In June 2017, The Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Mr. Eoghan Murphy, TD signed the necessary Regulations which enabled planning applications for large-scale housing developments of 100 units or more to be made directly to An Bord Pleanála.

The introduction of these temporary new fast-track planning arrangements for large-scale housing developments was to deliver on a key commitment under the Government’s Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness – Rebuilding Ireland. According to General Election Candidate Cllr Eddie Mulligan Fianna Fail, the intention of this legislation was to facilitate the provision of increased housing supply through greater streamlining of efficiencies in the Planning System.

Instead what it has done is that it has created a fast track system for Receivers and Land Owners to flip a site with planning permission for huge profit with shovel in the ground delays then exacerbated. Affected members of the public can still make a submission to An Bord Pleanala at the normal planning observation fee of €20.

Under the new fast-track planning procedures which essentially involve a two-stage process, the Board completes pre-application consultations in relation to a proposed development with the developers and the relevant planning authority within a maximum period of 9 weeks. This is primarily to determine whether a proposed development is broadly consistent with the development plan or local area plan for the area concerned.

However, despite the considerable input at this early stage, the senior Waterford Council Planner was unable to answer questions on a proposed Williamstown Strategic Housing Development of scale at the Metropolitan Meeting on Monday 18th February 2019. The board are required to make a final determination on the application within 16 weeks of receipt!

SOD OR PROFIT TURNING

The situation with the Williamstown Road Planning proposal is that this is not Dublin! Whilst Developers of schemes such as the Marlet Property Group’s 420 home Cabra Housing Scheme have praised the efficient under 16 week fast track planning process for a large scale development. However, in this case the key Cabra site then came to the market five months later with a guiding price tag in excess of €32M with reports that the density of the site can further be increased to fit 400 apartments!

The biggest fundamental flaw of this fast track system is that it’s not really efficient when there’s intermediatiary stages where there’s further sales of the site and possible redesigns. I personally thought that the whole idea of the scheme was to get boots on the ground and shovels digging the ground asap.

WILLIAMSTOWN DEVELOPMENT PROPOSAL

Why is all this relevant to Waterford. Cllr Eddie Mulligan attended the first of many scheduled Resident Association meetings this week where they hear of neighbouring residents reservations in relation to the proposed Williamstown development. Kieran Wallace as Receiver over McInerney Homes associated Cone Pine Properties Limited have applied to An Bord Pleanála for permission for a strategic housing development on a site adjacent to the existing Paddocks, Ballygunner Village, Cnoc Caislean, The Anchorage, Farmleigh, Booterstown, Grantstown Village and Bishopsfield residential estates on the Williamstown Road.

This proposed development will consist of the construction of 324 residential units comprising;

• 31 Detached Houses
• 160 Semi-detached Houses
• 37 Terraced Houses
• 11 Apartment Blocks containing 96 Apartments
• A Crèche with Play Area and 24 designated Car Parking Spaces
• 657 Car Parking Spaces and 104 Bicycle Spaces

PUBLIC AWARENESS

Whilst the Planning Application was advertised in the Irish Examiner on the 5th February, you would expect that given the size of the development that it would be advertised in the local media in support and to ensure that the transparency of this application stands up to public scrutiny. In addition to attending Residents Association meetings, Cllr Mulligan states his phone hasn’t stopped ringing from numerous individual constituents who physically went to visit the site as they hear of the development through the grapevine have been unable to locate the required on site notices!

RESIDENTS RESERVATIONS

Following the Statutory Consultation meeting with An Bord Pleanála on 5th February 2018, Cllr Mulligan welcomes the Board’s initial consultation opinion on 22nd February 2018, which stated that the Board is of the opinion that they required consideration on the issues of Residential Density, Surface Water Network, and Road Layout which are amongst the concerns being relayed to him by constituents. However the submitted application has had the density increased after this consultation, under new guideline regulations!

Neighbouring residents have also been representing to Cllr Mulligan that the Environmental Impact Assessment in relation to the road sustainability infrastructure was based upon traffic movements on the Williamstown Road adjacent at peak times on 5th & 6th October 2017 with no due regard for the increased impact on the peak hour bottle necks at Farronshoneen, the Hospital Roundabout or any other junction in the area. In addition, constituents estimate that the projected increase in traffic anticipated is grossly underestimated as a result of it being estimated on the Paddocks Junction only!

LESS HOUSING DENSITY WITH IMMEDIATE BUILDING

According to Cllr Mulligan, whilst the neighboring residents do not oppose the development of houses, which were always inevitably expected he agrees that their reservations in relation to residential unit saturation through the additional apartment blocks must be listened to. They bought their houses to enjoy the amenities and planned low density of residential estates in the area. These are the residents who are currently suffering traffic congestion during peak hour traffic, a complete absence of a fit for purpose public transport system, under resourced adjacent primary and secondary schools in addition to minimal teenage, youth and community recreational facilities.

In addition, Cllr Mulligan himself would like to see these reservations addressed and a guarantee from An Bord Pleanala that the Receiver is not using the housing and homeless crisis as a means to fast track a planning permission for financial gain as opposed to a housing deficiency solution. As McInerney Homes are no longer a construction entity, Cllr Mulligan would like it conditioned that once the density issues are addressed, that the Receivers are not permitted to use this fast track facility to turn the site for multiple increase in site value and that they must immediately initiate development themselves employing the appropriate contractors!

The application may also be inspected online at the following website set up by the Receiver: www.williamstownroadplanning.ie