Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan has said it is “a scandal” that not one new house has been fully built under the Limerick regeneration process since it was first announced in 2007.
Minister Hogan added that commitments made to the people “haven’t been honoured” after they were “promised the sun, the moon and the stars”, which, he felt, was not acceptable.
According to The Irish Times, he intended to visit Limerick shortly “to see what is not happening in this case” and to examine the programme’s existing budget.
Mr Hogan added that he would also have discussions with Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, and local Labour TD Jan O’Sullivan, a Minister of State in his own department, on the future of the regeneration programme.
He did not outline a specific amount of future funding for the project, but said: “We are in a different economic and financial space now.”
Mr Hogan’s comments came after chief executive of Limerick Regeneration Agencies Brendan Kenny said he was “disappointed with the lack of progress” with regeneration so far. He also said he had concerns about the future of the project once the agencies are dissolved in June when their five-year contracts expire.
Limerick City Council is set to take over the work of the agencies which are responsible for regenerating disadvantaged estates in the city’s north and south sides.
Mr Kenny said it was essential the “momentum” of the work was kept going, especially as the building work had only started in the last year following the demolition of thousands of homes in Moyross and Southill.
“It is one of the biggest and most complicated jobs that has to be done in the country over the coming years,” Mr Kenny added.
Some €116 million has been allocated for the programme since its inception, but to date three-quarters of this has been spent by the council on demolition and the relocation of families. Mr Kenny said the whole regeneration process “was never going to be done in five years”.
Limerick Regeneration Agencies was established in June 2007. In October 2008, a 10-year programme was launched with a promise to demolish 3,000 homes and rebuild 2,400, with the State contributing €1.6 billion towards the €3 billion regeneration cost.
In February 2010, the then minister for defence Willie O’Dea confirmed that the State could not afford to spend the original €1.6 billion planned for the scheme.
Two months later, a revised scheme costing the State €924 million was unveiled and it was claimed all the main elements of the original plan were retained.
“The master plan in 2008 was very radical, very ambitious and maybe over-radical and over-ambitious,” Mr Kenny said, “but maybe it had to be. But it became very clear later in 2008 that some of our objectives and aspirations wouldn’t happen in the shorter term anyhow.”
Last year a condensed version of the plan was drawn up focusing on 26 projects. He said it was now “very doubtful” that some of those would be completed due to the economic situation.
Mr Kenny also said it would be “daft” if the progress was not continued after June.He felt at least another five years were required for the full benefits of the process to be seen.
Construction began last year on a €5 million housing project in Cliona Park, Moyross, a mixed development of 33 houses.