THE MEATH county manager has not recommended any change in the zoning of lands that developer Bill Doyle says he needs zoned for housing so he can fund the building of Drogheda United's proposed new stadium.
The draft plan for southern Drogheda, given to councillors yesterday afternoon, instead has the bulk of the land zoned for open space and identified for use as a regional park.
In a submission to the council, Mr Doyle, Drogheda United and other land owners asked for the lands at Bryanstown to be zoned for housing. Without this, Mr Doyle says the stadium is not financially viable, as the resultant house sales had been intended to fund the €35 million, 10,000-seat stadium and a retail park.
There has been controversy over the decision instead to zone lands near Mill Road in Drogheda for residential and other uses.
These lands were identified in a plan adopted by Louth, Meath and Drogheda local authorities last year as a strategic land reserve, and therefore were not to be developed for a number of years.
The Department of the Environment, in a strongly worded submission to the council on the draft plan, said: "It is not clear why the lands in the Mill Road/Marsh Road area is being zoned for residential and other purposes.
"The Planning Strategy for the Greater Drogheda Area (2007) designates this land as a strategic land reserve and it is not envisaged that it would be developed within any of the four phases identified in the planning strategy."
The report by Tom Dowling, the county manager, acknowledges that the planning strategy "primarily identifies the Bryanstown area for future expansion of the southern environs.
"However, in respect of identifying additional lands for residential development, the county development plan clearly places equal emphasis on the lands at Bryanstown and Mill Road."
While the strategy was a "key consideration", Mr Dowling said the council must "have regard" to the county development plan.
The submission by Mr Doyle and Drogheda United referred to an earlier framework plan which had earmarked the bulk of the lands in question for residential use. The councillors have six weeks to consider the draft plan before adopting it, either with or without any amendments.
The county manager, meanwhile, has taken on board a request from a group of landowners, including Shannon Homes, for a new road to be built that would link a new major road in Mill Road to Drogheda train station.
The submission was made by Boyne Grove Fruit Farms Ltd, Murphy Group and Shannon Homes (Drogheda) Ltd, and relates to lands they own - the majority in the Mill Road area.
In it, the group asks for the draft plan to be amended to include as a policy "the provision of a vehicular link and new eastern gateway" to the station.
Mr Dowling's report recommends the land-use zoning be amended "by including a specific objective to provide for a new minor distributor road from the proposed major distributor road in the Mill Road area to the McBride train station".
A similar request was made by developer Pat Neville, who said it would alleviate traffic congestion.
Last week, Cllr Brian Fitzgerald called for an official other than the county manager to consider the submissions, after Mr Dowling confirmed he had met Mr Doyle.
Mr Dowling said the submissions were examined by the consultants commissioned to prepare the plan. That was part of his role to advance economic development in the county, and he did meet individuals and groups interested in carrying out major investment.
The Irish Times