I thank the Deputies for raising this item and their ongoing interest in this important issue. Limerick regeneration is an issue with which I am intimately acquainted, not just because of my office, but because of the extent to which my colleagues, the Minister for Defence, Deputy Willie O'Dea, and the Minister of State, Deputy Peter Power, have acted as powerful advocates for the programme since its inception. In their engagements with me and the Government, both Ministers have provided strong voices for the communities in the regeneration areas and have ensured the regeneration programme remains a top priority for the Government.
Many families in Limerick city are working to build better lives for themselves, to overcome the disadvantages of social segregation and barriers to education and other services. These are the people that I, as Minister of State with responsibility for housing and local services, am committed to helping through the Limerick regeneration programme. I am glad to have the opportunity tonight to reiterate the Government's commitment to those families and the communities of Moyross, Southill, St. Mary's Park and Ballinacurra Weston. The Government has maintained the impetus around this regeneration project over the past three years despite the challenges of the changing economic environment.
With the active support of both Ministers, Deputies Willie O'Dea and Peter Power, the Government commissioned the Fitzgerald report to examine how the lives of people living in these severely disadvantaged communities could be improved. The Government took that report and drove the implementation of its recommendations, not least through the establishment of dedicated agencies to lead the delivery on the regeneration project. As recently as last December the Government also endorsed the vision for that ten-year regeneration and requested the detailed, costed plans for the first phase of the project's implementation by the end of the first quarter of this year.
Delivering a successful regeneration project that aims to remedy a long legacy of neglect and decline is not easy and not achievable overnight. It is not about placing a Band-Aid solution on the problem by simply providing new housing to communities in crisis. We already know that such an approach does not build sustainable regenerated communities. Rather, a successful regeneration requires an holistic approach that seeks to address the underlying causes of the social, economic and educational disadvantage that characterises these communities. It means we must take a whole of Government approach to the regeneration in Limerick to ensure the social and educational supports are available, while at the same time improving the built environment of the areas. It means that private sector investment must be secured to break the cycle of social isolation and encourage a mix of housing tenures in these areas. Mobilising private sector involvement is also essential in creating employment opportunities for these communities.
This whole of Government approach is at the centre of our work on the regeneration project, with relevant Departments, State agencies and local authorities represented on the boards of the Limerick regeneration agencies. My Department has also taken the lead on a high-level initiative involving the Secretaries General of key Departments and agencies involved in the social regeneration of the areas to ensure necessary decisions can be taken quickly, with the outcomes channelled into the overall implementation plans for the project. In addition, the Cabinet committee on social inclusion is regularly updated with progress on these cross-sectoral issues.
Since their establishment, the regeneration agencies have developed the strategic framework and vision for the regeneration while simultaneously delivering on an ambitious programme for the stabilisation of the areas. Despite the significant constraints on public finances in recent years, the Government provided in excess of €50 million for that stabilisation programme in the two and a half years to the end of 2009. Working with Limerick City Council, this funding has supported a planned programme of demolitions to address anti-social behaviour and to facilitate site clearances for future construction. It has provided for a programme of appropriate relocation of households, in accordance with locally agreed housing protocols, and it has seen a considerable improvement in the community infrastructure through closed circuit television installations, estate clean-ups, and new community supports and facilities.
In terms of our whole of Government approach to the regeneration, the past two years have seen significant additional investment from other Departments and agencies. As part of the broader stabilisation initiatives and to garner community support for the regeneration, 80 additional Garda personnel have been assigned to the city and a range of specialist supporting Garda resources have been deployed. Co-ordinated education programmes and special education initiatives have been developed for the regeneration areas. New targeted community-based initiatives are being provided in the areas of health, children, youth and family support, sport, employment and training to combat the effects of social exclusion. Many of these have been developed and supported with co-funded investment from the relevant Departments, local authorities, the HSE, FÁS and other key stakeholders. For 2010, I have increased my Department's annual provision for Limerick regeneration to €25 million to maintain the impetus around the regeneration programme and to continue to support these important initiatives.
While much attention to date has been focused on demolition and other essential works associated with the preparation of the areas for physical regeneration, the agencies and Limerick City Council acknowledge the importance of progressing new-build projects at this stage in the process. In that context, I want to confirm to the House the Government's commitment to facilitating such new build projects within the overall resources available for 2010. In fact, work has been progressing over the past year on the detailed planning and design of two housing projects which will provide up to 100 new homes, primarily for older people living in the Moyross and Ballinacurra Weston areas, with a view to advancing the projects to tender stage in 2010. Design work will also progress this year on two further projects for Southill and St. Mary's Park. All these projects provide tangible evidence that work is well under way to move the programme forward and to start building on the solid foundations that have been laid by the essential demolition and other preparatory works undertaken over the past two years.
Once again, I emphasise the importance of an holistic whole of Government approach in delivering successfully on regeneration. Regeneration is all about balancing the social and educational needs of communities with employment opportunities, all in a high quality built environment. New houses for socially disadvantaged families do not, on their own, build sustainable communities, any more than delivering community supports with no employment opportunities will do. Our challenge for the regeneration in Limerick city is to deliver an enduring, sustainable, high-quality outcome incorporating the crucial social, physical and economic ingredients. That is why we have spent the time building a strong foundation for the regeneration in Limerick. We have invested in clearing sites that will be ready for public and private sector construction projects. We have invested in social, community and educational supports to empower and support the communities of these areas. We have mobilised a public sector network that is committed to supporting the next steps. With this foundation in place, we are now ready to start building these new regenerated communities.
As I mentioned earlier, the Government has requested that the Limerick regeneration agencies prepare detailed fully costed plans for the first phase of the implementation of the regeneration project in Limerick by the end of the first quarter of this year. The agencies, with expert advice from the National Building Agency and in consultation with the relevant stakeholders, are working intensively to arrive at a prioritised plan that will provide us with a roadmap for the social, physical, and economic regeneration of these communities for the next three to five years. To do this, the agencies have been charged with determining the intended mix of refurbishment and new build and the projected costs having regard to the better values now available in the economy generally. In doing this, they will be informed by the wider strategic planning environment and a full consideration of potential private sector funding mechanisms.
Notwithstanding the current limitations on the availability of public funds, I extend a guarantee to the House that the Government will once again step up to the mark for the regeneration project in Limerick in a full review of how Government resources can best be deployed to deliver this crucial first phase. Across Government, there is a wide range of investment programmes from which funding can be channelled to meet specific actions under the first phase plans. We are committed to establishing the appropriate mechanisms for doing this and to ensuring the necessary support is available to invest in Limerick.
Once again, I thank the Deputies for raising this important issue. The need to regenerate these areas goes beyond party divides and local differences. We must work together to ensure this regeneration project is a success, but to do that our approach must be both considered and ambitious. We have spent two and a half years building a strong foundation for the regeneration of these communities. We have provided the investment necessary to do this, and a further €25 million has been set aside this year from my Department alone. I look forward to again visiting the regeneration areas shortly to see the work under way and to discuss the programme for the year ahead. The Government is determined to break the cycle of disadvantage in Moyross, Southill, St. Mary's Park and Ballinacurra Weston. It is only then that we will be able to look back on the regeneration programme and say we used the opportunity it presented to make a real and lasting difference. I am very committed and I hope to visit Limerick shortly to meet the different stakeholders in this matter.