Chips are down over Punches Cross student apartments plan

Labour Party councillor Joe Leddin at the Punches Cross site.

NO off licence or fast food outlets will be tolerated at a proposed student accommodation development at Punches Cross.

That was the strong message from Labour Party councillor Joe Leddin at a special meeting in City Hall about the 100-apartment development this Monday.

Councillors met to discuss an application to An Bord Pleanála from Cloncaragh Investments for permission for a strategic housing development at the Punches Cross site.

The plan incorporates 70 student apartments with 326-bed spaces and 30 ‘build-to-rent’ apartments with 104-bed spaces. It is also proposed that two retail units be included in the development.

Cllr Leddin made it clear to the council executive that there was no room for fast food outlets or an off licence as part of the development.

He expressed disappointment that the developers had not taken the opportunity to engage with local residents about their plans.

“To create a community you must build relationships,” he declared.

He called for a review on the current fast track planning process, which facilitates developers looking to bypass local Councils in securing planning permission for large-scale housing developments within a 16- week timeframe.

The process provides for a minimum of two pre-planning meetings between applicants and planners but does not provide or require any public consultation process in the form of public meetings.

“The proposed development has raised concerns locally in the context of the proposed height reaching to several stories and also the potential traffic implications on adjacent roads.

“While it’s great to have a site that has been derelict for over 20 years developed it is important that any new buildings enhance the surrounding area. I welcome clarification from the planners that the proposed two retail units will not displace existing local businesses and that no food outlets will be permitted.”

Cllr Leddin also asked that consideration be given towards the placement of the higher storey buildings to the rear of the site rather than on the Rosbrien and Ballinacurra Road side.

“With increased demands for student accommodation and the University now planning to facilitate over 1,000 students in their new city centre building, this facility, will help meet future accommodation needs,” he said.

Fine Gael councillor Daniel Butler hit out at the developers for not getting off to the best start because of a lack of public consultation. He suggested that management would be needed on site 24/7 to deal with “key issues” as they arise in the construction phase and also when the apartments are finished.

Fianna Fáil councillor Kieran O’Hanlon feared the development would be a “blight on the area” and warned of the impact antisocial behaviour could have.

He added that the 430 students living there would have to be properly managed, particularly during RAG Week.

Fine Gael councillor Dan McSweeney, who is studying Law and Taxation at Limerick Institute of Technology (LIT), said he has seen this type of antisocial behaviour firsthand. However, he added, that not all students behaved badly.

He went on to question the need for student accommodation in the Rosbrien area.

“There are student apartments at LIT which they can’t even rent out,” he said.

Cllr Abul Kalam Azad Talukder (FF) felt it was their job as local representatives to ensure that both the local community and new student population are kept happy.

“I worked in the Stables Bar 20 years ago and saw very closely how students behave. They are not bad at all. They are very young. They must be managed so that there is no antisocial behaviour,” he added.