Plans to house 950 Ukrainian refugees in the grounds of the Glendalough Estate near Annamoe, Co. Wicklow have been reversed after a significant backlash from estate owners, locals and public representatives.
The Department of Integration had confirmed plans to house almost 1,000 refugees into five heated marquee structures, each with around 70 pods on the grounds of the 1,500- acre estate owned by Count Kaz Balinski and his wife, former supermodel Sophie Anderton.
The proposal was considered especially aggravating as there was no prior Government consultation with residents of the delightful Glendalough Estate.
Residents of nearby tiny but beautiful Annamoe were also not consulted about plans to house refugees for 32 weeks and feared the numbers would overwhelm the community.
Annamoe has a population of 200 people and the 950 Ukrainian refugees would have swelled the population by approximately 850%.
The area has limited transport links with no shops or services. One local senator says it has no footpaths!
Department officials had promised English classes, catering and medical services would all be provided thereby limiting the impact on the locals but to no avail.
Senator Pat Casey and Councillor Shay Cullen have held several community meetings amid local opposition.
Senator Casey said yesterday: ‘I got an email this morning from the operators, Pastures New, to say it is not happening. I had an email from the Department yesterday after I asked for an update, and they said they were finalising a few details.
‘Of course, the few details turned out to be that the plans were scrapped. I think it is the pressure from the residents of Annamoe and the estate trust that has stopped it.’
Count Kaz Balinski said he and his wife, model Sophie Anderton, were ‘very relieved’ after the Government decided not to proceed with its proposal according to evoke.ie.
Mr Balinski told the Irish Daily Mail: ‘Over the winter, we can get snow drifts and the wind that comes across the valley, it’s got worse over the past ten years, that’s really what concerned me.
‘If you’re putting up superstructure tents with cabins inside and one of those tents went and you’ve got hundreds of people inside, it’s a recipe for disaster.’
He added: ‘I know you can say “well in Ukraine it can get as low as minus ten degrees” but I’ve lived in the Alps where it gets down to minus 20. The difference is that it’s dry.”