Wednesday, 18 December 2019
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
Local Area Plans
Not for the first time is right, and we will come to that during the discussion.
I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Phelan, for coming to the House to take the debate and I acknowledge the absence of the Minister of State, Deputy English. He contacted me as he had planned to be here but there was a diary clash. He has discussed the issue with me in the past. This is the third occasion in the past 15 months on which I have raised it.
The matter at hand relates to land identified in the local area plan, under the county development plan and regional planning guidelines, as an area of key strategic development. It is also an area identified for a master plan to be carried out. Due to how zoning has been carried out and identified in Celbridge in the local area plan, quite a bit of land referred to in submissions from the Department cannot be developed or built on until the necessary infrastructure is put in place. We accept and acknowledge this and we must learn from the mistakes of the past. We must have development in parallel with infrastructure and services being put in place. This is why the issue is so important and why I have raised it here for debate.
This is seen as key strategic land for development. It does not rely on a lot of infrastructure or services. It is right beside Hazelhatch train station. It is close to schools and in walking distance of Celbridge GAA club and the tennis club. There is fast access to the M7 and M8 motorways and from there to the M50 and a good road network. It has all the positives. It is on this basis, and because the land identified in the recent local area plan cannot be built on or developed because of the lack of infrastructure, that for now we are trying to get this prioritised and pushed on.
When I debated this two months ago with the Minister of State, Deputy English, he acknowledged in the Chamber that the Department would be supportive of this and would engage with the local authority. While the Department cannot tell the local authority what to do, it would acknowledge this is an area for key development and would be supportive of the local authority progressing with the master plan. It is also worth noting that all the key stakeholders are willing to implement the master plan at no cost to the local authority but under direct guidance and in partnership with the local authority. Everyone is on board. It just needs to be progressed.
In October, the Minister of State, Deputy English, gave a solid commitment that he would correspond, liaise and communicate with the local authority. To my knowledge, this has not happened. Hence, we have to discuss the matter again today. I hope I will not have to raise it in the new year. I have no reason to believe that the Minister of State, Deputy English, is changing on the commitment he made because so far he has been very positive about the project. I ask for a strict timeline for when communication will happen between him and the local authority so we can get this much needed master plan progressed. Once it is signed off and agreed, we can progress to the various stages.
We have a housing crisis. Celbridge has a population of 22,500. It is on the periphery of Dublin, as are Leixlip, Maynooth, Kilcock and Clane.
It is 22,500 people. People want to live there. Funnily enough, according to the figures I obtained from the National Transport Authority, NTA, Hazelhatch train station has been identified as one of the least used stations in the country. This is because it is outside the town. A development such as this would be very advantageous because it would advocate for full use of public transport as the site is a five-minute walk from the train station. It is also worth noting the Kildare line, which Hazelhatch train station is on, is identified as one of the priority lines for getting extra carriages when the new carriages come in 2021.
I thank the Deputy for raising the matter. As he pointed out, I am taking the debate on behalf of the Minister of State, Deputy English, who had a prior commitment. The advancement of housing development in Celbridge and the continued planned growth of this important town in tandem with the supporting infrastructure and amenities required is an important issue. I remember when Celbridge was a village and I am not that old. As the Deputy pointed out, 22,500 people now live there. It has a unique location in terms of motorways, rail infrastructure and proximity to Dublin.
The Celbridge local area plan for the period 2017 to 2023 was adopted by the elected members of Kildare County Council on 17 August 2017 and came into effect on 14 September that year. I welcome the fact that the plan supports the provision of substantial new housing development in a key urban area close to Dublin. Kildare County Council, in its current county development plan, has earmarked Celbridge to grow in population by approximately 10,000 people over the next five to ten years. We need to plan for this increase and to ensure that Celbridge grows in a coherent fashion with the timely delivery of the new infrastructure that will be needed for this expanded population. The provisions in the plan enabling future housing growth on the southern side of the town, in proximity to the existing commuter rail station at Hazelhatch, are particularly welcome. This development strategy is consistent with established national and regional planning policy, which encourages new housing accessible to such high-quality public transport facilities in the interest of sustainable development. The local area plan did not identify the lands adjacent to Hazelhatch train station for immediate development due, primarily, to flood management issues. Kildare County Council has engaged consultants to address the issue, with a final report due early next year.
Notwithstanding this, the local area plan also identifies the key pieces of strategic infrastructure that are required to be delivered as part of the planned new housing development areas. The phasing arrangements set out in section 13 of the local area plan include requirements on the provision of new road, bridge, open space and other facilities that will support the new homes to be constructed. Design briefs are also provided for the five key development areas earmarked for future housing development, which will further assist in ensuring the construction of quality residential neighbourhoods that are integrated into the existing urban fabric of the town.
As part of the roll-out of the local area plan and in the interests of supporting the integrated development of housing within it, Kildare County Council is committed to preparing a transport mobility management plan to support the sustainable growth of the town. State agencies, along with the Department and, I understand, the NTA will be active in their support of the development of such a plan, which will inform future infrastructure delivery.
I understand that Irish Water is in the process of upgrading the Leixlip wastewater treatment plant which serves Celbridge, and is also actively working to address identified constraints in the local waste water system, in particular the upgrading of the local pumping station. These measures will actively support the ongoing and future delivery of housing in Celbridge.
Furthermore, the Department is administering the urban regeneration and development fund, URDF, launched as part of Project Ireland 2040. The fund is designed to support the compact growth and sustainable development of Ireland's five cities, regional drivers and other large urban centres and to leverage a greater proportion of residential and commercial development, supported by infrastructure, services and amenities, within the existing built-up areas of our larger urban settlements. The Department has responsibility for implementing the URDF, which has an allocation of €2 billion over ten years.
In 2018, bids were invited from public bodies for funding support from the URDF under category A, for projects that were proposed as being ready to be initiated, or under category B, as projects that required further consideration and development. On 26 November 2018, initial URDF support of €100 million was provisionally allocated to a total of 88 projects throughout the country. As part of the first tranche, Kildare County Council was allocated support of €400,000 towards its category B proposal to progress the technical and preparatory element of the Celbridge southern relief road and second Liffey crossing. The advancement and completion of this category B project is, in the first instance, a matter for Kildare County Council. It will also be a matter for the council to consider the advancement of subsequent elements of the wider project, and whether additional funding support should be sought for them under future URDF funding calls.
While the URDF is not intended to provide direct support for particular housing projects, some of the projects it is currently supporting, including the Celbridge southern relief road and second Liffey crossing, will enable a significant proportion of residential and mixed-use development to be delivered within the existing built-up footprints of our cities and towns. The Department will continue to work with Kildare County Council to support it in developing appropriate housing in key locations, such as Celbridge and other key urban centres in County Kildare, in accordance with the adopted statutory plans.
I thank the Minister of State for his comprehensive reply. In each contribution I have made on this issue I have acknowledged the role of the Minister of State, Deputy English, working with me and my colleague, Deputy Durkan, in allocating the funding to take the second bridge in Celbridge from concept through to design and tender. The tender process for consultants is under way, with a view to consultants being appointed early in the new year. The second bridge will help to address the existing gridlock in the town and support future development. It will also assist in the development of lands included in the submission from the Department, which seeks balance in the town in terms of future development. All of this is very welcome, as I have acknowledged in the past in this House.
The lands under discussion are in a different location and they are not reliant on the aforementioned infrastructure. They are shovel-ready, once the master plan has been agreed. The current local area plan identifies this land as a key area for strategic development. It also outlines that the master plan should be completed. The land is zoned residential but it cannot be built on for the reasons mentioned, such as lack of infrastructure and so on. While these issues are being addressed, it will be some time before the process is complete. I am asking that in the meantime the master plan be progressed. For this to happen, we need the Department to communicate to the local authority that it should support the advancement of the master plan, which is identified as a requirement during the lifetime of the current local area plan, such that much-needed development and housing can be built in Celbridge on this particular site, which is located beside all of the amenities and services referenced earlier, in particular the train station.
The Kildare railway line, which services Hazelhatch train station located adjacent to this site, has been identified for additional carriages in early 2021. It has also been identified as a line to be electrified in 2023, which means the DART will be coming to Celbridge. It makes perfect sense for this development to progress. What I need from today's discussion is an update on when the Minister of State, Deputy English, will communicate with Kildare County Council to advance and support the progression of the master plan.
I will ask the Minister of State, Deputy English, to correspond or engage directly with the Deputy on the matter. I do not want to enter into any commitments on his behalf, other than to say that he has not changed his view, as pointed out by the Deputy in his initial contribution, on the strategic importance of the development of Celbridge. This is a classic case in the sense that the national development plan speaks to the need to develop our towns within their existing footprint. This is a new site, which is of huge strategic importance, but we have to marry that with the need for our town centres to be reinvigorated and invested in into the future.
I will ask the Minister of State, Deputy English, to correspond with Deputy O'Rourke on when he or his officials will make contact with Kildare County Council on the master plan.