Cork City councillor Ken O’Flynn called for a Garda investigation into the latest spate of illegal dumping on waste ground next to the Spring Lane halting site in Ballyvolane, on the northside of the city. And he urged council officials to fast-track their plans to close the halting site by 2020 and find alternative accommodation for its residents.
“This kind of illegal dumping has been a constant problem in this area. Enough is enough. It is not fair on the decent residents of the site and on the residents who live nearby... The site should be closed down as soon as possible and the residents there be relocated to meet 21st-century accommodation needs.”
Conditions in and around the Traveller halting site have been at the centre of controversy for several years. The problems have been compounded by extensive illegal dumping on an adjoining site for well over a decade.
Figures released by the council in 2014 showed he city spent €576,850 since 2003 on three major clean ups of the former Ellis’s Yard site, adjoining the halting site.
- An operation in January and February 2003 cost €277,200 — the landfill charges alone were €198,900.
- A clean-up of the site in September and October 2007 cost €159,600 - €59,600 on contractor fees and an estimated €100,000 on landfill charges.
- A clean-up in February and March 2009 cost €140,050 — landfill charges cost just over €83,000.
Yesterday, a council spokesperson said the city spent €65,000 last year on the provision of and removal of skips from the halting site: “We continue each week to remove four skips full of waste from this site.”
But she said council staff regularly remove illegally dumped rubbish from this and other halting sites, including the Meelagh halting site in Mahon, and that the cost of removal is charged by the tonne: “This reflects the quantum of the issue with which we contend every year, and it is a constant problem. The 2015 expenditure out-turn for this activity was €125,000. Budgets continue to be an issue in local government, and the allocation of funding for this activity is challenging, particularly when regardless of how often we carry out the clean-up and removal of dumped rubbish, it just simply continues. The incidence of dumping is also on the rise at St Anthony’s Park and at Meelagh in Mahon.”
The Spring Lane halting site opened as an emergency measure almost three decades ago to accommodate 10 families. However, unauthorised expansion over the years means there are now 35 families comprising up to 150 people living in 10 bays on the site.
Following concerns over living conditions, the council undertook stabilisation works on a dangerous cliff-face overhanging a portion of the site. But other attempts to carry out upgrade works were stalled by a number of anti-social behaviour incidents, including one incident in which an axe was thrown at a worker. An inter-agency group is working on plans to shut the site by 2020 and to provide alternative accommodation for the residents.
The council warns that if offers of alternative housing are refused, it may have to resort to legal action.