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  • Southside

Southsiders dig in to save green space

Wednesday, 5th December, 2018 8:00am
Southsiders dig in to save green space

Three-year-old Lola Coffey, whose aunt Samantha has an allotment at Weaver Square, is pictured at the gardens last week. PHOTO: DARREN KINSELLA

Southsiders dig in to save green space

Three-year-old Lola Coffey, whose aunt Samantha has an allotment at Weaver Square, is pictured at the gardens last week. PHOTO: DARREN KINSELLA

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DUBLIN 8 residents gathered in a local park last week to protest a decision by Dublin City Council to build housing on what they argue is one of the last green spaces left in a densely populated area.

Locals have described the move to close down the Weaver Square Community Garden and allotments at the end of this year in order to create Rapid Build Housing units, “short-sighted” and “a failure to recognise the many social benefits the already limited green spaces bring to Dublin 8”.

Users of the popular amenity say they have been told that they will have to down gardening tools on December 31 when they will be “locked out” of the 182sqm site.

They have said that the eviction notice is affecting the community association that uses the garden for its work with children, young adults, those seeking outdoor therapy and the other allotment families who use the site.

“This community garden has been a life-line for all the inner-city groups deprived of green space,” Ivanna Chovgan of the South West Inner-City Network (SWICN) said.

“Children and young adults have learnt grow-your-own skills and self-sufficiency. It has given therapy to people who desperately need it and it has brought individuals of different backgrounds together in a unique green space. 

“This is not to mention the food it provides to feed local families. It would be a short-sighted disaster to so many people to lose this place.

“Locals using the Weaver Square Community Garden and allotments are to be placed on existing waiting lists for a reduced number of green spaces.”

This high-density urban area in the heart of Dublin has already seen recent public protests over the future of St Kevin’s GAA playing pitch, plans for the Player Wills site, Newmarket Square, Meath Street and St Teresa’s Gardens.

Now locals say they are concerned that the housing crisis will be used as an excuse to avoid public consultation and that the inner-city green space will be bulldozed.

“Weaver Square Community Garden Group are calling on the council to halt development plans on the Weaver Square Community Garden and allotment site and to reconsider the value of this green space to he Liberties community.” the group added in a statement.

A spokesperson for the council said the site at Chamber/Weaver Street was zoned in the City Development Plan for residential purposes. It is owned by Dublin City Council and forms part of the council’s limited land bank for the development of social housing, the spokesperson said.

“There is a housing crisis in Dublin City and we have to make best possible use of the limited land bank that we have,” the spokesperson added

“There is a large number of households on our housing waiting lists for this area.

“Currently this land is being used for allotments on short term licence agreements. It was always intended to develop housing on this site.

“We are trying to source an alternative location in the Dublin 8 area to cater for the allotment licensees currently using this site. It is difficult to do this in an urban environment/setting and it is also difficult to get the right balance between the urgent need for housing and the demand to retain open spaces such as this one.”

However, locals have been backed in their campaign by Fianna Fáil Seanad Group Leader, Senator Catherine Ardagh, who said the residents of Dublin 8 had already suffered losses in local community resources.

“The Liberties and the entire Dublin 8 area is densely populated but has the lowest proportion of green space in the whole of Dublin City,” the senator stated.

“Local residents in Dublin 8 are justifiably very concerned about the future of one of the last remaining green spaces in this urban neighbourhood.

“Weaver Square Community Garden and the 27 allotments are of great benefit to very many families and people living locally. Community green spaces provide social, recreational and community-based activity for people of all abilities.

“I am the first to advocate for urgently required sustainable housing in our area,” Senator Ardaahg added. “Just this week I raised that issue in the Seanad, but private property development cannot always be given the go ahead at the expense of the needs of existing residents.

“The Local Authority’s first ever Dublin City Parks Strategy 2017-2022 specifies its vision as ‘growing towards a greener and more liveable Dublin City.’ Worse again, it in fact acknowledges that the current provision of open space and overall greening in the Liberties ‘is poor.’ These statements are both clearly at odds with their planned action on Weaver’s Square.

“There was a severe shortage of green park space when this strategy was derived and it will be non-existent if this planned closure of Weaver Square Gardens goes ahead.”

Senator Ardagh added:“I hope to see the whole community get behind this important campaign to have a say on the future environment of the area and that there will be excellent support at both upcoming events.”

According to locals Dublin 8 has the lowest proportion of green space in Dublin City

“Dublin 8 is a high-density, urban location in desperate need of more parks, green spaces for community usage,” the group representing has argued.

“Now it will have even less for residents and families. Since the community garden and allotments have been established, hundreds of people have benefited from them. These social, health, environmental and educational benefits will be lost.

“ Instead of making Dublin 8 a more liveable place, transient, high-density, private property development at the expense of the residential community have taken place.

“Locals support moves to address the housing crisis and recognise that has housing targets. However, there are alternative vacant sites that could be used without destroying a rare green space such as Weaver Square.”

People sing during a protest demonstration at Weaver Square allotments. ALL PHOTOS: DARREN KINSELLA

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