Monday 5 March 2007

Residents outraged over plan to 'dump Foxrock overflow'

Developer puts social housing 4km away

DEVELOPERS planning to build luxury homes in up-market south Dublin could be allowed meet their social housing obligations by providing units about 4km away.

Castlethorn Construction, which plans to build 49 homes on Brighton Road in Foxrock which will cost at least €1m each when sold, may be allowed give 63 houses to the local council in Stepaside instead of 10 units on the Foxrock site.

The developer is in negotiation with Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council about providing the homes elsewhere, on the basis that affordable units in Foxrock would be too expensive for first-time buyers.

Instead, Castlethorn is proposing to hand over units in the Belarmine estate in Stepaside to meet their obligations under Part V of the Planning and Development Act.

This compels all developers to give up to 20pc of all new homes in an estate - or cash or land in lieu - to the local authority to provide housing for people on low incomes.

Affordable housing is sold to people at a discount to the market price, with the local council paying the difference to the developer.

But residents living in the company's Stepaside development are furious about the proposal. Of the 608 homes in the area, the council has already acquired 100 for social and affordable housing. It also intends building more social housing on a nearby site it owns, and is planning a Traveller halting site in the area.

While the deal under negotiation is not unusual, Fine Gael has accused the council of coming to the arrangement "by stealth" because residents in Stepaside have not been told of the plans.

The proper site notices accompanying the planning application were posted in Foxrock with no mention of Stepaside, meaning people were left "completely in the dark" about the proposed change, local TD Olivia Mitchell said.

"This kind of planning by stealth is just not on. Young people buying their first home deserve honesty and openness from the planning authority.

"At the very least a new planning application should be required so that local stakeholders have an opportunity to be informed and to voice their opinions.

"The only published planning notice in this case referred to a site in Foxrock. Consequently, residents of the Stepaside area had no way of knowing that a proposal affecting them was being negotiated between the county council and the developer."

Dun Laoghaire Rathdown faces particular difficulties in getting social and affordable housing because land costs so much in the county. The council must buy the homes from the developer before selling them on to people who qualify, but even with a substantial discount they can still be out of the reach of many first-time buyers.

'Stepaside residents had no way of

knowing a proposal affecting them was being negotiated'

It is currently involved in legal proceedings with another developer who is resisting attempts to hand over units at an up-market development in Stillorgan.

Yesterday, the council confirmed that a deal was being considered, but said nothing had been finalised.

Bernie O'Reilly, from the housing section, said the size of the Foxrock homes were "way above" what the council would require, and that the off-site proposal was being considered.

"What is the better benefit - 63 families in Stepaside or 10 living in Foxrock? Each case is evaluated on its merits, there are going to be some sites where it will be difficult to work on and provide social and affordable units."

Castlethorn Construction, owned by Joe O'Reilly, is currently developing 10,000 new homes at Adamstown, west Dublin, and owns the Dundrum town centre.

Paul Melia
Irish Independent

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