Tuesday, September 14, 2021

By Conor Forrest

CONCERNS over issues like density, car parking spaces and traffic have been raised by local councillors with regard to a proposed Strategic Housing Development at Ballymany in Newbridge.

Strategic Housing Developments (SHD) are applications that go directly to An Bord Pleanála for decision – these decisions cannot be appealed. Briargate Developments Newbridge Ltd is seeking permission for 336 residential units, consisting of 245 houses, 27 apartments and 64 duplexes, a creche and associated site works. The case is due to be decided by 10 November.

A Planning Context Report, dated July 2021, stated that the site benefits from ‘a recent planning permission’ and that Phase 1 of the development is currently under construction and includes 54 dwellings and the construction of a section of a link road from Green Road to Standhouse Road.

It later noted that the two-storey creche is provided towards the centre of the site and has been designed ‘to provide sufficient capacity to cater for any childcare demand arising from the development of the overall landholding,’ including the 54 units under construction in Phase 1.

Part of the eastern boundary adjoins an existing residential development, The Elms, and the western boundary adjoins Ballymany Stud Farm. Standhouse Road and a number of individual residential dwellings are located along the site’s northern boundary.

A special meeting of Kildare-Newbridge MD, held online last Thursday 9 September, featured a presentation from Kildare Co Council’s Planning department on the SHD at Ballymany.

Councillors were given an overview of the project by KCC official Oisin Boland, who noted that the site area is 11.42ha and that there’s a density of 35 units per hectare. Pre-planning meetings between the applicant and Kildare Co Council took place in Áras Chill Dara on 19 August 2020, while a tri-partite pre-planning meeting in An Bord Pleanála was held between the applicant, An Bord Pleanála and Kildare Co Council on 18 December 2020.

At the meeting, Cllr Peggy O’Dwyer noted that the site is quite near Pollardstown Fen and that there’s also a stud farm quite close. Speaking on the matter of density, she said “this is too dense.”

Cllr Suzanne Doyle made several points, including that they should not be delivering creches into housing sites, and she said “this density is wholly inappropriate.”

Cllr Mark Stafford raised concerns including about the number of car parking spaces, while Cllr Noel Heavey highlighted issues such as a lack of second level school places. On the topic of apartments, Cllr Stafford later said that 27 apartments on its own would be a substantial development.

The meeting heard that the council’s Transportation department has prepared a report for An Bord Pleanála with a number of issues. It was noted that the location is about 1.7km to the train station and 500m to the nearest bus stop. And it’s believed that 15 units per hectare is the appropriate density for the location rather than the proposed higher density.

Cllr Tracey O’Dwyer, who raised concerns over the number of car parking spaces and said she would request more, said she doesn’t believe creches should be within estates and queried if there’s a request for a playground. “This is a little mini village,” she said.

It was contended that there is a deficit in car parking spaces and a deficit in spaces for the creche too.

Cllr Noel Connolly, meanwhile, asked if there was any provision for public electric vehicle charging, any plan for traffic calming regarding the link road to prevent it becoming a rat run, and raised the possibility of ring-fencing development levies from developments like this to fund a second bridge in Newbridge. He also mentioned the possibility of a community building.

Cllr Chris Pender raised topics like secure cycle storage, secondary school places, and the impact of traffic on the Curragh and Pollardstown Fen. The impact of the estate on traffic was raised by Cllr Rob Power, Mayor of Kildare-Newbridge MD, among other issues including the density.

And Cllr Kevin Duffy said he thinks the mix of housing is “good to see”, noting that there is a huge amount of people on the housing list looking for one or two-bed apartments. Regarding density, he said “Is 35 the right number? Not too sure,” before saying he doesn’t think 15 is the right density either.

A Material Contravention Statement, dated July 2021, noted that the Newbridge Local Area Plan (LAP) has a specific objective for lands zoned C2 that a maximum density of 15 units per hectare will apply – the proposal is located on lands zoned C2 and provides a density of 35 units per hectare.

The statement raised several points on the topic of density, including – in reference to the Kildare County Development Plan 2017-2023 – that ‘the indicative density for outer suburban/greenfield lands is 30-50 units per hectare. The subject proposal provides a density of 35 dwellings per hectare, which is in accordance with the KCDP and Government guidance.’

Another contravention flagged by the aforementioned statement was that the Newbridge LAP has a specific policy to restrict apartment developments generally to town centre locations or suitably located sites adjoining public transport connections, and that within the same policy it’s noted that duplex units shall not generally be permitted. The proposal includes both apartments and duplexes ‘and is defined as being an outer suburban/greenfield site.’

According to the document, ‘in order to achieve a sustainable density and use urban land efficiently apartments and duplexes are provided in the subject proposal. It would not be possible to achieve the densities required in Government guidance without the inclusion of apartments and duplexes on the subject site.’

Public submissions to An Bord Pleanála were due by 25 August, with the Chief Executive’s response to that body due by 15 September. The Chief Executive’s report will set out a summary of the views of elected members on the proposed development.

Further information and documentation on said development can be found at ballymanyshd.ie.