Ghost estates: 'This place felt like a noose around my neck'

Ghost estates: 'This place felt like a noose around my neck'

It’s taken almost six years since they first spoke out, but residents of a former ghost estate in mid-Cork can finally see light at the end of the tunnel, writes Eoin English.

Cork County Council confirmed that the Carrig Rua estate in Ballinagree, six miles north of Macroom, in Co Cork, is no longer considered an unfinished estate.

“A programme of remedial works has been implemented through the collaboration of a group of stakeholders with assistance from Government through the Special Resolution Fund,” a council spokesman said.

Michael Cummins, who bought his house in Carrig Rua in 2008, said the estate now finally feels like a great place to live.

“In 2013, at the height of our ghost estate problems, I was tearing my hair out, I was sick of the place and was completely browned off,” he said.

“The option of moving house just wasn’t there. This place felt like a noose around my neck.

“But the residents decided then that we would have to make noise until people start paying attention.

“And now I don’t feel like that anymore. Great progress has been made and the council could be taking the estate in charge in a couple of weeks.”

The 22-house estate was developed from 2008 on by Old Friary Developments, with the first properties fetching up to €275,000.

Ghost estates: 'This place felt like a noose around my neck'

Of the six houses bought initially at the height of the boom, four were bought by private owner-occupiers. The ownership of four more was understood to be linked to individuals associated with the development company.

Cork County Council bought four other houses, but withheld the payment of up to €70,000 pending completion of the estate.

But the development company collapsed during the crash and the estate was left unfinished, with up to eight houses left unoccupied. The street lights were subsequently stolen and unfinished properties were burgled for copper piping.

In 2014, the frustrated residents commissioned an engineering report which identified a litany of chronic structural issues with the unoccupied houses, including subsidence and cracked gables. The houses were deemed unviable and the report said they should be demolished.

    The report found:

  • Some cold water storage tanks had collapsed the underlying bearing joists in some of the homes;
  • External plaster-work was found to be “wholly under specification”;
  • Trip hazards were identified around elevated manholes, at all driveway entrances;
  • Concerns were expressed about open excavations, exposed live electrical wiring, electricity pole support-stays bolted directly to the centre of footpaths, and unprotected electricity transformer stations;
  • Concerns were also raised about the absence of street lighting, vermin infestation, and retaining walls at risk of collapse.

Mr Cummins said they contacted then Fine Gael TD, now Agriculture Minister Michael Creed, who he said played a key role in ensuring a resolution was found.

“I was on the phone to him several times a month. He was very approachable, contactable and hands-on. He was very active in pushing it forward,” Mr Cummins said.

Following the appointment of a receiver, a site resolution plan was agreed with Cork County Council and funding was released to fund the finishing off of all the public areas. Street lights were commissioned 18-months ago, and tarmac has been laid on the estate roads.

Ghost estates: 'This place felt like a noose around my neck'

Of the 22 homes built originally, one was demolished, 12 are occupied and three more have been bought, with builders and kitchen fitters on site this week kitting them out for their new occupants.

Six unfinished homes were sold during an open day organised by the receiver in November 2015 — the cheapest went for around €72,500, and the most most expensive fetched around €85,000.

A handful of houses are still unoccupied with legal issues over ownership stalling further progress.

But Mr Cummins said the estate has come a long way since the engineering report was commissioned.

“The estate looks great compared to what it was five years ago,” he said.

“It looked like a derelict hole, it was really unsafe, with half a layer of tar on the road, unstable manhole covers, overgrown bushes, there was a massive hole in front of one of the houses.

“Now, we are a few weeks away from the council taking the estate in charge.

“Everyone is feeling very positive about it. Property values are increasing, and if anyone here did want to consider moving, they now have the option of being able to sell without making a loss.”


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