he clock is ticking on the latest large-scale planning application for Delgany.
Only this time it’s two separate applications for a total of 155 dwellings on the land already given a disputed SHD approval for 232 dwellings in February.
Someone’s clearly determined to squeeze a shiny new town inside this tiny old village, the planning authorities treating Delgany, Greystones and its neighbours like a Ponzi scheme.
People buying into the ideal of a quiet, seaside home in a picturesque part of Wicklow only to discover that, hey, all these new estates are really buckling all that beauty out of shape. And space. And school places.
With the deadline for objections on the two latest planning applications this Tuesday, September 7th (details below), we asked Delgany JR’s Gareth Madden to chart the village’s beleagured 2021 so far…
Back in February this year, Delgany residents woke up to the news that An Bord Pleanala had given permission to Drumakilla Developments to build a staggering 232 dwellings on the lands of the Carmelite Monastery in the centre of the village.
While we had all known about this overwhelming proposed development on such a small parcel of land, most residents had actually assumed that the developer was being hugely opportunistic and that ABP would refuse it. None the less, in order to make our voices heard, over 160 individual submissions had been lodged with ABP to appeal against these plans.
It was with absolute shock that we heard that ABP had dismissed all our submissions of appeal. We just could not fathom how such a huge density of housing in such a small village with heritage status could be given the go ahead. It was just nuts!
In late February, 12 concerned residents came together to discuss how we could appeal such a decision. The only appeal open to us was to seek a Judicial Review. This would be a hugely expensive undertaking with a suggested fee of anything between €30,000-to-€40,000 for legal professional and court fees. However, it was deemed that the risk of the ruination of our village warranted this action and the Delgany JR group was born.
With hard work from the committee, we understood that we could hopefully raise the money over a period of 12-18 months to pay for this review and we set up a fundraising committee to discuss activities to raise this money. What followed was quite incredible. We were absolutely bowled over by the community in their response and raised the full required amount in a matter of 5 weeks from several hundred individual donations. This amazing response not alone buoyed us up so much, it also showed us the propensity that the community felt in relation to saving the integrity of our small village. It really brought the community together.
The Judicial Review process has now begun, and it is likely that it will be Quarter 2 of 2022 before it goes in front of the courts for a decision. However, the story does not end there…
Fast forward to early August and we find out that Drumakilla has issued new planning applications to Wicklow County Council for a slightly amended development. This is seen by many as hedging their bets in the event that their current SHD application gets overturned by JR. So, in essence they are adding plans upon plans if their SHD does not go ahead.
The difference with the new plans as opposed to the SHD is that they are now splitting the site in two and have requested planning permission separately. While they have allowed for certain concessions by reducing the density somewhat, the new plans are still for a total of 155 housing units. While this may seem to be a good concession, it should not be seen this way.
The first reasoning being is that the amended number of units still far exceeds the Local Area Plan.
Our local Area Plan has zoned this site as residential with a density of up to 22 per hectare. The LAP outlines that a zoning of R22 should ‘provide for the development of sustainable residential communities up to a maximum density of 22 units per hectare and to preserve and protect residential amenity’.
The maximum figure of 22 is subject to many factors, and not a given. The size of the total two adjoining sites is approx. 6.1 hectares and the maximum allowable should be not more than 134 Units. The developer does understand this, however, he wants to test the planning process in wishing to maximise return by looking for permission for 155 units. The new plans are looking for 15% more than what he is allowed.
It is at this stage important to understand in perspective what a development of this size means for Delgany. Currently within a radius of 400 metres of the village, there are 218 existing houses. There are a further 94 houses that have confirmed planning permission but have yet to be built. And now with a newly proposed 155 dwellings, that will more than double the amount of housing you currently see today. Is this sustainable taking into account the state of our narrow roads and irreparable pavements?
The developer has remarked to other concessions that this development brings. The existing church building and annex will be provided as a community centre however no consideration has been given in order to pass disability certification requirements. And while they have now included for toilet facilities, they are notably limited given the capacity of the building. They propose to fund its upkeep for 3 years, however longer-term funding will be required so that it can be viable. WCC have indicated that they will not fund this. So, who will?
Indeed, this is not a present from the developer. It is a deed of covenant from the Carmelite nuns selling the lands that the existing buildings noted must be provided to the community.
While there is a small plaza proposed at the front of the development with a playground, what is proposed is just 1/8th the size of the play area in South Beach Greystones. And this for our last green site in Delgany?
One of the key areas of beauty in Delgany is our trees. The tree survey indicates that almost 2/3 of the viable trees on the site will be removed (116 trees / leaving just 49) to facilitate development. This will have a serious effect on habitat and wildlife. Many bat roosting sites will be lost. The lighting plan does not fully address the protocol required to protect bats. Changes to the design could enable retention of some of this important habitat. A local environmentalist has suggested this could be done with little impact on monetary returns for the developer.
It is worth noting (and seemingly suggested as being set as a benchmark against future development on this site) that WCC chief executive was against the SHD planning permission and recommended its refusal under the following measures;
•Density exceeded LAP and included apartments (not permitted by LAP) – This is still the case within this new current planning request. •Dominance of apartments – This is still the case within this new current planning request. •Concerns re viability of the proposed Community Centre – Again, still the case with these new plans.
It will be interesting to see if WCC keep these same views as before when summating these new plans. You would presume they will do, otherwise it would be seen as a total backtrack and mockery to any future commentary and recommendations for any other prospective planning in Wicklow.
The draft County Development Plan shows that for Greystones/Delgany a target of 634 dwellings are required by 2026. Since then, 875 have been completed and there are a further 1,050 under construction. The target total of further housing by 2031 is 1,078. We have seemingly reached that already in 2021. So why are we being forced to keep on building? And why would it be suggested that developers can build as many houses as they want over and above the LAP?
There answer is that the identified housing needs up to 2031 has already been met and there is no need for any more houses to be granted permission in Greystones – Delgany until after 2031.
However, there is a severe need for services to catch up; for example, we may have several schools but still a shortage of places. It is understood that nearly 100 local children were left without places in local schools this year. Also, and as anyone knows who lives in or close to Delgany, the village infrastructure (roads and pavements) is not appropriate at present for such a development.
As stated earlier, Delgany JR is not against development. It is true to say that as a nation we need houses and we certainly recognise that, but new houses must be built in the right location, in a sustainable way and above all in accordance with the relevant Local Area Plan. All developments must also be able to operate in a safe manner, both during construction and thereafter.
There will only be one opportunity to get the redevelopment of the monastery lands in Delgany right; the current proposals do not achieve this; they contravene the LAP, and as a consequence of the over-densification un-necessarily adversely impact the environment (stream, trees, bats), no road improvements, concerns about safety during construction and the public open space is much too small. All we want is the site to be developed as per the LAP, so that the development is sustainable.
We are hugely concerned at the level of construction traffic (most probably over a period of 3+ years) that this will bring into our village. The infrastructure of the village and Bellevue Hill is beyond breaking point and there is no way it can be deemed as suitable until which time the roads, pavements and access routes are very much improved.
All potential access roads for construction traffic present challenges; narrow in width, bends that are difficult to navigate, inadequate footpaths. The road infrastructure in the immediate vicinity is not sufficiently developed to be able to accommodate a large increase in traffic volume. There are minimal improvements planned for the Bellevue Hill road but it must be accepted that this road is very narrow, lacks a continuous footpath and is extremely dangerous both for vulnerable road users – including school children – and for motorists.
There is no safe pedestrian/cycle access to or in Delgany village and no development should take place there until the road has been upgraded to a safe standard. It should be a condition of planning that the necessary road improvements are completed prior to any commencement of construction.
Conclusion We recognise that this site is zoned for development for residential housing but would request that Wicklow planners give careful consideration to:
– Material contravention of the Local Area Plan regarding density and proposal to include apartments – The unnecessary environmental impact and lack of appropriately sized playground/public space that results from overly dense development. – The poor road network at all access points to this development. – The extent to which existing roads in the locality are already over capacity – Lack of public transport with no plan for improved services to Delgany and Greystones – Lack of school places locally – The level of development that has taken place in Delgany and Greystones in recent years – The number of housing units under construction or for which planning permission has been approved by Wicklow County Council
There are so many wrong things about what is being proposed by the developer. If only the developer would have reached out to the community and listened to us before he went ahead with these plans, it could have ended up as being marvellous. However, he has not afforded us this opportunity and have left us to fight for over development of our community.
If you are concerned about these plans, you have the opportunity to be heard, however the date for final submissions is very soon upon us on – this Tuesday 7th September. The developer is relying on ‘objection fatigue’ to push through plans. It is our chance to show him that we will never tire of wanting the best for our community.
The applications can be viewed on the Wicklow Planning site here, Carmelite reference #21959 and Bellevue reference #21960.
Objections cost €20 each, and should be submitted by September 7th. Separate submissions are required for each planning application, with further information on how to object explained here.
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