The development of the Liffey Valley shopping centre at Quarryvale in west Dublin is one of the most controversial in the county’s history.
For 20 years, planners had zoned another site in Balgaddy as the town centre for the Lucan and Clondalkin communities until county councillors decided in the early 1990s to do a U-turn.
It was also the involvement and eventual clashing of two ambitious developers which influenced the move to make Quarryvale the new town centre. But the new location was further away from the deprived communities it was meant to serve.
Some of the facilities that were promised with the Liffey Valley Shopping Centre also never materialised, say locals.
Local Independent councillor Gus O’Connell, who opposed Quarryvalle, explained: “It [the shopping centre] opened in 1998 and we were promised civic amenities like an extension, a social welfare office and a library. The extension was turned down because the roads were too small to handle the traffic.
“There was a promise of an academy to train people. They hired locals initially for the centre, but then it [the jobs] drifted out to people outside the areas. The only supermarket was Marks and Spencer initially. The locals would have felt cheated as there was no low cost supermarket.”
Mr O’Connell said there was a desire to have the centre at Balgaddy, closer to estates and residents in general. The centre there would have encouraged growth.
“There was no library, training unit for workers or schools supplied in the end with the shopping centre.”
One local resident also backed the claim that the promised facilities for impoverished estates never materialised when Liffey Valley was given the go-ahead: Brian Dunne, a resident of Oatfield Close, north Clondalkin, said: “They were supposed to provide free bus links between different housing estates. Between the likes of Quarryvale, Oatfield, St Mark’s and others. But they weren’t wanted as they’re all working class estates.
“There were big promises but they didn’t care for the ordinary Joe Soap. Families are completely isolated. The shops are all high-falutin with big brand names.
“There’s nowhere specifically for grocery shopping, like food stalls. The Dunnes [Stores] only has clothes and the Marks and Spencer has no open food selection.
“There were lots of promises. We were told there was going to be a library. It never materialised. And it never became a town centre, like they said. There was supposed to be a Fás centre for jobs...You name it and we were promised it.”
The residents of Balgaddy — the original planned site for the town centre — feel even more neglected.
They said they moved there, most into social housing, with the promise that it would be the town centre.
Instead the hundreds of homes now there have little access to transport, shops and community facilities and residents feel very isolated, they claim.
Community activist and mother-of-one Lorraine Hennessy said: “There’s a huge train station which is not used and there’s no buses that go by. It was meant to be a town centre. We are the ideal ghost estate. We didn’t get any shopping centre in the end but we have all this high density housing. There’s no access to services or transport. Pensioners have to walk a mile to get a to supermarket or collect their pension at a tourist office in Neilstown.
“We had nothing here until the turn of the century and even went to mass in a priest’s front room. There’s no opportunity for employment or creative facilities. We’ve people living in deplorable conditions with kids in wheelchairs and older people.
“All we got in the end was a small district neighbourhood centre. Originally when we lived here there was just one shop, a hairdressers and a butchers. And we only got a playground last year. Communities have been living here since the 1980s fighting for facilities. The houses look like they’re falling down and now the local council has deemed us a disadvantaged community.”
Ms Hennessy, a member of the Balgaddy Working Together Group, said she had to bring her son to other areas, like Lucan, for many years so he could play sport. But she said parents never met up in her own community as there were no communal facilities for years.
“I’ve only got to know my neighbours in recent years and that’s after living here for 15 years. There have been a lot of people living here who never got to participate in anything. We’re still living in a no-man’s land.”
READ THE FINAL MAHON REPORT HERE
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved