WEXFORD COUNTY Council is expected today to adopt a new local area plan for Gorey, thereby confirming decisions by local councillors to “de-zone” almost 300 acres of land zoned for development in the controversial 2002 plan.
As there has been all-party agreement among the five councillors at Gorey district level on the draft, which has already been out for public consultation, it is anticipated that the full council will formally approve it and the new plan will go into force.
The “de-zoned” land includes some 36 acres at Raheenagurren owned by former Fianna Fáil councillor and one-time minister of State Lorcan Allen as well as land owned by former Fine Gael councillor Deirdre Bolger’s husband’s firm, J Bolger and Co.
So much land was zoned for residential development in the 2002 plan that it could have accommodated a sixfold increase in the town’s population. At the time, councillors were told that up to 70 per cent of the new residents were coming from Dublin.
The population of Gorey has grown from about 4,500 a decade ago to nearly 8,000. It is home to the country’s largest second-level school, with over 1,600 students. A new school has been approved and is scheduled to open in 2012.
The latest decisions made by Gorey councillors, which would also result in a significant increase in land zoned for educational and recreational uses, are in line with new planning legislation that provides for more “sustainable” land-use zoning.
Cllr Malcolm Byrne (FF), who had been highly critical of the 2002 local area plan, described the latest version as “a much more balanced and sustainable plan”, saying that it still provided over 200 acres zoned as residential where building had yet to occur.
“The Department of the Environment has broadly welcomed what we have achieved. I am particularly happy that the zoning madness of eight years ago has been addressed and that we are committed to proper urban planning of our town.”
Meanwhile, he expressed concern that council officials were taking a “too cautious” view of plans to deal with coastal erosion at Kilpatrick, north of Gorey, where Dublin-based entrepreneur Harry Crosbie was refused permission for a rock armour revetment.
The Kilpatrick Sandhills, designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) due to the presence of sandmartins, are subject to serious erosion. “Storms during the winter of 2006/7 saw about 15 metres of the coast collapse into the sea,” Cllr Byrne said.
“I strongly support Mr Crosbie’s move as it is clear some form of barrier against the sea is necessary, and almost all locals share that view,” he added. The council’s decision to refuse permission is currently before An Bord Pleanála and a ruling is expected shortly.