An Bord Pleanála’s decision this week to block one of the biggest residential housing developments in the State will go down like the proverbial lead balloon in the Department of Housing, which is being flayed for the slow supply response to the housing crisis.
Developer Michael Cotter's firm Viscount Securities had submitted plans for 927 housing units at Clay Farm in Leopardstown under the Government's new "fast-track" planning system, which bypasses local authority decision-making and promises to get large-scale projects through the State's planning system within three months.
While the planning authority has said on various occasions that it is happy to facilitate this new system to address the current housing crisis, it can’t exactly throw out the planning rules at the same time.
The board’s issue with the Clay Farm scheme was that the applicant had not provided adequate information in relation to storm-water management on site or on the adjoining sites, which are prone to flooding.
The decision to refuse was decided by a casting vote from the chair of the board.
Flooding is becoming a bigger and bigger issue in Ireland and it seems the board had well-founded concerns. Parts of the €550 million Gort to Tuam motorway, which was knowingly built on a flood plain, may have to be lifted to avoid persistent flooding in the area, according to experts.
An Bord Pleanála is considering several other planning applications for big housing schemes under the Government's Strategic Housing Development system, which allows developers to bypass local-authority planning processes for developments of more than 100 homes, or blocks of 200 student bed spaces.
The price of the new system is that there are no appeals and so Viscount Securities will now have to take its place at the back of the queue and begin the application process all over again, presuming it still wants to go ahead with the plan.