Saturday 24 November 2007

Prevent destruction of Slane' plea over councils proposal

CONSERVATION groups and residents in Slane are furious at a proposal which they fear will lead to construction of housing units in the village centre on land containing protected structures.

They have called for support at a public meeting next week to "prevent the destruction of Slane".

Their concerns arise from proposals in a variation of the new Meath County Council Development Plan, 2007-13. Known as the 'order of priority', the controversial proposal is a response to Dept of the Environment anxieties about the huge amount of land in Meath zoned for residential use although not yet built upon.

It offers a blueprint for the order in which land in 30 towns and villages around Meath, including Slane, could be released for planning applications up to 2013. '

The site's at issue in Slane are in the gardens of the former parochial house and on ground between this historic structure and the local church, as well as within the Cillrian and Mount Charles Lodge sites.

The Boyne Valley Trust (BVT), Slane Combined Residents Association (SCRA) and the Meath branch of An Taisce already have voiced grave concerns.

The BVT is hosting a public meeting in the ConyngHam Arms Hotel, Slane, next Tuesday, 27th November, at 8.30pm and has urged the public to attend to provide support "to prevent the destruction of Slane".

The new county development plan already has identified the need for 65 extra residential units in the village up to 2013, according to the SCRA. It is the naming of the location for the units, 30 in the grounds of Cillrian and Mount Charles Lodge and 35 in the gardens of the old parochial house and dwellings between this and the church, that has deeply perturbed and angered the residents and other interests in Slane.

According to the SCRA, these sites largely comprise protected structures, are within the core of the Slane village Architectural Conservation Area (ACA) and were considered "unsuitable for significant development within the last 12 months".

In addition, the number of houses seem out of scale with Slane's character and quality, would damage "irretrievably" the unique heritage quality of the village's designed integration of woodland, trees and buildings, they say. The group adds that the proposal overlooks a large land bank zoned for residential development in the 2001-2007 plan and does not take account of "serious infrastructural deficiencies" in the area, in terms of water and sewerage.

The BVT is "outraged", saying that it has complained to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, John Gormley. It understands that no Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) has been carried out.

A Meath An Taisce spokesperson was concerned on broadly similar grounds.

Meath County Council said that the proposed variation was subject to much consultation with members at area level before the full council resolved to put it on public display at the October meeting. The area council deliberations took place in private.

A county council statement added that the order of priority effectively identified available lands in each settlement which were "considered most suitable for release". This meant that priority would be given for the quantum of units available.

However, it added: "It should be noted that the identification of lands in phase one does not assume the lands will/can be developed upon immediately, as each planning application received by the planning authority for units on these lands will be assessed on its own merits and will be dependent upon the availability of necessary infrastructure. This is clearly set out in the supporting document for the Order of Priority currently on display". Regarding the SEA issue, the council said the law required that a variation be screened to ascertain if a full SEA was needed. The screening report prepared concluded that it was not required as the proposed variation sought to "phase the release of existing residentially zoned lands and as such will have a neutral impact on the wider environmental resources". The report was submitted to the prescribed bodies.

The order of priority variation (written text including the screening report and the maps) for all the 30 locations involved is available for inspection during normal working hours at the council's main offices, including the new location of the Meath planning department at Abbey Mall, Abbey Road, Navan.

Meath Chronicle

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