Yesterday, the Minister for Environment Alan Kelly introduced new guidelines on apartment standards, which will result in smaller apartments in urban areas. I believe this represents another cave-in to the developer lobby led by the Construction Industry Federation and IBEC.
The Minister claims he is doing this in order to improve supply, but there is absolutely no evidence that higher apartment standards are blocking the development of land in our cities. There is absolutely no way to guarantee that any decrease in costs for developers will be passed onto the buyer. So in reality, Minister Kelly’s intervention may well increase builders’ profit margins.
The measure being introduced by Minister Kelly is yet another cave in to the developer lobby. In 2013, the Government removed the 80% tax on the profits from rezoned land. Subsequently, the social and affordable requirement for newly built estates was reduced from 20% to 10%. When Alan Kelly became minister, he wrote to local authorities in the Dublin region, warning them not to increase standards for houses. And recently, Minister Kelly has reduced development contributions for developments where the homes will be sold for less than €300,000.
The only policy measure that might impact negatively upon developers is the vacant site levy. However, this will not kick in till 2019, and it’s designed in such a way that it is going to be very difficult to implement. The developer lobby is now setting public policy when it comes to housing. We saw how well that worked during the building boom.
I was speaking on the Last Work on this issue yesterday. You can listen here it here at 5:30.
Fingal have agreed to examine flooding at the M50 pedestrian tunnel
I’m delighted that the Council has agreed to look at the drainage at the M50 pedestrian tunnel and to consider works on it in 2016. At times of heavy rain, this tunnel becomes heavily flooded with up to two foot of water and becomes almost impassable. The tunnel is used by many pedestrians and cyclists, but in particular, by parents and children travelling to Castleknock Educate Together National School.
I submitted a question to the Council about this, following on from queries from parents of children in the school.
Considering the levels of rain we have experienced this winter, it is necessary for the Council to undertaken works here. The flooding at this point is extremely bad and causes really difficulties for parents and children traveling to Castleknock ETNS.
I’m calling on Fingal County Council management to address the difference in treatment between Dublin 15 and the rest of Fingal in respect of opening hours for recycling centres. Across Dublin City, South Dublin and Dun Laoghaire Councils, recycling centres are generally open six days a week. However, within Fingal, only the Estuary Recycling Centre in Swords opens six days a week, while the centre in Coolmine only opens for four days.
Even within that, the opening times at Coolmine are less than those in Swords. The Estuary Recycling centre opens six days a week, usually from 8:00am to 6:00pm, compared to Coolmine, which only four days a week from 9:00am to 4:00pm.
I am proposing that an extra days opening should be provided for in Fingal budget next year. In response to a question I submitted, Council management claims that this will cost an extra €150,000. This is a shocking figure. I fail to see why the Council cannot arrange for a more equitable division of resources between the Coolmine and Swords centres. People are eager to recycle and do their bit. Fingal should be making this as easy as possible, by providing more flexible opening periods.
I will continue to pursue this issue with Council management during the year in order that greater provision is made for the Coolmine Recycling Centre in next years Council budget.
In response to a motion I put down at the Local Area Committee this week, Fingal County Council have basically accepted that the Bus Rapid Transit scheme from Ongar to UCD isn’t going to happen within the next five years. This is a huge let down for commuters across Dublin West, as this scheme would have had the potential to significantly decrease journey times into the city centre and out to UCD.
The Council, who had been working with the National Transport Agency on initial plans for the BRT, noted that no funding has been provided for this in the 2016-2021 Capital Infrastructure Plan. While the Department of Transport have stated that they are still considering the project (in a response to a query from the Gazette Newspaper), it is obvious that no money will be provided in the next five years.
This news is deeply worrying. In the Greater Dublin Area Draft Transport Strategy, the BRT is regarded as the major transport solution for the Ongar/West Blanchardstown area. There would be those of us who think it isn’t enough to meet Dublin 15’s public transport needs, but it was the only scheme on the table. Now, it isn’t going to get funding.
The Government’s recently published Capital Infrastructure Plan has delivered little for Dublin West in terms of improving our public transport infrastructure. As new houses are built in Carpenterstown, Ongar and Ashtown, we need sustained investment in public transport infrastructure to allow people commute easily in and out of the city.
Response from Fingal County Council
Last Sunday, myself and many Green Party members joined people from all over the country to highlight the vital climate change negotiations that are taking place in Paris over the next two weeks. Similar marches were taking place in cities all over the world.
All countries, particularly those in the developed world, are going to have to make major efforts to cut their CO2 emissions. In Ireland, the Green Party is calling for three key measures, and end to the burning of both peat and coal for power generation and also a commitment to leave any shale gas reserves in the ground and not engage in ‘fracking’.
These issues will form an important element of the Green Party manifesto in the upcoming general election.
The completed 1st draft of the Fingal County Development Plan 2017-23 will be made available to county councillors this Friday, 4th December.
I’ll be holding a public information evening on Tuesday 8th December to allow Dublin 15 residents see examine the draft. I will have the maps, and some laptops with the written statement on it.
As a county councillor, I can submit motions between 4th Dec and 4th Jan. I hope this meeting will give residents the opportunity to make suggestions to me on motions that I would submit to improve the 1st draft.
The meeting will take place in Diswellstown Community Centre, behind St. Patricks National School, off the Diswellstown Road, commencing at 8:00pm.
I have written to the Minister for Transport to urge him to investigate the creation of ‘community rail partnerships’ in Ireland, with a pilot project being established along the Maynooth line.
The potential closure of level crossings along the Maynooth line, and their replacement with potentially very large bridges, has been an issue of concern for residents along the line in recent years. In the winter of 2013-14, an attempt was made by Irish Rail and Fingal County Council to close the Porterstown Road level crossing and replace it with a pedestrian bridge. The moves were strongly opposed at the time and eventually, the plan was withdrawn. Residents at other level crossing points, like the Coolmine Road and Ashtown level crossings, are now concerned about potential moves to shut level crossings and replace them with large, unsightly bridge. The recently published Draft Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area 2016-35 outlines that the closure of level crossings is still a goal (p49).
The botched attempt to close the Porterstown Road level crossing should serve as a model of how not to deal with these issues, and it is hoped that the relevant State agencies have learned from this experience. Any engineering solutions proposed in conjunction with level crossing can only be successful if they have the support of local residents. This requires a structured approach where affected residents can have meaningful engagement with the State agencies involved.
I believe that Irish Rail/NTA should follow the model of Transport Scotland and initiate Community Rail Partnerships to bring together various stakeholders who will be impacted by proposals to close level crossings. These “form a bridge between the railway and local communities, bringing together a wide range of interests along a rail corridor” and are funded by the Scottish Transport Department.
I believe that this model, which seems to be working successfully in Scotland, could be introduced in Ireland, with the Maynooth line as the initial pilot project. I have strongly urged the Minister to examine this proposal as a means of achieving more amicable resolutions to future disputes about level crossings.