CLARE county councillors have backed a controversial proposal to rezone lands on the outskirts of Limerick city for housing, despite strong advice from a senior planner against the move.
At a special meeting to adopt the draft Clare County Development Plan 2017-23, councillors voted in favour of zoning parcels of land in the south-east and south of the county for housing — against the planning advice from acting senior executive, Ger Dollard, who warned both areas have enough land zoned for development.
And the vote – mainly carried by the Fianna Fáil group – went ahead despite vocal opposition from a number of councillors, including Fianna Fail’s Cathal Crowe. The members voted 11-6 in favour with seven abstentions
One of the contentious rezonings related to lands owned by Eveleen Whelan at Blackwater, Ardnacrusha, who was seeking 12 acres of the 24-acre plot to be rezoned.
The second proposal concerns 4.5 hectares owned by Kieran Aherne at Meelick in south-east Clare Both landowners are seeking the rezoning of 4.5 hectares of land to “low density residential”.
In his report, Mr Dollard said there were already four parcels of undeveloped land zoned for low density residential within the current boundary of the area.
He stated: “I have further concerns in relation to the location of the subject lands on the periphery of the settlement. I consider it preferable to develop lands close to the core of the village before peripheral lands are zoned for development.”
Mr Dollards explained that the quantum of zoned land, at 6.7 hectares, to meet the population target for Ardnacrusha during the lifetime of the plan has already been provided for.
“To exceed the quantum by zoning further lands would be contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area,” he said.
In September, the proposals will go out to public consultation and the decision will depend on public response.
But, because the re-zonings would go against planning advice, it is possible that they could be overthrown by Ministerial decree.
Zoning the lands in question for housing would add significantly to their value. But the zoning is an outline only and does not guarantee any specific developments, improvements or new amenities.
Cllr Cathal Crowe opposed the proposal pointing out that the same proposal had been discussed and rejected on three previous occasions by Shannon councillors.
“We dealt with this on three occasions. This was an eleventh hour attempt to resurrect something the councillors had already rejected and which the planning officers and legal advisors had strongly advised against,” he told the Limerick Post.
“I stood my ground and I believe I acted honestly and with integrity. I looked at each submission and I voted as I felt was appropriate for good planning”.
Independent councillor, P.J. Ryan proposed the new zoning and he told the Limerick Post that he supported the proposals on a number of grounds.
“There is a serious sewerage problem in Meelick and this is the only site that could connect to the Limerick main, otherwise the existing three sites won’t be able to go ahead.
“At Brennan’s Cross there is a bend where there have been a number of fatalities and we need land from the developer to re-align it.
“Most of Ardnacrusha is already zoned. We have told the potential developer that we also need land reserved for recreation”.
Cllr Ryan agreed that there is no detail of any planning application for either site at this point but said he would “oppose any application unless what has been discussed is incorporated”.