Dáil debates

Thursday, 28 June 2007

5:00 pm

Photo of Tommy BroughanTommy Broughan (Dublin North East, Labour)
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This time last year I raised the same issue of unsustainable planning and developer-led high density planning in the north fringe and elsewhere in the constituency of Dublin North-East. Little has changed over the succeeding 12 months. We now have a new Administration and Green Party Ministers who have a special responsibility to communities both old and new which are being disadvantaged daily by crass, high density developer-driven construction that may give rise to future very serious difficulties. It was famously the case only a few years ago that the Minister of State, Deputy Sargent, waved a developer's cheque at Dublin County Council and ended up for his pains in a Fianna Fáil headlock. I hope he and his colleague Deputy Gormley are not back in that headlock and that their former strident views on democratic and sustainable planning will not be conveniently forgotten.

The north fringe of Dublin city and south fringe of Fingal together represent what is perhaps the largest new urban district built in the history of the State. From Baldoyle and Portmarnock through Donaghmede, Belcamp and Clonshaugh, 20,000 to 25,000 housing units, most of which are apartments, often high-rise, are being built, are approved or otherwise are making their way through the planning system. Similarly huge developments stretch westwards from the constituency into Dublin North-West, Dublin West, and Dublin Mid-West. Following an attempt more than six years ago by developer Gerry Gannon to pre-empt the local regional planning process a north fringe action plan was prepared by Dublin City Council. However, the plan was a very basic outline on a map and we are left to this date to complain bitterly about the delay in providing a definite plan for local health centres, schools, child care facilities, a Garda station and public transport. As I warned last year, this may well be another recipe for a planning disaster like those foisted on the people of Dublin's northside and the north county by an earlier generation of city and county managers, councillors and planners.

At my repeated suggestion four years ago, city manager John Fitzgerald agreed to the establishment of the north fringe forum representing stakeholders such as local residents and development bodies, local representatives, officials from the two local authorities and various Departments, the Garda, HSE and CIE. Despite the best efforts of our chairman, Clive Brownlee, and area manager Celine Reilly, the forum has become, unfortunately, a quarterly talking shop. The most recent report we received showed that apartments which were given planning permission by Dublin city planners failed to meet basic guidelines on size, ventilation of bathrooms, natural lighting, street size and many other fundamental criteria. The delivery of Part V social and affordable housing is vague and has not been determined or agreed by city and county planners before permission has been given. The timetable and planning requirements for a proposed new DART station at Clongriffen have not been met though the opening date is optimistically scheduled for December 2008. There are still no plans for a Garda station or health centres in the vast territory in question.

The Minister, Deputy Gormley, should address the issues forthwith. I have heard him rail in Dublin City Council and in the House against unsustainable and problem developments. At the very least, the density guidelines introduced by Deputy Dempsey, who is sitting in the Chamber, and the Planning and Development Act 2000 should be reviewed. No new urban districts should proceed without a democratically decided masterplan and overall responsibility for such developments should be given immediately to local housing and planning authorities. Deputy Gormley should call in city and county managers, John Tierney and David O'Connor, to ask for a full commitment and detailed timetable on social infrastructure and establish immediately a strategic development zone for the Clonshaugh-Belcamp district where up to 8,000 housing units and ancillary commercial development are being proposed on an ad hoc fashion to maximise developers' profits.

I hope the new Government will re-examine the north fringe to ensure that our successors do not have to stand here in 15 or 20 years time to bemoan mounting problems and establish new regeneration agencies like those that have had to be provided in Limerick city and the northside of Dublin. I hope we will get our planning and development right first time around.

Photo of Tony KilleenTony Killeen (Minister of State, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Minister of State, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Clare, Fianna Fail)
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Comhgairdeas leat ar do phost nua, a Cheann Comhairle.

I thank the Deputy for raising this matter. The Government is committed to creating sustainable towns and cities and ensuring quality living spaces for our community. We will introduce new urban design guidelines for building new housing developments, require all new apartments and other high density developments to comply with improved minimum design standards and ensure better provision is made for proper education and community facilities where new communities are created. Already, the Department is progressing a wide range of policies and measures to support the creation of sustainable communities within a high quality environment. We are currently revising and expanding the residential density guidelines for planning authorities which were published in 1999. The review takes account of experiences to date, our rapidly changing demographic and settlement patterns and the need for more compact urban development, especially within the greater Dublin area, to enhance quality of life.

The new planning guidelines on residential developments will facilitate the creation of sustainable communities through effective planning and the provision of necessary supporting services and amenities. They will achieve the most efficient use of urban land through housing densities appropriate to the locations involved and the provision of supporting infrastructure, especially transport, and set high standards for space and facilities. On foot of the review, it is intended that new draft planning guidelines on residential density will be published. We will also publish a new best-practice handbook on urban design and housing layouts with examples drawn from current best practice.

The work outlined follows the recently published housing policy statement, Delivering Homes, Sustaining Communities, published in February 2007, which places the provision of housing within the wider context of the development of sustainable communities. The Government is firmly committed to driving up quality standards through better regional and local area planning, improved guidance and leading by example. The private and public sectors must work together to improve not just the quality of housing developments themselves, but to ensure that developments add to the character of areas, reinforce the vitality of local communities and provide the services and amenities residential development requires. I look forward to an active public engagement on the draft policy proposals I have outlined above as they are rolled out during the year.