The future of Willow Park Halting Site in Longford town hangs in the balance this week, after town representatives expressed concern over a funding allocation of €500,000 that was made available under the Capital Budget 2012-2014 programme in 2013 to maintain and upgrade the site.
The halting site which is based on the Stokestown Road, has become a bone of contention with local authority members in recent years after the state of the art facility – which was built at a cost of 31.1m to the taxpayer – became vandalised and run down. It has also emerged that only three families remain at the site, and a number of town authority members indicated that the time had come to house those families in more appropriate accommodation, during last week’s meeting.
“Under no circumstances will I approve €500,000 of public money for Willow Park Halting Site,” Cllr Mae Sexton (Ind) announced.
“I just cannot approve that type of money for it, especially in this day and age. There are just three families living down there now, and it is a place that will flood again and where more havoc will ensue. That site has also been burned down and taken apart bit by bit by bit, so no, I will not approve that money for there.”
Cllr Sexton went on to say that while there was an obligation on Longford Town Council to provide accommodation for members of the Travelling community, the time had now come for the provision of “proper housing” for them.
“Get those families in to proper housing and get rid of that place,” the town and local area representative fumed.
“It was my understanding when that place was opened, which incidentally cost over one million pounds at the time, that it was needed and that there were members of the travelling community who wished to live there; but I can tell you now, all that has changed and therefore that halting site is no longer viable in this town.
“I consider it to be an complete waste of taxpayer’s money. If we are going to borrow this type of money, then I can tell you, there are far more worthwhile projects to invest it in, instead of that halting site.”
Town Clerk, Dan Rooney then insisted that the halting site was a necessity, because of the onus of responsibility that was on the town council to provide accommodation for members of the travelling community who chose to live on halting sites. “We have a statutory obligation to provide that accommodation, and if that were to change, proposals would have to be forwarded to the Traveller Accommodation Committee and subsequently sanctioned by this town council,” he explained further.
Cllr Tony Flaherty (FF) then announced, “I propose that Willow Park Halting Site be demolished”. “It’s time now to house the tenants there accordingly,” he added. “All it is, is an eyesore and it is doing absolutely nothing for Longford town.” The matter will be discussed again at next month’s meeting.