Thursday, 6 April 2017
County Development Plans
7. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government if he will recommend that the changed plan be resubmitted for public consultation in view of the fact that the Celbridge local area plan has changed significantly since it was first advertised for public consultation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16795/17]
The Celbridge local area plan went on display over Christmas and during the month of January and there were 2,700 submissions, including one from the Minister's Department. The plan has fundamentally changed on foot of the submission from the Department and I am seeking a provision to go back to the drawing board and put the plan back on public display so that people will have the opportunity to comment on it. It does not just have modifications - it is very different from what people saw originally.
The draft Celbridge local area plan 2017-23 was prepared by Kildare County Council and was placed on statutory public display between 13 December 2016 and 3 February 2017. In my capacity as a statutory consultee to the local area plan process, I made a written submission to Kildare County Council under section 20 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 on 3 February 2017.
In my submission, the council was advised of certain objectives of national planning policy and ministerial planning guidelines that the draft local area plan must be fully in accordance with. The council was requested to address a number of highlighted issues in the subsequent material alterations stage of the local area plan process.
The decision to alter a draft local area plan that has been on public display is a reserved function of the members of the planning authority concerned under section 20(3)(e) of the Planning and Development Act 2000 and, if the members decide that amendments are appropriate, then the amended draft local area plan must go back on display for public consultation.
The report of the chief executive of Kildare County Council on submissions received on foot of the public display of the above mentioned draft local area plan has been issued to the elected members and the report will be considered by a future meeting of the planning authority. Should the planning authority decide to amend the draft local area plan, as a statutory consultee I will be circulated with particulars of such material amendments and I may make a further submission to the statutory process.
I do not consider it would be appropriate for me to comment further on the matter, pending the completion of the statutory local area plan process under section 20 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 by Kildare County Council.
I am not asking the Minister to comment on the substance of the changes but there are some 6,500 houses in Celbridge, which have been built over several decades, and the proposal is to add another 3,200 houses to them over a seven-year period. The town is already struggling in the areas of social and physical infrastructure and it is a huge amount to absorb over a short period. People were asked to comment and made a large number of contributions. What they saw and what they will now see are radically different because of the submission by the Department. I have read the manager's report and the submission has shaped the changes to the plan. It has shifted 1,400 units from one side of the town to the other. I do not wish to comment, negatively or positively, on whether that is a good thing but is it fair that the public is being asked to comment on something that is radically different from what is under consideration by members?
Some of the concerns outlined by the Deputy are probably shared by my Department. In the draft local area plan I was required to consider an amendment to ensure that the proper spatial development of the town, with respect to established public transport infrastructure and in tandem with the required supporting infrastructure, actually happened. The council was requested to provide for the relocation of the zoning of housing lands in the south eastern environs of the town in the vicinity of Hazelhatch train station. It was also asked to provide an implementation and infrastructure delivery schedule in the local area plan which would ensure that new development was clearly phased on the basis of the timely delivery of new strategic infrastructure for the town. We have inputted into the process and it is up to the local authority to make sure it abides by the legislation. If the Deputy wants me to talk about it in detail afterwards, I will be happy to do so.
I can understand the sustainability argument in respect of transport but there are other issues of sustainability in respect of the quantum of new houses in an area that is already struggling from the point of view of infrastructure. If the proposed quantum is pursued, I predict that it will not be realised because of the constraints. It simply gives the impression that something can be done.
I will take the opportunity to talk to the Minister about it afterwards because it is an unsatisfactory process from the point of view of the public's understanding and its ability to buy into the planning process. This is the only opportunity the public has, particularly now that changes are going to happen in respect of developments of over 100 units being decided by An Bord Pleanála.
Is the Minister fully aware of the infrastructural needs of the area, such as the substantial road and bridge realignments? The area to which the zoning has been diverted has been subject to severe flooding in past years on more than one occasion. There is a need for an urgent drainage and irrigation plan to be incorporated into the plan. I agree that the plan should go on display again because there are fundamental changes to what was previously discussed by the local authority
First and foremost, there is a responsibility on local government, the planning authority and councillors to make sure they get these things right. When local area or county development plans come to my Department we sometimes have to ask for material changes. Sometimes this does not go down too well but it is necessary to make sure the planning process is in compliance with national planning strategy and legislation. Lands that are prone to flooding will be part of that consideration. I do not want to predetermine any consideration my Department may give to a local area plan process. We have already inputted into this process and there are statutory obligations on the local planning authority to respond. There is a process around decision making but that is why we have devolved powers to local government. There are interventions at a national level, where appropriate, but first and foremost the responsibility to get the balance right between infrastructure, open space, housing density, responding to housing need and other things such as avoiding flood plains with large housing developments, which did not happen enough in the past, falls to local planning authorities.