A robust and at times, fiery public meeting was held in Balrothery on Thursday evening, 2nd October last, to discuss the implications of plans to construct ten units of social housing on a site in Ringfort in the village. Locals had hoped that the derelict site, which is owned by the local authority, would have been developed for use in the community.
The meeting was held in the Heritage Centre, which was packed to capacity, was hosted by Balrothery Community Council. It’s chairman, Niall Keady said the public meeting was called, following many calls from concerned residents, who were anxious about the disposal of the Ringfort land. Local councillors, and a TD attended the meeting.
It was claimed that residents of Balrothery were led to believe that this piece of land would be used for a community purpose; a people’s garden, a community centre, playground or open space. This is in line with the 2002 Local Area Plan (LAP), where many public and community projects and amenities were promised, but never delivered.
Local councillor, Malachy Quinn (SF) confirmed that, of the 10 houses to be built, six would be for people with intellectual disabilities, and four for homeless families. The overriding feeling among those present, was that Balrothery was the subject of excessive development, which they claim Is ruining the village. Most of the people present had sympathy for homeless people, but they also asserted their belief that community amenities for the area were also badly needed, and should be provided for at this site.
A women in the audience encapsulated the feelings of all present, when she said, to loud applause: “I feel there is nothing here for the children. Not every parent has a car to travel to Ardgillan Castle with their children and we badly need a playground here in the village. The question on everyone’s lips is why Balrothery and why not Malahide or Skerries.? Malahide, Swords and other places in the North County all have their playgrounds, but not Balrothery, which has nothing at all. We have only a pub and one shop, and nowhere for children to play,” she said.
This was echoed by a man, who said that he was born into the village in 1970, and when growing up, he was able to play in fields where there are now houses. “As children, we could play everywhere, but the kids now have nothing. I have seen the village grow out of all proportions in that time, but nothing has been given back, except houses,” he said.
The attendance included a number of local councillors, who all shared the concerns of the locals. Cllr Gráinne Maguire spoke to the County Leader directly after the meeting and said, “People are starting to be now aware of their surrounds and are now looking to the council for answers to their concerns and issues. I look forward to working with the community council and the residents of Balrothery to help them achieve their goals and objectives. It is very important that a good working relationship is set up between the community council, Fingal County Council and all public representatives to make sure that Balrothery has an action plan for the future and that everybody works together to make this happen,” she said.
Councillors JP Browne and David O’Connor also spoke and pledged their support for whatever decision the people come to. Cllr Browne agreed that Balrothery is over developed and has been completely forgotten.
Cllr Tony Murphy told the gathering, that he was present to make sure that the concerns of the residents are relayed to the highest council level. “Whatever decision the residents come to, I will fully support them in that decision. He sounded a word of caution however. “The decision to stop the construction of the 10 houses will be made by the full council, which is made up of 40 members from all over the county. We will need a majority (21 members) to vote against it, which is reality. A further dose of reality was administered by local TD Brendan Ryan, who maintained that the locals were fighting a losing battle, and that the 10 houses would be build regardless of any objections. This drew a loud reaction from the crowd, some of whom rounded on the local deputy. “Councillors will now vote against it, of that I’m certain. I’ll be very surprised if any councillor votes against this. Using this as a battering ram for amenities is the wrong way to go,” he said to jeers from those in attendance. “Opposition to 10 houses in Balrothery in the middle of a housing crisis, is guaranteed to fail,” he said. Ryan advised the Community Council to develop a partnership with the Council., leading up to the Local Development Plan next March, which he felt would bring success.