BUILDERS in the Newbridge area are losing out on millions of euro as local development is stalled owing to inadequate sewerage facilities.
While developers and builders are generally regarded as the chief beneficiaries of the recent boom years, it appears that some of those who purchased land in the Newbridge area, zoned for residential development, are now left sitting on literal-ly hundreds of acres as permission to build cannot be granted.
One builder told the Kildare Nationalist that he had purchased land three years ago and was still awaiting planning permission because the necessary infrastructure was not in place. Others have been given permission, but only on condition that development does not go ahead until the new sewerage facility is in place. In all, it is estimated that a land bank totalling around 300 acres in the Newbridge area is at present zoned residential but is unable to be developed for reasons of inadequate infrastructure.
The builders are frustrated because they say that the council would have been aware for years that the sewerage system needed to be upgraded. Furthermore, they point out that huge sums of money have been handed over by developers towards infrastructure, in the spate of building that took place over the past decade. The builder who spoke to the Kildare Nationalist stated that his company had paid almost •2m in levies designed to fund infrastructure, as part of his last residential development.
Given the current slowdown in the housing market overall, the delay in getting new homes built and onto the market is a considerable concern to developers in the area. In recent weeks, a mixed residential and commercial development in the Rickardstown area was also rejected by Kildare Co Council, citing the inadequacy of the sewerage service as one of the major reasons for the refusal.
A recent statement from the local branch of Fine Gael, however, indicated that according to calculations it carried out, an estimated •150m was paid by Newbridge people in stamp duty and VAT on new houses built between 2002 and
2007. The Fine Gael state-ment was intended to highlight the need for money collected locally in this way to be spent in the area, in terms of providing local facilities and amenities.
Asked for a comment on the issue of the sewerage capacity for Newbridge, county council spokesman Charlie Talbot said on Monday: "We have a proposal that has been approved by the Department of the Environment for the improvement of the Osberstown waste water treatment plant, which takes the sewage from Newbridge.
"This is in design review at the moment and we hope to go to public consultation by the end of 2008. This major project will be completed in 2011/2012.
"In addition, there are two advance elements to be put into place at an earlier date. These include a storm water, storage and pump house facility at Kilbelin and a new pumping station and storage capacity for foul sewage at Newhall. We would hope that these works would be completed by June 2009."
Acknowledging that the Osberstown plant is at present operating at close to capacity, Mr Talbot said that the council was currently giving planning permission priority to projects that involved an element of longer-term employment. "We would assign high priority to developments which offer local employment beyond just the construction phase itself and that applies to Newbridge and to anywhere else served by the Osberstown plant."
Mr Talbot said the reason for this was that the council had a long-term aim of tackling the problems of commuting, and creating "sustainable local employment" was viewed as a key element in resolving this issue.