Wednesday 5 September 2007

Killarney land zoned for housing despite department objections

SUFFICIENT land for about 1,000 further houses in Killarney has been zoned by the local town council — despite strong reservations by the Department of the Environment and the National Roads Authority.

The department’s spatial strategy unit, insisting there was already an oversupply of residential-zoned land, has asked the council to reconsider the proposal, which represents a variation of the town development plan.

The council has, to date, zoned for residential development more than 95 acres in the Flesk valley, along the town’s southern extremity. The zoning decisions have hugely increased its commercial value.

The land has been zoned for a variety of medium and low-density housing, while a further 100 acres in the valley have been zoned for special amenity, tourism, and agriculture.

In recent years, the price of building land has rocketed in Killarney, fetching more than €1 million per acre in prime spots of the town.

An Taisce said the latest residential zonings were premature and represented unsustainable development due to lack of proper access and distance from the town, schools, shops and other facilities.

The National Roads Authority also strongly advised against the “unacceptable” proposals, saying the cost of lands needed for a proposed link road would increase significantly if the zonings went ahead.

Town Clerk Michael O’Leary defended the council’s proposal. He said that while, theoretically, there was enough zoned land in Killarney, a lot of that zoned land was not coming onto the market and was not available for housing.

Senior planner Fiona O’Sullivan said only one housing development, the first in some time, was currently under way within the Killarney town bounds.

The zoning of more land for housing is part of an action plan for the Flesk Valley area drawn up after a motion from Fianna Fáil councillor Brian O’Leary that a parcel of land be rezoned.

The Mill Road has already been described as a rat-run used by people trying to avoid traffic congestion on the town’s Kenmare road through Killarney National Park, also part of the busy Ring of Kerry.

Meanwhile, the roads authority also warned that rezoning so much land for housing would push up the price of much-needed land for a new southern link road, the route of which has not yet been finalised.

“Such proposals, while potentially bringing major financial gains to the property owners involved, would be at variance with the broader public interest,” the roads authority submitted.

Irish Examiner

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