Several elected members of Clare County Council voted for the rezoning of three different lands despite the recommendations of acting Chief Executive Officer Ger Dollard.
Independent Cllr PJ Ryan proposed all three areas be rezoned despite Dollard already opposing this at previous meetings of the Shannon Municipal District. However Ryan secured enough backing to go against the acting CEO at a special meeting of the local authority to adopt the Clare County Development Plan 2017-2023.
Ryan first proposed that an amendment be made to Dollard’s decision on the submission of Eveleen Whelan. Ms Whelan sought the inclusion of 12 acres of a 24 acre plot at Blackwater, Ardnacrusha in the Development Plan for Low Density Residential development. It is submitted that the lands adjoin an existing residential cluster and have access to the pubic road.
In his response, Ger Dollard noted “the subject lands are located on the periphery of the settlement, in an area that is predominantly rural in character. The lands are located to the rear of an existing line of houses in an area where in-depth development is not desirable at this time, given the availability of lands for in-depth development closer to the services and amenities at the core of the settlement”
Mr Dollard said the quantum of zoned land, at 6.7 hectares, to meet the population target for Ardnacrusha during the lifetime of the plan has already been provided for. “To exceed the quantum by zoning further lands would be contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area,” he stated.
Cllr Ryan highlighted that part of the area was already zoned. Fianna Fáil’s Tom McNamara sought clarification on whether this particular location was discussed by the Shannon Municipal District to which his party colleague Cathal Crowe responded by telling him it was rejected three times.
Whitegate Cllr Pat Burke of Fine Gael criticised representatives from the Shannon area for not being able to come to a resolution themselves “A last minute job that we’re being asked to vote on”. Gerry Flynn responded to these remarks by citing the “wicked pressure” all of the Councillors were put under with emails, phonecalls and more, the Independent maintained “I don’t bow to pressure”.
A vote was carried on the issue with eleven voting in favour, six opposed it while seven elected members abstained.
Another vote was required as the recommendation of the acting CEO was questioned by PJ Ryan in relation to land owned by Kieran Aherne in Ballyhannon North which has an estimated area of 4.5ha and lies to the west of the existing Eton Court housing estate, but lies outside the Ballycannon North settlement in the Draft Development Plan.
Mr Aherne submits that the land enjoys the benefit of frontage onto two roads and could form a defined gateway to the existing village of Meelick from Brennan’s Cross and is located adjacent to the existing sewage plant. He requested that the planning authority rezone the subject lands as additional “Low Density Residential”.
In his reply Ger Dollard outlined a number of concerns. “There are four parcels of undeveloped land zoned for Low Density Residential with the current boundary of the settlement. This quantum of land is in line with Core Strategy requirements. Constraints in the waste water treatment infrastructure serving the village will need to be resolved prior to development of these zoned lands.
“I have further concerns in relation to the location of the subject lands on the periphery of the settlement. I consider it preferable to develop lands close to the core of the village before peripheral lands are zoned for development. Further, the proximity of the site to Brennan’s Cross and the poor road alignment in this area raises serious concerns in relation to traffic safety in terms of access and egress from the site”.
Speaking in the Council Chamber this week, Meelick Cllr Cathal Crowe flagged the infrastructural deficits of the site and said there already been plenty of discussion outside of the chamber. “It was chatted about in the pub all weekend so everyone knows the vote”.
PJ Ryan told elected members about the major sewerage problem in Meelick and believed this could alleviate the problem and give the possibility of opening a playground in the future. Fine Gael Cllr John Crowe who seconded all of Ryan’s three proposals backed what he had to say on this matter.
Gerry Flynn again insisted that he doesn’t bow to pressure and revealed he would be accepting the views of the acting CEO and voting against Ryan’s proposal. “I’m not an engineer it’s not up to me to decide if it’s suitable or not” the Independent Cllr said.
Sinn Féin’s Mike McKee referred to the junction in the submission as “one of the most horrendous I’ve come across, I never liked it and never will”. He was hopeful rezoning the land would make it safer.
Cllr James Breen reminded members of the local authority that “zoning doesn’t mean planning, anybody that thinks anything else is living in cuckoo land”. Michael Begley said “the active core of Meelick is right adjacent to this development”, he maintained that the onus would be on the developer to carry out the necessary works.
Prior to the vote, Ger Dollard cautioned elected members of Clare County Council as he maintained the land should not be zoned. His pleas fell on deaf ears as sixteen councillors voted in favour of rezoning the land.
The final amendment voted on by representatives was once again proposed by Independent Cllr PJ Ryan. NAPS on behalf of Michael Enright requested the zoning of 2.7 hectares of land located between clusters Drumline 1 and Drumline 2 in Newmarket-on-Fergus.
Dollard felt this land was already under strong urban pressure from Shannon, Sixmilebridge and Newmarket-on-Fergus. “This is a large unserviced site is located within the open countryside and completely detached from clusters Drumline 1 and Drumline 2, which are themselves composed of single rural houses. To zone an isolated area of land for residential development, outside of, and at a distance from, any existing settlement would lead to an ad hoc pattern of development which would be contrary to proper planning and sustainable development”.
Rezoning the land would help sustain the numbers at Clonmoney N.S. according to Cllr Ryan who highlighted a very bad bend in the road and hoped to see it removed. Ten councillors voted in favour of the motion, eight abstained and five opposed and it was therefore carried.