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Residents look back in sadness at Weaver Squares lost community garden

Zoulikha Anas and her son photo credit: Laura Matjusaityte

Early January brought an unpleasant surprise to the residents of the Weaver Square, when after long resistance, the new locks were put on the beloved community garden.

Digging up works had started not long after the new locks were put on the gates separating the garden from the streets. Ivanna Chovgan, who used to work with social groups in the community garden, said that the high fence was never their idea, but that it was required from the Dublin City Council (DCC).

In September last year, residents and the community groups who had their allotments in the garden were told that their lease won’t be renewed.

People weren’t planning to give up that easily and the campaign to save Weaver Square community garden began.

More than 2000 signatures were collected for the petition, however, it wasn’t enough in order to stop the Council’s plans, to turn the space into social housing.

The city development plan has foreseen that the site at Weaver Street, which was divided into 27 allotments for the residents and social groups on a short term licence agreement, will be turned into social housing.  

“There is a housing crisis in Dublin city and we have to make the best possible use of the limited land bank that we have,” said spokesperson from DCC, Sinead Murphy.

“There is a large number of households on our housing waiting list for this area,” she added.

The housing crisis is affecting all Ireland, and any possible solutions should be taken into account, however the green spaces in urban Dublin is, also, a necessity.

Zoulikha Anas, who is currently homeless, used to pass the Community Garden every day while walking with her son to the playground in the Weavers Park. She was surprised to learn that the Community Garden was taken away from residents.

“Garden is more important than social housing. We would walk past it everyday and my son would look at all the vegetables growing there. I would say to him: “look this is tomato and this is onion”,” said Ms Anas.

Ms Chovgan told the Liberty that everything happened really fast.

“Communications started before Christmas and by the end of January they put the locks,” she said.

“Through the councilors we got offered one site in Maryland back of the Pipes, Flanagan field. But the offered site was much smaller,” Ms Chovgan said.

And if that was not enough, when meeting the council after the Christmas, it turned out that, they will get only half of, already much smaller space, than the previous community garden, because the other half is privately owned.

Ms Chovgan admitted, that it did not felt like victory at all.

“We are keeping the site in Maryland, it is still a green space. You know we are devastated, because we are losing this. But we are going to press on and see if we can develop more green spaces,” she said.

Ms Chovgan said, after receiving news that half of the new site will not be available to them, they were offered another site in Basin Street.

However, the site in Basin Street turned out to be between the houses and set on the surfacer made of concrete, which makes it much more difficult for gardening.

“But we are happy to take whatever we are given because we will work hard and try to develop it into green spaces,” said Ms Chovgan.

The new place for allotments is being lent for only three years, and after, most likely a similar fate will befall the new community garden.

Nevertheless, Mc Chovgan stays positive:

“So we are going to start next week, but it is going to be different as we are in the car park, so it’s not a perfect place for garden, but we will try to put some pots and planters and see if we can do something with that.”

She is happy that parks department at least helped to save some of the fruit trees from the garden and place them in Weaver’s Park, which was build in 2017 as part of Dublin City Council’s Liberties greening strategy, which planned to increase number of parks, playgrounds and green areas in the Liberties area.

“According to the Liberties Greening Strategy the east side of the Weaver park was allocated for the biodiversity garden and community allotment, so it was supposed to be part of the Weaver Park,” said Ms Chovgan.

Ms Murphy said that the Council is trying to source an alternative locations in Dublin 8 to give to former residents of the allotments in Waever Square Community Garden.

“It is difficult to do this in an urban environment and it is, also, difficult to find the right balance between the urgent need for housing and the demand to retain open spaces such as this site,” Ms Murphy added.

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