Friday, 4th March 2016
There has been renewed media interest in the above matter and Louth County Council wishes to clarify a number of matters, which have already been relayed to our elected members.
Louth County Council has honoured all aspects of the agreement reached with the Traveller representatives on January 15th last.
Recent commentary relates to families not being provided with emergency accommodation by the local authority. It should be pointed out that a number of accommodation providers have asked some of the families to leave the accommodation due to their behaviour. On each occasion the local authority has made alternative arrangements, this, however, will not continue indefinitely and recurrences will result in no support being provided. lt is hoped all parties will respect this matter.
Louth County Council has applied to the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government for funding to refurbish the existing halting site at Woodland Park in Dundalk and the local authority has now received an approval in principle, subject to submission of greater detail on the works proposed. The Department has expressed a concern that this will be the third refurbishment that will be funded by public monies since the site was first developed. In each case, the works were required due to vandalism.
Woodland Park had been operated as a serviced halting site by Louth County Council until 2008, when it closed due to a lack of interest among the local Traveller community. Traveller families who had been living at Woodland Park illegally were moved from the site in January because of concerns over site safety, including poor sanitation.
Following the vacation of the site and in preparation for its redevelopment, Louth County Council has undertaken safety works, including the removal of 600 tonnes of domestic waste, and is attempting to address a major issue of rodent infestation. All dangerous structures, apparatus and trees have also been removed. All works are expected to be completed this week, at an approximate cost of €100,000.
The Local Traveller Accommodation Consultative Committee has endorsed the refurbishment proposal, which will cost a further €250,000, and has also approved the commencement of a review of the Traveller Accommodation Programme to support this proposal.
As part of this review, all Traveller households in County Louth will be interviewed over the coming weeks with regard to their accommodation needs. This will result in the development of a detailed accommodation programme to address all identified need. Any amendment arising from the review will go before the elected members of Louth County Council for approval.
Of the families reported to have been living at Woodland Park, 19 have presented to Louth County Council and have finalised their housing applications. One family has secured accommodation in the private rented sector and has been provided with the Housing Assistance Payment model of social housing support. A small number of occupants did not present to the Council and their whereabouts is unknown.
Approximately 10 families from Woodland Park are currently in emergency accommodation provided by the Council. Three offers of emergency accommodation of vacant dwellings were made, but none have been taken up.
As the council has agreed to communication with the Traveller families through their solicitor, it will not be commenting further.
Notes to Editors:
· Measures agreed in January between Louth County Council and Traveller representatives:
o The commencement of a review of the Louth Traveller Accommodation Programme 2014-2018, with a view to facilitating Traveller specific accommodation i.e. Group Housing.
o This will be a complete review of all Traveller accommodation and future needs.
o The facilitation of finalising all housing applications.
o The facilitation of Housing Assistance Payments to all qualified applicants.
o The utilisation of the Local Traveller Accommodation Consultative Committee as a forum for developing and implementing the above programme.
o It is recognised that it could take no longer than three years to provide the specific Traveller Group Schemes, ready for living in.