Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Planners concerned about rezoning proposal

Jimmy Woulfe in The Examinaer tells us that a HUGE planning row is looming in idyllic Adare after it was confirmed yesterday that local politicians agreed, at a private meeting, to push for the rezoning of farmland near the village for housing.
Opponents warned it could turn the hamlet into a sprawling town.
At current prices, a one-acre site within 10 minutes walk of the village centre can fetch up to €1.5 million.
Due to spiralling site costs, councillors want to develop farmland near the village to open up the housing market for locally-born people.
However, planners are concerned the proposal could damage the village which attracts visitors from all over the world.
The seven councillors, who serve the Adare area, agreed at a recent private meeting to support an amendment of the County Limerick Development plan and press for the rezoning of surrounding farmland from agricultural use to housing.
Senior council officials claim the proposal flies in the face of an expert plan drawn up by the council on the development of the picture-postcard village.
Urban design consultants, Nicholas de Jong Associates, were commissioned to compile the plan.
The confidential report, seen by the Irish Examiner, concluded there was already adequate space — approximately 150 acres to fulfil the future housing needs of Adare for the next 20 years.
However, on being given access recently to the report, councillors for the Bruff electoral area — which includes Adare — agreed to press for a review of the de Jong recommendation.
Director of planning Tom Enright said yesterday the draft plan was still being prepared. “It will be brought back to the Bruff area meeting in February. We hope to have it before the full council in March and then put it on public display in April.”
Councillors from the Bruff electoral met privately on January 15 and agreed to support a move to rezone farmland on the outskirts of the village. A number of local farmers have asked to have lands rezoned.
Rezoning is one of the few powers still retained by elected council members but it requires 75% support, at a meeting of the full council.
It is the practice of Limerick county council if councillors in an electoral area agree to rezone land, colleagues from the other electoral areas back the move.
Councillor Niall Collins, a Fianna Fáil general election candidate who is one of the Bruff electoral area councillors, said: “All seven of us are singing from the one hymn sheet on this and want the boundary of the village pushed out. As a result of the lack of suitably-priced housing for locals, Adare has the smallest percentage of under 18s in the entire Bruff electoral area.
“Only a handful of the local hurling team live in the village area. The land which we want rezoned from agriculture to housing will be ring fenced for locals or people with local connections.”
A senior official said the council was extremely concerned at the implications of land on the periphery of the village being rezoned.
He said: “The de Jong report identifies 150 acres of development land in the village area. The report suggested a gradual development of this land which would hold about 1,800 houses, eventually increasing the village population by more than 7,000.”
Converting farmland into a housing site and adding them to this equation, he said, would be a recipe for potential disaster.
The senior council source, who asked not to be named, said many local people were not aware at what was going on behind closed doors among councillors.
“If the draft county development is amended to rezone farm land, the process might take on a certain momentum which could be hard to halt,” he said.

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