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Infrastructure for Monkstown Housing Development “Totally Inadequate”

Councillors from the Carrigaline Municipal District (MD) have described the provision of infrastructure associated with the Monkstown Strategic Housing Development (SHD) as being “totally inadequate”.

The residential application comprises of a development for 171 units which includes; 47 four-bed houses, 82 three-bed houses, 16 two-bed townhouses, a mix of 23 one and two-bed apartments in a 2-3 storey block and an additional 3 two-bed apartments in another 3 storey block.

Works would also include the development of a childcare facility, provision of amenity areas and all other associated works. In compliance with Part V regulations, 34 housing units will be transferred for social housing as part of the plan, with the mix and detail of these units to be discussed with Cork County Council, on condition of approval and before the commencement of development, which consists of 7 separate phases.

Strategic Housing Developments are a specific process developers must engage with if the proposed scheme is in excess of 100 or more residential units. The first stage of the procedure requires the applicant to engage with the relevant local authority, in this case Cork County Council and An Bórd Pleanála. Those discussions for this Monkstown SHD proposal took place last year and into 2022, with the applicant formally applying for permission in late February.

Local concerns have been raised in the interim, with individuals and groups able to submit observations and objections to the application as with any other planning application procedure. Speaking to The Carrigdhoun Newspaper earlier this year in relation to the proposal, Cllr D’Alton noted her concerns over inadequate infrastructure associated with the development, saying, “I think An Bórd Pleanála, when deciding on this application, should consider that the provision of adequate infrastructure be deemed a priority and that this would be addressed before the construction of the housing development.”

One of the other main points of the application is that it contravenes the existing County Development Plan with regards to density. The application designed for a total of 31.3 residential units per hectare is double the zoning status of the subject site which contains objectives for Medium B density of between 12-15 units per hectare as part of the existing 2015-2021 Plan.

However, when Councillors were briefed by Cork County Council planner, Thomas Watt at the March meeting of the MD, suggested that in their assessment, An Bórd Pleanála will be looking to see if the development is one of sustainable urban development and one that promotes compact growth. In relation to the material contravention, Mr Watt added, in his own view as a planner, that the parameters for density could be stretched subject to the “certain high standard qualities being achieved and amenities and environmental protection being put in place.”

He went on to say that the documents supplied with the application include a lot of detail on how the proposal would limit environmental harm and is covered extensively in the Appropriate Assessment. Moreover, he indicated that there was “quite a considerable level of public open space which is more than meeting the minimum standards in the Development Plan.” Furthermore, in terms of the weight that the Development Plan carries in this matter, Mr Watt noted that the Board tend to go beyond the scope and standards of the local authority plans, and pay more attention to recent national policy initiatives and guidelines, and may as a result seek to look favourably on a higher density residential application.

While Councillors respected the input from the Council planner and his assessment over how the Bórd might respond to the application, they were very keen to raise some major flaws that they saw as part of the proposal. The major concern, reflective of submissions and observations raised within the local community of Monkstown and Passage West, revolves around the inadequate road infrastructure that currently exists on the site, and how this issue will be made worse should the proposed development go ahead.

Cllr Seámus McGrath (FF), noted that in the outgoing Local Area Plan, the parcels of land on which the development is now proposed, were to be developed alongside additional road infrastructure. However, it would now appear that there is no commitment within the residential scheme to supply further road provision. Cllr Marcia ‘D’Alton (Ind) added that she had similar concerns, with Cllr McGrath asking the question as to whether the road was now not going to go ahead.

Responding to this, Mr Watt suggested that it was “impossible to say if it will happen or will not happen”. He added that it was perhaps opportunistic on the part of the applicant to apply for permission before the change of zoning which will change the use to Metropolitan Green Belt. This will come into effect in the next County Development Plan, which is to be adopted in the coming weeks. Additional comments were made by Cllr Jack White (FG) and Cllr Michael ‘Paul’ Murtagh (FG) relating once more to adequate road infrastructure.

Based on the nodding heads in the room, the tone of the meeting was captured well by Cllr McGrath, who commented, “we are all very conscious of the macro position here and the chronic need for housing, but that doesn’t mean that every single proposal that goes forward should be accepted. Some of the commentary out there suggests that there shouldn’t be submissions or objections raised about planning applications. Well, if that’s the case we might as well just stand down the planning system and allow any developer to put forward proposals and be automatically given the go ahead…. I think what’s before us simply does not stack up in terms of the infrastructural requirements to cater for development of that scale.”

It was agreed that as an addendum to submissions made by the public to the application, Cork County Council’s submission, through issues and concerns raised by Councillors, be sent to An Bórd Pleanála.

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