Fire fear in Laois housing estate

Empty houses in Portlaoise estate causing vandalism concern for residents

Fire fear in Laois housing estate

By Lynda Kiernan

An elderly man living beside a derelict house in a Portlaoise estate is afraid of being burnt if a fire is started next door.

So reports Cllr Caroline Dwane Stanley, at Portlaoise Municipal District's June meeting, requesting an update on the council's Regeneration Program for O’Moore Place.

“This man’s wife died two years ago. He is terrified that if a fire is started, he’ll be burnt as well,” she said.

She requested that the the council try to contact the owner of the derelict house, Number 31, to buy it back, restore and rent it out.

O’Moore Place is one of the oldest council estates in Portlaoise, but many of the houses were sold to investors during the housing boom, left vacant and then vandalised.

The council is trying to buy them back and regenerate the estate off the Mountmellick road.

Offers on two properties have been accepted, and repairs are to be done to a further two. Contact has been made with the owner of an adjoining field to see if it can be sold to the council.

An energy upgrade to insulate the houses is expected to start in 2018.

“I am fairly confident of a grant for external insulation next year. That will be very good news for residents,” the council CEO John Mulholland said at the meeting.

Cllr Dwane Stanley welcomed the efforts as “slow but sure progress”.

She highlighted problems at seven houses, most of them derelict. She urged that private owners be contacted.

Others were a fire hazard because boards were removed by trespassers.

“I would hate to see a fire or a child hurt. We all know the need for housing. This is a great opportunity to regenerate the whole estate. I was told the energy upgrade would be done a year ago. I am disappointed. Older houses are hard to heat,” she said.

The adjacant field was “the bane of huge problems for years” she said, with car rallying on it in the past.

She praised Aras Eoghan commuity centre in the estate, developed by Laois Partnership and the Presentation Sisters. It has facilities for all age groups, and may now get a men’s shed, allotments and a garden in the regeneration.

The Cathaoirleach John Joe Fennelly said that most problems there were with privately owned homes.

“In fairness our housing staff are doing everything in their power,” he said.

Cllr Dwane agreed.

“Turnover is very quick. Now that houses are back in the council's possession, I ask that work is done, it will make a huge difference,” she said.