THE development of housing in Ballineen and Enniskeane is being hindered by a lack of infrastructure.
The twin villages are, according to Cllr Christopher O’Sullivan (FF), ripe for future housing development but that is being hindered because planning permission for new-builds is dependent on having an adequate waste water treatment service and in Ballineen and Enniskeane that system is already ‘20% over-capacity.’
Speaking at a recent meeting of the West Cork Municipal District, the councillor tabled a motion, which stated that Cork County Council should ‘insist’ that Irish Water upgrade the waste water treatment plant immediately.
A written response from an Irish Water spokesperson stated: ‘An upgrade of Ballineen and Enniskeane waste water treatment plant is not included in the Irish Water Investment Plan 2017-2021. However, this does not preclude an enhancement of the existing works to facilitate development demand.’
The spokesperson said: ‘Developers should submit pre-connection enquiries to the Irish Water southern regional connection and developer services to assess any connection requests, advise on the feasibility of a connection, and provide budget costs for upgrade works required to facilitate the connection.’
But Cllr O’Sullivan said it is precisely the budget costs of upgrading the connection, or providing an independent facility, that is making the cost of development too expensive.
Cllr O’Sullivan asked: ‘Don’t they realise that we are in the midst of a huge housing crisis? People can’t afford to buy houses – there are no houses to buy, and now we have a situation where developers have access to finance – and there is movement in the building industry – but there are other obstacles, such as the lack of infrastructure.’
The councillor was of the opinion that ‘the biggest obstacle of all is Irish Water – it has been an obstacle since its inception.’ Cllr O’Sullivan pointed out developers are being hit with development charges for services but the services are not being provided.
He complained about ‘the disappointing response we are getting from Irish Water. We need to put pressure on them because Ballineen and Enniskeane isn’t the only area affected, it is happening in other areas too, where there is a demand for housing, but they simply aren’t being built.’
Cllr Joe Carroll (FF) agreed with his colleague, saying: ‘Irish Water is against one-off housing but if they want people to go into a development, they should provide the necessary services.’
Cllr Declan Hurley (Ind) said: ‘Irish Water is not in contact with what is happening on the ground. They are becoming the biggest hindrance to development. They don’t listen and they don’t respond, yet here we have places like Ballineen and Enniskeane that are trying to survive.’
Cllr John O’Sullivan (FG) said Irish Water’s current policy is ‘killing off smallscale development because if the developer is to provide the wastewater services, it has to be spread over the number of houses being built.’
Cllr Patrick Gerard Murphy (FF) said: ‘When you put that cost on the house price, the economics don’t stand up. It’s okay in a metropolitan area where the cost of the houses can carry the cost of the development of services.’
Cllr Paul Hayes (SF) said: ‘This is a problem that is affecting towns and villages from Ardfield to Glengarriff and it shows how development is being hamstrung by Irish Water and the lack of infrastructure.’ Cllr Christopher O’Sullivan said it was important to note that ‘this was not about the Council looking to support investors, we are trying to highlight the need to revitalise West Cork’s towns and villages.’