AN TAISCE has called on Louth County Council to “dezone” large areas of land outside the village of Dunleer designated for residential or commercial development in a 2003 plan.
Quoting from the recent “A Haunted Landscape” report by the National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analysis at NUI Maynooth, An Taisce endorsed its finding that local plans had been “driven by the demands of local people, developers and speculators”.
The submission compiled by Gerry Crilly, a Dunleer-based member of the conservation body’s national council, described the mid-Louth village as “a microcosm of the national crisis that Ireland now finds itself in” following the property crash.
According to the county council, Dunleer’s 29 hectares (74 acres) of undeveloped residential and commercial zoned lands “greatly exceeds” what is required. If all of it was developed, it would more than double the population to at least 4,000.
The current population is estimated at between 1,600 and 1,800, and An Taisce said future population growth “may not occur within the next six years due to the rise in emigration, increasing unemployment and no net immigration into Ireland”.
It pointed to a large area of land zoned commercial at Woodlands, southwest of Dunleer, saying it was distant from the village centre and had already been the subject of three refusals for large-scale commercial developments.
Its submission said that all zoned land outside the the “natural boundaries” of Dunleer, which it identified as the M1 motorway to the west and the railway line to the east, should now be dezoned in order to promote more sustainable development.
It also noted that An Taisce had successfully appealed three decisions by the council to grant planning permission for proposed developments adjacent to the disused railway station on the basis that these schemes would “prejudice” its reopening.
Upholding these appeals, An Bord Pleanála said it was “not satisfied that the development of the site, in the manner that has been proposed, would allow for the station to be reopened or for the land, to be developed in a comprehensive manner”.
Although the Louth County Development Plan adopted in 2003 had a policy “to seek the reopening of Dunleer railway station”, An Taisce complained that this was not explicit in the latest plan and said it should be stated in “clear and unambiguous” terms.
It is also seeking a “clear policy” by the council not to zone “low-lying lands” in the floodplain of White River as part of a “proactive flood prevention policy”. Instead, it wants to see these lands designated as an “amenity buffer zone” for the village.
Calling for a strategic environmental assessment of the draft local plan, An Taisce said all previous development zonings along the river should be reconsidered due to “future vulnerability to increased flood risk”, particularly during the winter.
It also wants to see a “regional heritage park” developed in Dunleer, centred on a surviving Norman motte south of the village.