“One of my ambitions for Ballincollig was to get rid of the cars,” he says. “That was one of the first things I thought about, so I grouped them all together within the back gardens, so that the fronts would be okay. I was thinking of the two places I regularly visited in Dublin then – Merrion Square for monthly RIAI council meetings, and Belgrave Square, Monkstown, where my brother Frank lives, and how they worked. I was also trying to give the advantage of the semi-d, with direct access to the garden without going through the house. Then there was the wind. People were saying, ‘This is a place where you’d get pneumonia’. It was a huge flat area, exposed to the westerly wind. I arranged the houses to protect the gardens. I put mounded landscaping into the corners to stop the cold moving up the street and not be a wild windy place.” The scheme comprises seven blocks of two different types, arranged around three local greens, all railinged.
In 1982 the Department of the Environment had published a memorandum on procedures to be followed and standards to be applied in providing Local Authority Dwellings. “It was full of a great deal of good sense.” says Hegarty. “However, there was a list of materials not to be used, which I considered to be a very simplistic approach to the control of costs in housing. These included no whole-brick fronts, no Tegral slates, no roads front and back – anything at all that was even slightly more expensive than the most basic option. There was a new Fine Gael-Labour government. They wanted to build a huge number of public houses, which they did. But by the mid-’80s, when there was a lot of emigration, public housing was being overbuilt. Then there were not enough people to put into the houses.
“The Department’s circular challenged me to build housing I would be happy to live in myself, while using all the materials which they considered expensive, and a lot more besides.” There are roads front and rear to control the car. Access points (two per block) are to the lee of each block. Private gardens are internal, within each block, sheltered from the wind. “I put south-facing roofs on all the houses,” he says. “Every house has a south-facing roof slope. The ambition was that they would each be fitted with a solar cell. That’s how I persuaded the Department to allow me use Tegral slates, because they were lightweight, so the structure could take the additional load. It hasn’t been done yet, but there’s nothing stopping it! They are putting them on new builds today, but not retrofitting existing houses. I thought it would happen somehow, but it hasn’t.”