A proposal to approve planning for a €10m, 50-unit social housing development in Ballina created tension between councillors and local authority officials last Wednesday.
The matter was ultimately deferred to allow the local authority engage more with neighbouring residents but senior officials expressed disappointment at the decision, saying it would deprive those who are homeless and lacking secure tenancy of hope this Christmas.
Up to 15 residents from the Rehins Fort area of the Foxford road were in the public gallery of Ballina Civic Offices to hear the debate about the proposed new development in their area.
Cllr Seamus Weir complained that the planning report, which is being processed under Part 8 of the planning legislation, had been presented in a hurry and requested a deferral until February next.
Cllr Annie May Reape said the local residents are being fair and reasonable in their points of view and deserve the same level of briefing as the councillors.
Cllr Mark Duffy noted that even though there are over 500 people on the Ballina housing list, new housing developments must be pursued in a way that is palatable to the local residents.
Cllr Michael Loftus said the residents’ concerns will have to be addressed, with compromise required from both sides.
Ballina Municipal District manager, Declan Turnbull, said he was disappointed that the matter was not going to be agreed that morning. The residents’ concerns have been addressed in the planning report but if elaboration is required the council will meet with them.
Director of services Tom Gilligan was also disappointed and took issue with Cllr Weir’s suggestion that the planning had been rushed. “This has been discussed on a number of occasions and with the previous council. The reality is that just because it is coming up to Christmas homelessness does not stop.”
Mr Gilligan said the councillors’ decision to defer was taking hope from people who deserve hope at Christmas.
Cllr Duffy requested that Mr Gilligan withdraw that “unfair” remark while Cllr Weir likened the director of services’ reaction to a spoiled child.
Cllr Jarlath Munnelly urged that the council seek to strike a compromise that the neighbours can live with.