The Limerick Leader - Saturday, 08 May 2010.

Details of regeneration priority projects are submitted to Cabinet

By Kevin Cronin

DETAILED proposals on 26 regeneration projects to be prioritised have been given to Cabinet, with a response expected in the coming weeks, according to Brendan Hayden, Southside director of regeneration.

Mr Hayden told Limerick City Council this Tuesday that he had been getting "positive vibes" from Government departments, but could not name any specific projects for fear of raising public hopes.

Cllr Ger Fahy said: "It's crunch time. The government has endorsed the vision for regeneration, but the public are very wary of the process now. Everyone admits we have to prioritise certain projects. The one thing in our favour is the reduced cost of construction. Next month, regeneration will be three years old. People are losing faith as time goes on. If the Government doesn't respond to us before the summer recess, that's just not good enough."

Mr Hayden said that, while the regeneration budget promised in the Master Plan had now been cut from j1.6bn to j918m, this was partly offest by a 25 to 39 per cent reduction in tendering prices for construction.

"It's important the Government responds to the list of priorities. There are houses designated for demolition that may not now need to be demolished, so there's a terrible air of uncertainty. If we don't invest in these communities, it'll cost us more in the long run. We need a clear definitive response from the Government," said Cllr Joe Leddin.

He pointed to the National Solidarity Bonds scheme, launched by Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan, as a potential source of revenue for regeneration.

"The National Solidarity Bonds programme should be ringfenced for the regeneration of Limerick city. If ever there was a project that should be financed by that money, it's regeneration. I don't think the Government can turn around now after three years and abandon us. Money for regeneration has almost been halved already. We're in the endgame now," he said.

Cllr Pat Kennedy criticised the lack of a written report to explain the massive cut in the regeneration budget.
"It was €1.6bn. Now it's €918m. It's an insult to have such a huge reduction and not even a public presentation on it. The €1.6bn was absolute fantasy and fanfare. The figures speak for themselves. This has been a savage cut in the public spend," he said.

Cllr Kennedy also complained of the huge difference between 10 and 15 years in the timescale for regeneration.
"We need to stir the Cabinet from their insomnia. The taxpayer should not be treated by public bodies in the way the banks have treated us. We're in the dark here with no written report. Members of the Cabinet are like a Trappist order doing everything in secrecy," he said.

Cllr Maurice Quinlivan said he didn't want to "shoot the messenger", but felt that the Government had betrayed the people of Limerick. "There are 22,000 people in Limerick on the live register, but the Government is transfixed on bailing out the banks. It is disgraceful that the Government has binned people's hopes and aspirations," he said.

Cllr Quinlivan highlighted the importance of the promised MBA report to clarify which social housing estates will be knocked down and which will be kept intact.

"It's critical for people to know whether their houses are going to be demolished or not. I think it's unfair to leave people hanging in limbo when its suggested that certain areas are not going to be demolished without confirmation. The Cabinet is duty bound to come forward with a speedy answer. People's hopes have been dashed before. We must ensure this doesn't happen a second time," he added.