450 acres of farmland rezoned for development in north Co Dublin

 

Large tracts of agricultural land in north Co Dublin amounting to more than 450 acres have been rezoned for development by Fingal County Council, mainly for suburban housing.

The rezonings were recommended by the county manager, Mr William Soffe, and approved by councillors at a marathon meeting which finally adjourned at 10 o'clock last night without completing its agenda.

Just over 290 acres around Swords were rezoned for housing, with a further 143 acres rezoned for industrial uses. A further 299 acres near Portmarnock, 91 acres north of Baldoyle and 89 acres in Malahide are also proposed for rezoning.

Mr Soffe denied he had been influenced by representations from landowners in proposing the rezoning of such large tracts of land as part of the new county development plan, currently under consideration.

"Not a single developer or landowner was seen or met by me in advance of the preparation of this plan," he said. He was referring to an allegation by Mr Sean Ryan TD (Labour) at a meeting last week that Cllr Anne Devitt (FG) had been escorting developers and land-owners to meetings with the council's planners prior to the plan being published.

Ms Devitt, who was elected to represent Swords seven years ago, angrily denied the allegation, saying it was totally untrue. She called on Cllr Ryan to withdraw it, which he did.

She said the latest development plan for Swords, which was adopted last night by 15 votes to five, bore a "tremendous resemblance" to a plan she had put forward in 1993 in collaboration with another local councillor, Mr Cyril Gallagher (FF).

Mr Soffe explained that there was a need for substantial rezonings in the Swords area because it was being developed as Fingal's county town with a population target of 50,000. He referred to plans to upgrade its sewage treatment plant to cater for the planned development and also pointed out that "indicative" routes for a Luas light rail line linking Swords and Dublin Airport with the city centre were also being included.

Ms Devitt congratulated the county manager on his vision for Swords. She had earlier agreed to withdraw a motion tabled by herself and Mr Gallagher which would have rezoned a further 150 acres of greenbelt.

The land in question is located just north of a large mixed-use zone proposed for the area around the airport and forms part of a continuous greenbelt extending westwards from Portmarnock to the Kildare county boundary.

Proposing the motion to rezone it, Mr Gallagher described the land as a "small farm" which had been owned by the same family for 50 years.

Ms Devitt said there was already a "substantial" concrete plant on part of the land and she was concerned that the owners would be able to develop it. However, Mr Soffe said this could be dealt with under the normal planning process.

Cllr Michael Kennedy (FF) said that while he supported the idea of a green "buffer zone", it would have the effect of restricting the "democratic rights" of the landowners. But Cllr Tom Kelleher (Labour) said the land formed part of a green lung between Swords and the airport and was very actively farmed at present. Like the planners, he could not see any valid reason why the zoning should be changed.

An attempt by Cllr Peter Coyle (Labour) to have a 31-acre site at Mountgorry, east of Swords, revert to greenbelt status was defeated by 14 votes to three, with five abstentions, after council officials explained that it had been zoned for industry since 1972.

Mr Joe Higgins TD (Socialist) said the county council was being blackmailed by the landowners "so that they can make an even bigger killing". Late last night the councillors voted through, by substantial majorities, the rezoning of several small, isolated parcels of land between Malahide and Kinsealy for luxury low-density housing against the county manager's advice.

These rezonings were proposed by three Malahide councillors, Mr G.V. Wright TD (FF), Cllr Michel Kennedy (FF) and Cllr Philip Jenkinson (FG), in the face of claims by Labour colleagues that they would do nothing for firsttime house-buyers.