Elaine Keogh writing in The Irish Times tells us that Meath County Council has been accused of breaching its own planning objectives after it decided to grant permission for 435 housing units in an area which the planners want zoned as suitable for only limited growth.
The application by Carroll Estates Ltd of Merrion Square, Dublin, is for a 14-hectare site between Donacarney and the Golf Links Road in Bettystown, and includes two distributor roads.
Permission was granted for the houses, apartments, a creche and retail units last Thursday, just hours after the council officials and councillors concluded a lengthy debate on the proposed draft county development plan.
The debate led to amendments being made to the draft plan, including ones that would see the council revisit the extent of residentially zoned lands in the entire coastal area of the county, including Bettystown.
The council's director of planning, Kevin Stewart, acknowledged yesterday that there was too much residentially zoned land in east Meath. "It will take the adoption of this plan to give us the statutory basis to put the brakes on," he said.
The plan is on public display for the next four weeks, after which it is expected to be formally adopted. It would give the council powers to restrict the number of residential units to be built between now and 2013.
The limit in the Bettystown/ Laytown/Mornington East area is 1,000 units. There is existing permission for 715 units which have not been built yet.
Labour councillor Dominic Hannigan said the Carroll Estates development exceeded the balance of 285 units by 150.
"A key decision was made by all the councillors, the county manager and the head planner that we would limit the amount of additional houses being built for the good of the existing community. It was agreed that approval for only 285 more houses would be given between now and 2013 in Bettystown," Mr Hannigan said.
Mr Stewart said the council recognised that in areas like east Meath, it would "take time to slow things down". The key problem was there was "way too much land zoned residential".
There were more than 4,000 hectares of undeveloped residentially zoned land in the coastal area of Meath alone, which was 1,400-times more than what was required, he said.
A key objective of the draft plan is that all future residential growth "will be channelled first and foremost to Navan, Drogheda and Clonsilla/Dunboyne/Pace rail corridor".
It also states that the council does not anticipate "significant amounts of the existing residentially zoned lands in Bettystown will be developed within the life of this development plan, ie before 2013".
There were 20 observations made to the council about the Carroll Estates planning application. One was from John Fincham, who moved from Donacarney to the Golf Links Road in Bettystown three years ago.
"I can't make it out; this is a little stretch of road with more signs on it than Piccadilly Circus and we have to get ready now for the onslaught of traffic that will be coming out of it," he said.
"To build 400 houses equates with 750 more children and where will they go? We have lived here for 20 years in all and the only thing ever built between Donacarney and Bettystown before were prefabs for the school. I can't object to people buying houses here but there is nothing else here for them," he added.
Mr Hannigan said he would be appealing to An Bord Pleanála.