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Newcastle Getting Dumped On…?

Swinging by Newcastle this afternoon, we were once again struck by just how quiet this little Wicklow village is.

There may be two or three housing estates hidden around corners, but, on a lazy Saturday afternoon, the main street still sees just as many tractors and kids’ bikes as it does cars.

Well, all that might be about to change, as eagle-eyed local resident Kim Harris made clear last night.

Having spotted plans back in January for four houses, a duplex, five apartments and four retail units across the road from The Castle Inn (refused on March 3rd), last night, Kim was sending out an S.O.V. once again.

This time, the post was on behalf of a Newcastle resident smart enough not to have a Facebook account…

Our village is under threat.

Did you know that there is a planning application lodged with Wicklow County Council that could increase the inhabitants of our village by nearly 30%? Did you know that this is the first phase of a project that could have 4 phases? If they are all of the same size then this could more than double the population of the village in a short space of time.

From 924 people to 1,984, not an auspicious number. You may think that the planners would not allow this but that may not necessarily be the case. We should take nothing for granted.

Planning application number 20298 – for a development in a field next to the pub car park – was originally for 22 houses and 17 apartments. It has been revised to 40 houses and 13 apartments. Planning must take account of the affect of any developments on local amenities such as schools, roads, sewage treatment and other infrastructure. Doubling the number of people who live here will clearly have a major effect on the roads and schools. But what else?

You may wonder why now? There has been little large scale development in Newcastle for some years so what has happened to make developers think that such an application may succeed. The answer is sewage. We have all believed that the Newcastle plant was at capacity and hence no new houses could be added but we have heard lately that this is not correct. It seems that the people concerned with such issues decided that Newcastle was a ‘Dormitory’ village, meaning that many of the residents did not live here during the weekdays. As a result, they increased the capacity of the plant to 1,000 P.E. This stands for Person Equivalents and is much used in planning.

We are informed that the current load on the plant is 888 P.E., meaning that another 112 can be added. The Covid-19 issue will have thrown this type of planning into disarray as many more people work from home and this is likely to continue well after we all get our vaccinations. This means that the current planned estimate of a capacity 1,000 is too high.

If you examine the current application and use the established planning ratio to translate bedrooms into P.E., you will find that the P.E .number for the current application is 265. This would bring the P.E load on the plant to 1,153, meaning that the existing plant would be 15% overloaded. What does this mean?

Many possible things. Plant breakdown, more smells, many tankers taking away excess sludge and excess discharge into the Newcastle stream. A submission from Inland Fisheries Ireland, which can be viewed on the WCC planning application web site, states that the plant did not meet its emission targets in 2019. In other words, it is already discharging more effluent than it is supposed to.

This stream flows into the slobs between Newcastle and Kilcoole. The only way out of these slobs is through the breaches, narrow and tidal, and often blocked – so the effect on the environment could be far worse than if the stream directly discharged into the sea. This could have a bad effect on adjacent farms, wildlife and vegetation.

What can you do about this? Covid has prevented calling any meetings. The window for submitting any observations to WCC through the planning process is closed. You can contact your local representatives and ask them to raise the issue with the Planning Department and Water Departments of WCC.

It is not too late to save the Newcastle we live in and which we love.

The comments below the post were a tad divided and even a little passionately so at times, from nays such as  ‘Concrete jungle, no, no, no‘ and ‘Once these spaces are gone there is no way to get them back‘ to yays such as ‘Build the houses for our children and their children‘ and ‘I’m 21 and personally, I would love to continue to live in Newcastle and eventually own my own house‘.

One family who would certainly welcome the arrival of the 53 new homes – and more – is the Doyle clan, owners of the neighbouring Castle Inn. Oh, and owners of the plot of land in question too.

You can check out the planning application here, along with the plans themselves here.