A village in Meath is trying to prevent a refugee camp for 2,300 Ukrainians from being built on its doorstep.
The residents of Laytown, Co Meath have voiced opposition to the plan to build 569 modular houses on a 15-acre site beside their train station.
Resistance to the plan comes as an application for the emergency temporary village was lodged with Meath planners by two private companies in May. The application seeks temporary permission to build the detached two-bedroom houses for refugees over the course of five years.
The people of Laytown, however, fear that developers will seek permanent planning permission when the five years draw to a close. Locals have expressed worry that they would be left with a ‘ghetto’ on the edge of the picturesque seaside village known worldwide for its annual race meeting on the beach.
The plan for the refugee village has been described as unusual because state authorities say they have no involvement with the project or contact with the developers.
Opposition to the project is being spearheaded by local Labour TD Ged Nash. The Drogheda TD has voiced opposition to the plan on the basis it is not a Government planned project.
Nash said: “The state agency responsible for accommodating refugees from Ukraine is not involved with the proposal submitted to Meath County Council.
“The site is zoned for industry so councillors will have to vote on a change of use for houses.
“If plans are being proposed to provide accommodation for Ukrainian refugees the developers would be best advised to work in partnership with the International Protection Accommodation Service and the Department of Children on any proposals they want considered.”
Another politician against the refugee proposal is Laytown councillor Stephen McKee. He pointed out that there is already a shortage of school places in the area.
He said: “When it comes to deciding how many refugees we should accommodate the Government needs to base its decision on the needs of the local areas and their capacity to accommodate those seeking assistance.
“Our area desperately needs additional community infrastructure. There is already a shortage of school places and we don’t have a full-time local Garda station in Laytown.
“How can the area realistically accommodate residents from a 569-home development?”, he added.
Senator Sharon Keogan, also voiced concern about the proposal. She says she is “100% against the development of any more Direct Provision style housing/camps in this country”. The independent senator has pledged to hold a public meeting about the matter in the coming weeks.
Taking to Facebook, she said: “This site is zoned for employment use, and I am committed to ensuring that is what this land will be used for”.
“The landowners, who have also confirmed their commitment to creating employment on this site, have made a proposal to provide accommodation during this Ukrainian crisis for a temporary period of five years.
“I ask people to be mindful and respectful in your public commentary, for distraught and traumatised Ukrainians that we have welcomed to East Meath since the war began.”
“This development in Laytown is high density, where approximately 2,300 Ukrainians will be housed. Is it right that the 700 Refugees in Mosney will be treated differently with their housing need, while these units get thrown up for Ukrainians,” she stated.
”The government is prepared to put all resources into housing refugees and yet discriminates in finding resources or solutions for our homeless, those on the social housing waiting list or even those seeking affordable housing”.
Meanwhile, local Fine Gael Councillor Sharon Tolan said she was “reserving judgement” on the plan until she had the opportunity to look into it in more detail.
“This application, to my knowledge, has not yet been received by Meath County Council’s planning department and I expect the file will be very detailed with the relevant assessments,” she said.
“I was involved in getting the site rezoned for employment use, so I would be pushing for a specific timeline on this development and not have a ‘temporary’ development for 20 years as in the case of Mosney Village.”
Tolan said that while people in the area had been welcoming to Ukrainian refugees who fled their home country “through no fault of their own”, there were concerns about the ramifications on school places and GP services.
“Everyone in the area has been so welcoming to families from Ukraine who have come to a strange country through no fault of their own and often without a husband or father or son who has had to stay behind to fight.
“Absolutely, we should be doing everything we can do to accommodate these displaced families, but the application should be given due consideration to ensure both the needs of the community and the needs of the Ukrainians are met in the right and positive way.
“People have expressed concerns on the pressure this village may have on school places and GP services and what we don’t want is to create any unnecessary segregation or divide.”
Since late March, over 300 Ukrainians have moved to East Meath.
The site notice applicants are hoping to get the go-ahead for the 33-square-metre single storey houses on almost 26 hectares of land. The application was submitted by Melvin Properties Ltd and Ketut Limited.