‘Ghost estate took us to hell and back’

Michelle Burke told a crowd of 80 supporters yesterday that she hopes a meeting with Clare County Council will allow her and husband William Buck, and two other householders, move into their homes.

At the lunchtime protest, campaigners held placards bearing slogans such as ‘Call in our bond’ and ‘We want our services’ in front of the locked gates of the unfinished Ard na Deirge estate in the east Clare town of Killaloe.

Ms Burke — flanked by Mr Buck and two other homeowners, John Ryan Sr and John Ryan Jr — called on the council to call in the bond to allow the estate to be completed so that they can move into their homes.

The married couple are paying almost €1,400 on a mortgage and rent every month after buying a house at the estate on Sept 7, 2006.

They have been paying the €1,400 per month for almost four years and have spent over €300,000 on the four-bedroom house.

However, they are unable to move into the home since the builder went into receivership and AIB took possession of the estate through a receiver.

An investor is in the process of completing the purchase of the estate, and Ms Burke told the crowd that they have been advised that the new owner “has no intention of finishing the estate in the near future”.

Fighting back tears, she said: “This is detrimental to us. We stand here every day and we look at a house that we pay €1,400 between mortgage and rent for every month and no one is helping us.”

Ms Burke said the insurance bond allows the council to go in and finish the development and connect services to the homes.

“We don’t want just a meeting, we want a result and if we don’t get a result, we will be at Clare County Council offices protesting this time next week,” she said.

“We are key stakeholders in this development and we have never been acknowledged as such.”

Ms Burke, a pharmacist, said if she does not get a satisfactory response from the council, she intends to move in to her home anyway.

“If people aren’t going to take care of us, why should we take care of them,” she said

Mr Ryan Sr, a retired businessman, had sale agreed of €315,000 on his own home when the barriers went up around the estate.

“I had to withdraw sale of my house,” he said. God knows what it is worth now. I took out a bridging loan of €270,000 and I’m still paying that.

“We have full and clear title to our properties but we can’t move in — you can’t lock someone out of their own property.”

Mr Ryan operated hair dressing salons in Limerick. “Myself and my wife started a small little business, employing two and finished with over 100,” he said.

“We did our part for this country, paid our taxes, we did more than most, and this is what we get. I am very hurt, very angry.”

The council’s planning chief, Ger Dollard, confirmed yesterday that he will meet with the homeowners.

However, Mr Dollard said: “The overall issue here appears to be getting lost in the focus on a bond which doesn’t represent the solution to the problem; i.e. satisfactory completion of the development.

“The responsibility for completing this development rests primarily with the receiver and AIB who are currently in control of the property.

“There is a bond under the previous permission which is held by the council. Drawing down of any bond involves a complex process with the bondholder.

“In any event, it is not open to the council to enter on a site which it doesn’t own and is in the control of others, and undertake works on private property even if no other issues arose.”

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