State 'must overhaul grassroots consultation' on modular homes for Ukrainian refugees

State 'must overhaul grassroots consultation' on modular homes for Ukrainian refugees

Fine Gael councillor Tony O’Shea said local public representatives were left in the dark over the plans for modular homes in Mallow. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

The State must radically overhaul its grassroots communication and consultation strategy on the rollout of modular homes for Ukrainian refugees following fresh protests over a potential site in Cork.

The call came on Friday after state officials apologised to public representatives in north Cork for their approach to a site in Mallow which is being considered for 30 two-bed modular housing units as part of the State's wider rollout of modular homes for Ukrainians fleeing the war.

There were small protests at the county council-owned site in Carhookeal, opposite the former site of the town's GAA club, after contractors with heavy machinery moved in there last week.

Local public representatives said they were in the dark over the plans and they called for an emergency briefing.

They were briefed on Friday by an official from the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, supported by an official from the Office of Public Works (OPW), which began with an apology for the information vacuum in relation to this specific site.

They confirmed that site investigation works are underway, and that more work is required to establish the suitability of the site for housing, and that no decision yet has been made on whether to build on it.

The site, which does have a water main running through it, is being considered for 30 two-bed units, each with the capacity to accommodate a family of four.

It is estimated that they will each cost between €125,000 and €150,000 to develop, that they would house Ukrainians for up to three years, at which point they will be offered to the local authority for social housing. The units have a life-span of up to 60 years.

Local Fine Gael councillor Tony O’Shea, who accused the OPW of "putting the horse before the cart" last week, welcomed the briefing but said it should have happened weeks ago, before the contractors moved on site.

When the work started, and questions came my way, I didn’t know how many units were being considered, what kind of units were being considered. 

"And what made this even more annoying is that this is council-owned land. And we, as the local councillors, didn't have the answers," he said.

“The talk here is to put an entire housing estate of Ukrainian refugees into an area where there are already a lot of issues with traffic and congestion, and we’ve been trying to come up with solutions to those for quite some time.” 

He also said some locals who have been on the council’s housing list for several years wanted to know why modular housing wasn’t considered as an option for them.

He said the department, the OPW, and the Government must improve communications with those on the ground to avoid a repeat of the protests and controversies at the other potential modular homes sites around the country.

The OPW said it is on track to deliver the first tranche of over 200 rapid-build homes in early to mid-2023 to provide accommodation to around 800 Ukrainians. 

Locations in Cavan town (28 units), Mahon in Cork (64 units), Thurles (62 units), Sligo (22 units), Claremorris (28 units), and Rathdowney (42 units) are being progressed.

The Mallow site is one of several in a second tranche of sites which are still being assessed for the balance of the homes.

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