Saturday 1 March 2008

Call to halt rezoning in Dún Laoghaire area

SENIOR PLANNERS in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown have urged councillors not to rezone any more land in the county until after 2019, a move likely to be unpopular among developers, landowners and those seeking to buy houses in the area.

However, planners say there is no need for new rezoning and that enough land has already been earmarked for development to cope with the sustainable development of the county and provide sufficient housing for the next decade and beyond. The planners' advice comes four years after former minister for the environment Martin Cullen ordered the council to rezone additional land for housing because it had failed to satisfy the council's own housing strategy and regional planning guidelines.

Councillors are shortly to conduct an interim review of the County Development Plan 2004-2010. In most local authorities, when the development plan is reviewed, councillors seek additional rezoning. However, advising councillors ahead of the review, planners have said that enough land was zoned, not only to meet housing demand for the remainder of the current development plan, but for the next development plan from 2010-2016 and for three years beyond.

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown had the lowest population increase of any county between the census years 2002-2006 with just 2,246 additional people recorded as living in the area. The county also has an ageing population. The council's planners said that Dún Laoghaire's compact size and affluence means it is unlikely to suffer through decline in population in same way as a rural area.

The 2006 census showed population growth was not keeping pace with the construction of housing, which the planners said meant that housing units were constructed and were being left vacant. The regional planning guidelines state Dún Laoghaire should have just fewer than 35,000 new houses by 2016. The planners say that this may not be possible because of the slowdown in the housing market - however, they told councillors there is more than sufficient zoned land to accommodate these numbers.

Until now, the council has used a housing density figure of 49 units per hectare. This is based on average figures of housing per hectare in 2001 and 2002 and underestimates higher-density developments.

Planners state a figure of 79 units per hectare is more realistic. Currently there are about 657 hectares of zoned land in the county - if the new figure is applied, there is the potential for 45,935 units to be accommodated on available land.

A substantial amount of this land is located in Cherrywood and Sandyford. The planners estimate that Cherrywood could accommodate an additional 10,000 units, while an extra 7,000 homes could be built in Sandyford. The planners also said there are large tracts of undeveloped zoned land in Kiltiernan/Glenamuck, Old Conna, Shanganagh and on Dún Laoghaire golf course.

Councillors are likely to be well-disposed to the planners' advice, having resisted large-scale rezoning in 2004. Fianna Fáil councillor Barry Conway said it was vital to be conscious of the dangers of over-development. "The planners' . . . research . . . enables accurate planning decisions to be made by myself and other public representatives."

The Irish Times

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