Green Party Dublin West representative, Roderic O’Gorman has appealed the decision of Fingal County Council to grant planning permission for a large residential development in Diswellstown to An Bord Pleanala.
“I’m appealing the decision of Fingal County Council to grant planning permission for a large residential development of 438 units in Diswellstown, to an An Bord Pleanala. The key ground on which I am appealing is the failure of the Council and of the developers, Viscount Securities, to take account of the Sustainable Resident Development Guidelines. The Guidelines clearly state that no residential development should proceed without an assessment of existing school capacity or the provision of new school facilities with the development. The Guidelines recommend that planning applications for more than 200 dwelling units should be accompanied by a report identifying the demand for school places likely to be generated by the proposal and the capacity of existing schools in the area to meet the demand”, stated Roderic O’Gorman.
“In the environmental impact statement (EIS) submitted by the applicants, they gave a brief description of the schools capacity in the area. Fingal County Council put a condition when they granted planning permission stating that the small piece of land in front of St. Patricks NS should be kept free of development in order to allow future development of the school. However, with this condition there is nothing compelling the applicant to transfer the land to the Department of Education. Effectively this land could be left in perpetuity as open space. I and the Dublin West Green Party group believe that this is a completely insufficient attempt to address the requirements of the Guidelines”.
“Over the last 5 years, there have been huge problems in the Dublin 15 area in relation to shortages of school places at both primary and secondary level. These shortages have been covered extensively in the media and have reached crisis point in places such as Ongar and in Diswellstown/Carpenterstown. The reason that the 2008 Guidelines were introduced by the Minister for the Environment John Gormley, was to ensure that the habit of permitting large residential developments without any consideration of the availability of school places in the locality, was finally ended”.
“In light of these concerns about the inadequate provision for school places in the area, we argue that Fingal County Council’s grant of planning permission should be overturned as premature. Alternatively, we would suggest that An Bord Pleanala use powers under the Planning Act to attach a much stronger condition on the grant of planning permission requiring that the applicant enter into an agreement requiring that the site in front of St Patricks NS should be used solely for school use”, concluded Roderic O’Gorman.
Roderic O’Gorman: 087 417 9777
In making this appeal, we refer the Board to a number of pieces of documentation, namely the relevant sections of the Sustainable Resident Development in Urban Areas – Guidelines for Planning Authorities, the EIS drawn up by the applicants, the additional information sought by Fingal County Council and the final grant of planning permission with conditions from Fingal County Council.
We also attach as an appendix a presentation drawn up by the Dublin 15 Community Council (taken from their website) regarding the need for a new secondary school in the area (which was recently agreed. We attach this to illustrate the huge growth in primary school number that have occurred in the Dublin 15 area over the past 5 years.
Sustainable Residential Development in Urban Areas – Guidelines for Planning Authorities (Dec 08)
4.3 No substantial residential development should proceed without an assessment of existing schools capacity or the provision of new school facilities in tandem with the development.
4.4 Within the development management process, it is recommended that planning applications for 200+ dwelling units should be accompanied by a report identifying the demand for school places likely to be generated by the proposal and the capacity of existing schools in the vicinity to cater for such demand. In very large-scale residential developments (say, 800+ units), planning authorities must consider whether there is a need to link the phased completion of dwellings with the provision of new school facilities.
Response of the Applicant to the Guidelines, as outlined in the EIS
S.3.4.4 of the Environmental Impact Statement deals with schools in the area. The applicants acknowledge that both primary schools in the immediate area – St. Patricks and St. Mochtas – “are at capacity at present”.
S.4.7 “The impact of the proposed development on Primary and Post-Primary Schools is not likely to be significant, given the provision of a new primary school on the subject lands and the provision for its expansion”.
“ … a new 24 classroom Primary School (St. Patricks NS) has recently been constructed and is now operational. This school site was provided by the applicants to assist in meeting Primary School needs in the development of the subject lands. However, the school is now nearing capacity and provision has been made by the applicants to allow for an extension to the school by assigning a potion of lands for such purpose. This assigned land does not form part of the Planning Application”.
Additional Information sought by Fingal CC
Additional Information Point 3 – “Having regard to the scale of the proposed development and the limited capacity of St. Patricks National School and other primary schools in the Dublin 15 area you are requested to incorporate the lands immediately to the north of St Patricks School into the development. These lands should be included within the red line of the application site and proposals to remove the existing palisade fence and provide new fencing around these lands and the existing school site should be submitted.
This open space should not form part of the overall open space requirement. These lands are to be made available for the use of St. Patricks National School only and should be clearly annoted on revised plans as such”.
Final Planning Condition Imposed by Fingal CC on grant of planning permission
Condition 4: The rectangular area measuring c.4544sqm to the north and immediately contiguous with St. Patricks Primary School shall be kept free from development, and shall be maintained to a satisfactory standard in accordance with the requirements of the Planning Authority. REASON: In order to allow for the future expansion of St. Patricks Primary School.
Argument from Dublin West Green Party
We believe that the response of Fingal CC and of the applicants to the requirement in section 4.3 & 4.4 of the 2008 Guidelines has been completely inadequate.
Over the last 5 years, there have been significant problems in the Greater Dublin Area in relation to shortages of school places at both primary and secondary level. These shortages have been covered extensively in the media and have reached crisis point in places such as Balbriggan, Ongar and in Diswellstown/Carpenterstown (the locality of the application). The reason that the 2008 Guidelines were introduced by the Minister for the Environment was to ensure that the habit of permitting large residential developments without any consideration of the availability of school places in the locality, was ended.
As noted above, the application itself acknowledges that local schools are at capacity at the moment. The application describes St. Patricks as a “new” school. We note that St. Patricks is now operating on its current site for 3 years and is already sending 6th classes to join local secondary schools.
Despite the lack of capacity in local primary schools, the only measure that it taken in the final grant of planning permission is that the 4544sqm land to the north of St. Patricks NS is to be kept free form future development. There is no guarantee that this land will ever be used for educational purposes. Indeed, nothing in the condition itself makes any reference to its use for educational purposes. There is nothing compelling the applicant to transfer the lands. Effectively, it could be left in perpetuity as open space.
It is clear from its original request for Additional Information – where it wanted the site to the north of St Patricks included within the development area itself – that Fingal CC had wanted a more robust means of ensuring that provision for extra education capacity would be made by the applicants.
In light of these concerns about the inadequate nature of the provision for education capacity in the area, which we argue fails to meet the requirements of the 2008 Guidelines, we argue in the first place that Fingal CC’s grant of planning permission should be overturned as premature.
As an alternative, we would request the Board attach a condition to the grant of planning permission requiring that the applicant enter into a S.47 agreement requiring that the use of the 0.4544 ha site that it be used solely for school use.