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A Sinking Blunder Or A Celtic Wonder


A Sinking Blunder Or A Celtic Wonder

The Balgaddy housing complex, between Lucan and Clondalkin, won a Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland award in 2004, for its striking design. Only 12 years later, many houses in the estate are so badly damaged by apparent poor construction, some of the residents claim that they are unfit to live in.

When these estates where built, the hope was that this would become an urban village, giving local residents the chance of employment, and providing the community with the services they deserve.

Now, in 2016, instead of this metropolitan dream, we are looking at an urban nightmare. Many of the 400 units have major issues with mould, dampness, and sewage. Other problems concern electrical, plumbing and heating. There are also issues with frames around the doors and windows. Outside, the roads which were laid with paving stones and other materials are cracking and separating, causing big holes to open up.

In July 2016, I travelled up to this estate, to follow up reports on these conditions. I approached residents to ask them if they had any problems in their homes. All who we asked had something to add to what we already suspected.

I visited some units on Tor an Ri, a quiet lane in the estate.  I was brought in to a sitting room of one of the houses and shown a damp patch on the ceiling. The resident, a mother of six informed me, that she had the South Dublin City Council (SDCC) looking at this problem. However, she claims that the men from SDCC told her, what she could see was not damp, but some form of grime and dirt. They even suggested to her, to get a brush and brush it away. Frankly, the ceiling looked so damaged, I wondered if it would survive an attempt at vigorous cleaning.

This lady also feels that the council are not helping her with other issues affecting her house. In her kitchen the presses are falling apart, and the fixtures are falling off the kitchen press doors. Outside, she shows me the meter box, where the door blew off its hinges. She is concerned over this as there are also wires exposed. She fears for the safety of her young grandchildren who often visit.

I was then brought in to another dwelling not far away in an estate called Buirg an Ri. Despite the warm weather, the apartment I was brought into was noticeably cold inside. The occupant, a father of two brought me upstairs and showed me in to a room that had exposed roofing, the only thing on his rafters was felt, there was no insulation of any type to stop the cold from coming in, or preventing the heat from staying in. He told me he that sometimes he pays as much as €70.00 per week on gas in winter for heat.

Another man showed me to his house and pointed out that there were no air vents, to take out the gas fumes, or to let air out of the house. He also pointed out to damp patch that was clearly visible in places, and attempts to try and conceal it could also be noted under the paint that was covering the walls.

Across the road in Tor an Ri Lawns, two residents pointed out several problems which were noticeable from our viewpoint. One pointed to a subsidence in the middle of the road, which gave the appearance of a mini-crater. One of the residents said that there had been multiple claims taken against the council over people either falling in to the hole, or tripping up.

Another section of a road was coming apart due to paving stones which were laid without due diligence. It appeared that tree roots were directly beneath and seemed to be still growing and causing damage to the stones above. I was also shown damp patches on one of the outer walls where one of these women lived. one of them showed me where you could see the dampness rising up the walls. There also seemed to be damage beneath her window.

I went on a walk about around Tor an Ri. To me, the ground beneath my feet felt like walking on marshmallows, the whole estate from the public paths, the roads, and the green areas seemed to be falling apart. Just off Tor an Ri lawns, there is a green area that is been either forgotten or ignored by the council, they only come up so far and cut the grass, and leave the rest, I was told.

I walked out in to this area, the grass came up to my knees. Another issue for the residents is the location of a electricity pylon which does not have an adequate   barrier around it. There is some barbed wire but not enough to prevent children from gaining access.

Because this area is not maintained by the council, it has become a dumping ground, and this is now causing great distress to residents as now they have a problem with pests. The field has a wall around it, but the wall is no bigger than three feet, and one can easily get over it without any such problems, the wall does not have anything like a wire fence.

It seems the residents in these areas, have been put there and forgotten about, any one I spoke to felt this, they said when they came to live here, they were happy at first. However, as time passed their real problems began to appear. It gets worse in winter and heavy snow fall or rain fall.

Another young family who live in Meile an Ri, in one of the apartments claimed that there are no fire extinguishers in the public stairways. And in the event of a fire, they have been informed to seek refuge on their balconies, and wait there until help arrives.  Also in the same block another man told me that for some strange reason, that the screws that where in place in their window frames keep popping out, and he has to replace them with tacks to prevent the glazing from falling out.

He said he is on the transfer list, but he does not want to hold his breath, he points out who would want to move in to this place with all the problems, they have. He  invited me to go up there in winter, he said the breeze alone that seems to penetrate the walls would “kill you”. Its not just his apartment that’s affected. He claims that most if not all his neighbours have similar problems. One man only recently moved to the area. He was only in his flat just two months and he already had to get the council in to do something with the dampness.

Another big problem with Meile an Ri, and Tor an Ri, you can actually smell sewage coming in to your kitchen or bathroom sinks. One mother had to leave her house after been flooded with raw sewage, the council fixed it somehow, but has so far failed to pay the woman for all the damage done to her belongings, despite  a promise to do so.

Whatever the reason is with these estates, the council are still allocating them to people. If a unit becomes vacant the council goes in cleans them up, paint them and give them to new key holders who may not know any better, its only down the line that the problems pop up.

They are many questions to be answered regarding the construction and procurement of materials.  Since its construction in 2007, the estate has been the subject of contractual disputes between GAMA, the builders and the SDCC. Balgaddy is typical of the failures of the construction industry of the period. The faults are there for everyone to see but no one wants to stand up, take responsibility and attempt to remedy the situation.

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