Before Cleaning up Massive Illegal Dump, Council Officials Tease Out What Might Replace It

The daily dumping that has blighted the green area facing Moatview Court in Priorswood has quietened, says Annette Flanagan, who lives nearby.

But “it’s not getting cleaned up or anything”, she says.

The mounds of buried waste covered in clay still line the boundary from Cara Park and Tara Lawns, to the green in front of the houses on Moatview Court and east towards Belcamp Park.

This pile of household and construction waste has been growing there for about 10 years. Trucks would come here and unload debris in broad daylight.

Local residents have said they’re worried it’s affecting their health.

Clearing away this massive illegal dump could cost as much as €3.2 million, according to an estimate Thorntons gave Dublin City Council in emails released under the Freedom of Information Act.

That’s “based on the assumption that all material on site is non-hazardous in nature, something that is hard to detect from just a surface visual inspection”, Thorntons wrote to the council.

But the emails also detail the council’s reluctance to finance a clean-up until they have a plan for what to do next with the green – to make sure it doesn’t become a landfill again.

Local groups and residents have different ideas for what the community needs: whether housing, a community centre, or a well-preserved park.

Internal Talks

Internal Dublin City Council emails and reports show three meetings in the past 15 months, some of which touched on the need for a long-term vision for this open space plagued by illegal dumping.

On 8 June 2018, a multidisciplinary group of council officials, named the Belcamp Development Steering Group, set up to work on removing the waste talked about the possibility of building homes on the land.

“Parks keen to see housing development on land in future but no plans short term,” says one email summarising the minutes of the meeting.

Those at the meeting also agreed to have a development plan for how the space would be used, to “be agreed as soon as possible”.

Subsequent meetings included discussions of cleaning up the waste, securing the site, screening the waste and other long-term options for the site.

Although the site was partly cleaned in July 2018, the meetings note that dumping continued afterwards.

An email dated 18 December 2018 said that “to completely clean up that site will cost in excess of €1.5 million and should not be considered without a full development plan for the area”. (It’s not clear who from the council the author was, as all names have been blacked out.)

In a meeting held by the Belcamp Development Steering Group on 6 March 2019, there were further discussions of potential developments on the site.

The objective of the meeting was “to show there is a plan for the location, that there is [a] final proposal for the site but there is also an interim plan to secure the site and stop the dumping”.

The development of affordable housing was again raised. However, it was noted that there might be reluctance from the Department of Housing to provide additional social housing “given the demographics of the area”. (The idea that concentrations of social housing lead to social problems has been challenged by experts.)

There was also discussion of developing the land for community or commercial uses, emails show.

One idea was to put a Dublin City Council depot there. Another suggestion was a Traveller resource centre, to be managed and occupied by national Traveller groups. This would have the advantage of having buy-in from the local community, say the minutes.

The minutes also noted that consideration would be given to a sporting facility and allotments on the site. It mentioned too that any screening or assessment of the waste would be delayed but no reasons were given as to why.

Later in March, emails say Downey McConville Architects had been engaged to supply a report on what would be needed to develop the site.

Part of the way forward would be “the engagement of an Urban Planner to advise us of the various options. The final report should take about eight weeks,” says the email.

Dublin City Council hasn’t responded yet to queries sent Tuesday as to the progress of this report and the status of any development plan for the site.

Housing or Something Else

In February 2019, Labour Party Councillor Alison Gilliland submitted a motion to the council’s North Central Area Committee seeking discussions between the area manager and local residents on developing social housing on the site.

Already in council reports, there are lands around there earmarked for housing, she says.

“It includes what are called the Belcamp or the Oblate lands so that would sort of pull in all the lands that are in there between the R139 and that strip at Moatview,” says Gilliland, who also chairs the council’s housing committee.

Gilliland says that there is a meeting coming up later this month to discuss the development of those lands. She wants them to be used for affordable rental, she says.

“What we’re trying to do with this council is to transition towards the concept of public housing and that would mean affordable rental as opposed to affordable purchase so that we retain the units in our own stock,” says Gilliland.

Winnie McDonagh, an accommodation worker with TravAct, a Traveller support group based in Priorswood, says she would welcome more Traveller-specific accommodation in the area. “Housing would be more practical as there is no land to build housing on,” she said.

There is overcrowding on sites at Cara Park and Tara Lawns, says McDonagh. “Cara Park for example, all the back of the houses have caravans in them. It’s completely overcrowded.”

McDonagh says the problem of dumping has improved within Cara Park due both to frequent interventions from Dublin City Council and residents in Cara Park taking it upon themselves to confront those dumping within the community.

“At the outer end of it, [on the border between the park and the green], people in Cara Park wouldn’t approach anybody because it’s not their business to approach and they don’t want to be getting into bother,” says McDonagh.

Flanagan, who lives at Moatview, says she doesn’t necessarily think that building housing on the site is a good idea. She’d like to see a nice park there instead, she says.

“[T]here’s nothing in the area,” she says. “You don’t know who’s who anymore and it’s just after settling and we don’t want to go through all that again. It’s not fair on us at the end of the day.”

She’d like to see it developed like Darndale Park, with a proper railings around it and growing trees.

“I say that’d be lovely all the way around here. … Make it into something and people will look after it then,” she says.

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Sean Finnan: Sean Finnan is a freelance journalist. You can reach him at [email protected]

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