liffey Valley Park Alliance Project, An Taisce and local residents associations were all against the development. Local residents in Lucan had even held a referendum with 90 per cent opposed to the development. Nevertheless, the development got the go ahead.

Without discussion residents were to be left with nowhere to park their cars. They gathered, outraged, and stood between the diggers and the cars they had managed to assemble to occupy the strip. As the diggers came down the steep slope towards them, women, children, they were afraid. By Friday evening there was a standoff.

Frank Fahy, Managing Director of Shannon Homes, refused to see the protesting locals last week. But on Monday he appeared and, it is reported, graciously offered to sell the residents parking spaces eventually on their site!

"There is no way we could afford that," say residents, "and anyhow, why should we have to buy a right we have enjoyed for a decade or more, from those who don't have it to sell?"

The residents were distraught. They explained, "We hoped to go to Court for an injunction to halt Shannon Homes, in what is clearly illegal action. It would cost us several thousand, and if we lost, we'd have to pay Shannon Homes' costs. No way we could afford that. We're just ordinary working people living here for years.

"But neither can we afford to leave our cars occupying the strip during the working week." One resident says, "My wages can't meet costs of taxiing to work and back - it's Euro40 or 50 a day. It's utterly wrong that these developers should be let to ride roughshod over us. But how do we stop them? We simply don't have the money, and money is all that counts with them."

And it counts up. The 282 houses in the development plan are expected to sell for over one quarter of a million each. "The Councillors who originally proposed this development to Fingal County Council have a lot to answer for," comments local Sinn Fein Candidate Mary Lou MacDonald. "And is Fingal County Council going to watch over the interests of local people to ensure that Shannon Homes doesn't trample of their rights and livelihoods? Or do they have other fish to fry?"

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1