As part of the creation of the new Fingal Development Plan for 2023-2029, my Dublin West Green Party colleagues, Cllrs Pamela Conroy and Daniel Whooley, and I, made the following submission for consideration.

If you would like to discuss any aspects of the development plan process, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me at roderic.ogorman@oir.ie.

Summary

We would like to make the following submission to the first stage of the new Fingal Development Plan 2023-2029.

Our submission covers all seven key themes set out in the Strategic Issues Paper, but many of the points we have made cross into other themes. In particular, we feel that climate action and universal design need to be central components of every aspect of the new Development Plan in order to ensure a sustainable county for people to live, work in and visit for many years to come.

Roderic O’Gorman, TD, Cllr Pamela Conroy and Cllr Daniel Whooley

Theme 1: People and Place

Universal design and accessibility

Fingal County Council recently stated that it “recognises the need for universal equality of access to all aspects of the built and external environment as an essential prerequisite of equal opportunity and the development of an inclusive society”.[1] We agree with this statement and believe that universal design and improved accessibility should be core elements of the new Development Plan. We also believe that it is essential that universal design and accessibility are considered carried across all aspects of the Development Plan.

The new Development Plan should make provisions to ensure that universal design is central to new development areas. The new Development Plan should also set out how the council intends to improve universal design and improve accessibility across all areas of Fingal which have already been developed. For example, walkability studies should happen in all locations to highlight where improvements can be made in all areas across the county, and the recommendations that come out of these studies should be implemented in a timely manner.

Housing

In order to ensure that the types of homes in new development areas will meet the future needs of residents, the new development plan should place an emphasis on providing homes which are flexible and can adapt and change according to the needs of those who live in them. In light of Government proposals to increase the obligation on developers to provide affordable housing and cost rental units in their developments, via amendments to Part V, there is an opportunity for developers to provide a greater variety of units within new developments, which would allow for greater mobility of people within their own communities. The new Development Plan should ensure that developers provide this variety.

Social and community infrastructure

Social and community infrastructure should be built in tandem with new residential areas, not afterwards. Where a developer has made a commitment to provide social infrastructure as part of a planning application, then the developer should follow through and provide that infrastructure. For example – where provisions are made for a café or a creche, then the developer should actively seek to make sure that these services are provided following completion of the development. Fingal should actively intervene in situations where developers attempt to evade their obligations to provide social and community infrastructure.

Fingal needs to continue to engage in a proactive way with the Department of Education in terms of identifying need for additional school places. In the context of this development plan, Fingal should also proactively engage with primary schools to get an up-to-date understanding of their enrolments, so as to understand potential impacts on the requirement for additional secondary schools.

Public spaces

Public places should be flexible and have a range of uses which bring communities together. New public spaces should be multi-use spaces which can transform from day use to night use. For example, a community square could be a farmers market during the day and then host a cultural or art performance at night.

The Development Plan should seek to reclaim public realm spaces, such as car parking spaces or roads, where possible, so that they can be used to bring communities together and have space to improve active transport.

Working hubs

Covid has shown us that many people are able to work outside the traditional central office space. Additionally, it has allowed people to see the benefits of working in the home, or closer to home. The new Fingal Development Plan should seek to provide remote working hubs within the community which will enable people to work outside the office, but also allow them to work outside the home in an environment where they can connect with other people in their community, if they wish. Additionally, working hubs should be available for those who have small businesses who need to set up an office and have no space in the family home in which to do so. Ideally these working hubs will be located in close proximity to childcare facilities enabling people to strike a better work/life balance.

Theme 2: Climate Action 

Agricultural/Green Space

As Fingal continues to have a significant agricultural sector, it is important that this is supported to act in a way that is climate conscious. Farmers or groups that seek to go further in terms of integrating an environmental or climate conscious approach to their agriculture – e.g. eco-villages, eco-agriculture, eco-community – should be facilitated in doing so within the agricultural planning use.

Fingal forms Dublin county’s boundary with Co. Meath. In certain areas, development has now reached all the way to the Meath county line. In terms of controlling urban sprawl, this Development Plan needs a specific policy in terms of whether Fingal wishes to see a clear, green-space boundary between Co. Meath and Dublin, or whether it is content for development to run all the way to the county boundary. This issue is particularly significant in Dublin 15, where currently the ‘Development Boundary’ marking keeps a small area of green space to the north, north-east and north-west of Hollystown, and another small area between Ongar and Clonee village.  The amount of agricultural or green space land between Dublin and Meath has continually been chipped away, in each successive development plan. This issue should be specifically addressed via a policy in this development plan. 

Rewilding

Provision should be made for rewilding of areas. Some of the large companies based in the Dublin 15 Area Enterprise Zone sit in large sites which are mowed and landscaped, but which contain little in the way of bio-diversity. This large companies should be encouraged to allow portions of their sites go wild, and it should be condition of new companies buying or leasing lands of Fingal that they will allow portions of their sites be re-wilded.

This approach to rewilding should be repeated, although on a smaller scale, on all open space land that Fingal has in its charge. Small, re-wilded areas should be provided for in all open space lands, particularly within housing estates.

Development standards to assist in the promotion and delivery of Climate Action

The Development Plan needs to include new development management standards that mandates the inclusion of green technologies into new buildings, be these residential, commercial or community focused. The development management standards should include measures that lesson energy usage, takes advantage of renewable energy, provides for improved ventilation and reduces heat-loss and allows for the capture and reuse of water.

To meet our national climate targets of net zero by 2050 and reducing our emissions by 50% by 2030, energy efficiency must be increased. The introduction of Low carbon District Heating schemes with in Fingal, for example reusing excess hear generated at data centres around the County, would help reduce the cost of living for communities, transition Fingal to a low carbon county and promote a circular economy

Theme 3: Connectivity and Movement

Key connectivity and movement issues in Fingal

There are several key connectivity and movement issues in Fingal. Many of our towns and villages are congested with large portions of them being given over to roads and parking for vehicles. Public transport is not frequent enough (or existent in some cases) in rural areas which limits the transport choices for those who live outside of our villages and towns. Where there are public transport links, these need to be improved through more frequent services. Orbital public transport links will allow residents to move across Fingal without having to first travel into the city centre.

In terms of active travel, we need more cycleways and improvements on pedestrian footpaths. Improvements in this area would facilitate those who wish to choose active travel as a mode of transport. Orbital cycleways and paths should be created. More bicycle parking should be available with spaces for cargo bikes being included. Plans should also be made to include charging points for electric bikes.

Universal design should be considered at all times when making improvements to connectivity and movement issues in Fingal. If you meet the mobility needs of our older citizens you meet the mobility needs of all citizens. For example, alternatives to kissing gates, which cause access problems for wheelchair users, prams and pushchairs, cyclists and those using cargo bikes, should be sought and installed. Our towns and villages, parks and main roads should have benches to allow for those with reduced mobility to rest if they need to, when they need to. Walkability studies will provide recommendations on how to improve our walkways so that they are designed for everyone. Our towns and villages should feature more accessible parking bays located in key areas. Where streets and roads are to be pedestrianised, consideration should be given to locating accessible parking nearby to enable those with reduced mobility to use them.

Improved co-ordination between land-use and transportation infrastructure

Public transport services links should be in close proximity to new developments so that they are easily accessible. All new developments should be connected by active travel and public transport links. New developments should also incorporate good cycleways and footpaths to encourage active transport. Bicycle parking should be located near public facilities in new developments and school streets and school zones prioritised.

Cyclist and Pedestrian safety

Cyclist and pedestrian safety can be improved in the new Development Plan by outlining the need for segregation of vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians. Cyclists and pedestrians should also be segregated from each other as far as possible. Footpaths and walkways should have minimal street furniture to minimise accidents. Foothpaths and cycleways should have proper lighting to minimise accidents and improve safety.

Theme 4: Employment, economy and Dublin Airport

Supporting business

During the Covid19 pandemic, Fingal County Council provided a wide range of supports and initiatives to help sustain businesses through the pandemic. Many businesses changed the way they work during the pandemic, with some of the new practices they adopted improving some aspects of their business. For example, providing the online trading voucher allowed many businesses which had a minimal online presence to gain new online customers. Another example was the promotion of Fingal based businesses through the shop local app which made communities aware of local businesses that they previously hadn’t used.  Fingal County Council should continue to provide such supports to businesses to allow them to grow and thrive.

Airport

While we recognise the importance of Dublin airport in terms of the employment opportunities and income it provides to the council, as well as its national importance, it is necessary to consider the impact that the airport has on the everyday lives of Fingal’s residents. We request that the new Development plan provides for the creation of an expert study group to conduct a full review of the impact of the airport on local communities, including those living in Hollystown and Tyrelstown and other Dublin 15 areas where the impact of the airport is felt. This expert study group should also outline what mitigation measures are necessary and the Development Plan should enable these measures to be put in place.

Theme 5: Cultural Heritage

Protection and enhancement of Fingal’s heritage resource

New developments should be mindful of Fingal’s heritage resource and should always seek to preserve and conserve this heritage for future generations. New developments should also seek to raise awareness of local heritage by incorporating that heritage into the development as much as possible. For example, one way that this could be done is by using logainm.ie to search the Fingal fieldnames project when naming developments and an explanation plaque could be erected explaining the heritage behind the name. Another example would be to integrate sites of archaeological significance into developments so that they become a feature of the development.

Heritage-led regeneration

Proper preservation and conservation of traditional and historic buildings is expensive. Often the costs associated with restoring these buildings means that those who own them are not in a position to carry out the necessary work which can result in the buildings falling into further disrepair. The Council should continue to actively engage with owners of these buildings to let them know when funding projects become available and should also offer any assistance they can, in terms of help with applications and sourcing appropriate materials and trades.

Some of these buildings would make appropriate tourist attractions, community spaces or working hubs. An assessment should be done to establish which of these buildings would be most suited to this purpose. Finding a use for the buildings can make it viable to restore and reuse them. If the buildings are occupied they are less likely to fall into a state of permanent disrepair.

Heritage centred tourism and heritage engagement

In order to attract tourism we could create a Fingal archaeological/heritage trail. The archaeological/heritage trail could be available on an app. QR codes could be used at heritage sites to enable tourists to scan the code and learn about the local heritage resource.

The global pandemic has enabled us to engage with heritage in ways that we have never engaged with it previously. Heritage Week and Culture Night took place primarily online in 2020 which enabled disparate and new audiences to take part. This should be built on and continued even when we return to ‘normal’.

The Fingal Archive could make more of its collection available online. Many archives have a document of the month which provides a means of highlighting an item in the collection and also talking about the history surrounding the document.

Fingal is a large county and a traveling exhibition which visits the various libraries and public buildings in the county would be another way of widening heritage engagement with new communities.

Sharing Fingal’s intangible heritage with future generations

Engaging with culture and heritage projects, such as logaimn.ie, when the opportunity arises ensure that Fingal’s heritage will be preserved, enabling it to be shared with future generations. The Fingal Archive should identify where there are gaps in knowledge and proactively undertake collection projects to collate this intangible heritage. Incorporating Fingal’s intangible heritage into new developments is a way of sharing it with future generations.

According to the 2016 census 36% of the population of Fingal can speak Irish. In order to share this with future generations it is important to provide an environment where engagement with the language can be nurtured. This could be done through the establishment of Irish Language centres across the county. These centres are hubs for sharing the intangible heritage of traditions, folklore, language and song in other areas where they have been set up across the country and they would enable this intangible heritage to be shared with others.

It should also be recognised that Fingal is now a diverse county with the tradition, folklore, language and song of many different cultures now being present across the county. It is important that the new Fingal Development Plan recognises this and provides places for new intangible heritage to be shared and celebrated.

Theme 6: Green Infrastructure and Natural Heritage

Enhancing the biodiversity

The new Development Plan should set out a procedure for ensuring no biodiversity loss in conservation areas. In order to protect biodiversity it is necessary to establish how to prevent biodiversity loss, including how establishing a starting point which can be used to assess the success of measures introduced to protect and enhance biodiversity.

Trees, hedgerows and woodland should be mapped on Fingal’s green infrastructure map and protected. For every tree or hedgerow that is removed, either to make way for new development or because it is necessary for health and safety reasons, double the amount removed should be planted, elsewhere if necessary.

Particular focus should be placed on protecting waterways and surrounding areas – the Liffey and Liffey Valley, the Tolka and Tolka Valley and the Royal Canal and adjoining lands.

Improving the Health and Wellbeing benefits of outdoor areas

The Health and Wellbeing benefits of outdoor areas can be improved in the Development Plan by ensuring proper amenities in outdoor areas. Beaches and parks should have proper toilet facilities, including changing places and gender neutral toilets. Free period products should be available in these facilities. Our outdoor areas should have proper seating available to enable those with mobility issues to also feel the health and wellbeing benefits of outdoor areas.

Creating cycleways and footpaths that go into the countryside would also improve the health and wellbeing benefits of outdoor areas. Fingal should engage with other local authorities where these cycleways and footpaths would cross their borders.

Theme 7: Infrastructure and Utilities

Toilets and changing places

Fingal needs more public toilets in all its towns, villages and parks. In addition to this there should be a changing place included in every town, village and park. Gender neutral public toilets should be created.

Water fountains

While we welcome the appearance of public water fountains in some locations, we feel that the new Development Plan should make it a requirement for a public water fountain to be placed in all towns, villages and parks. There should also be water fountains included along all greenways in the county.

Accessible parking spaces

A map of all the accessible parking spaces, including details of the space (is the kerb dished, the width and length of the space) should be created. This would allow residents and tourists alike to determine if suitable parking is available before travelling to a location in Fingal.

Charging points for electric cars and bikes

The new Development Plan should emphasise the need for more public charging points for electric cars and bikes. Where possible these could be incorporated into already existing street furniture, or in the case of new developments, into lighting which will be added as part of the development.

New energy generation technologies

The new Development Plan should anticipate new energy generation technologies by providing the flexibility for the council to undertake feasibility studies of them to see how they might benefit the County. There is no point in supporting and promoting them unless we know that they are going to be beneficial to the county, so feasibility first and then support and promote what will work.

Waste reduction and recycling

Through the new Development Plan Fingal should seek to drastically improve how waste reduction and recycling currently operate in the county.

At the moment we have a massive litter and fly tipping problem in the county. It is so bad that the council has created an advertising campaign around getting residents to check who is taking away their unwanted items to ensure that it is not someone engaged in fly tipping. We feel that the council should be changing the way access is provided to and recycling facilities. A large portion of the population does not have access to a vehicle to bring them to the local depot. The new Development Plan should consider creating more smaller depots which are accessible to a larger portion of the population.

Additionally, the council should operate a collection service for heavy or bulk items. This would mean that, for a small fee, the council will collect old washing machines etc and bring them to the depot which will reduce fly tipping.

A lot of items which end up in the depot are reusable. These items should be put to use instead of being dumped. The new Development Plan should set out a requirement for the council to investigate how this might be achieved, create a plan and implement it.


[1] Final Publish of Reports to the Public, Fingal Council Meeting, 8th February 2021, Item 39, Universal Design, Motion: Councillor P Conroy, p411