Travellers may face legal action if they continue to refuse social housing offers after a Cork City Council report revealed ongoing anti-social problems.
Cork City Council has issued a warning to Travellers, living on the Spring Lane halting site in Ballyvolane, after severe issues with anti-social behaviour, including one incident in which a resident threw an axe at contractors working nearby.
Residents on the site have rejected a number of offers for social housing, despite huge overcrowding on site.
Council officials say that if offers are refused, legal action may be necessary to clear the site.
In a report presented to members of Cork City Council’s housing functional committee, Valerie O’Sullivan, head of housing at Cork City Hall, said: “If such offers are refused, the only recourse left to the Council is the removal of these families from the site through legal action in the courts, where it can be shown that we have employed all reasonable measures to meet the housing needs and alleviate the conditions at Spring Lane.”
The report outlines 12 months of escalating anti-social issues at the site, including 13 court appearances by Cork City Council since December 2014.
The site, which has capacity for 10 families, currently houses 32.
Initially, Spring Lane was a fully compliant 10-bay site, with measures in place for fire prevention and safety and the provision of proper services.
However, the numbers on the site have vastly grown over the years.
Overcrowding has resulted in health and safety issues on site, including ad hoc electrical works to connect new caravans to existing supplies, and an unauthorised expansion of the site into areas under an adjoining cliff face.
It has also given rise to anti-social issues.
Over the course of 12 months, the fire service was called to the site on 46 occasions; 39 fires were recorded, usually involving skips being set on fire, with seven calls listed as false alarms.
Contractors carrying out work on the site’s electrical infrastructure and the unsecured cliff face adjacent to the site have been subject to ‘severe and regular intimidation’, the report says.
Workers have had materials broken and stolen, and have been threatened and abused, according to the City Council report.
Council records also note ‘an incident with a pellet gun’, as well as the axe-throwing incident.
These threats have forced the cessation of necessary works on multiple occasions, the report adds.
Ms O’Sullivan reports that this has resulted in huge financial cost, with the final bill for electrical works 98% higher than initially budgeted for at €340,000.
The bill for cliff-works is 36% higher than planned.
Illegal dumping is also a constant headache for Council staff, with €620,000 spent on removing illegally dumped waste at the nearby Ellis’ Yard between January 2003 and February 2015.
Ms O’Sullivan outlines plans to replicate the Hollyhill group housing scheme on the Spring Lane site, at an estimated cost of €5m.
However, this would still accommodate just 12 to 15 of the families who currently reside on the site, causing further issues.