Dempsey queries rezoning of land allotted to railway


The Minister for the Environment, Mr Dempsey, has intervened in a dispute over land rezoning in south Meath by requesting the county council to explain how its latest plans are in line with public policy.

A seven-page letter to the council, written by Ms Mary Moylan, assistant secretary at the Department of the Environment and dated December 15th, requests a report within four weeks on the "apparent conflict" with the strategic planning guidelines for the greater Dublin area.

The guidelines, published in April 1999, were intended to provide an overall strategic framework for seven local authorities, including Meath, Kildare and Wicklow County Councils, to ensure the orderly provision of water, sewerage and transport services in the region.

Expressing "serious concerns" about the latest round of land rezoning, Ms Moylan says the council "should note that the continued growth of the south Meath towns/villages as part of the unrestrained growth of the Dublin region was specifically rejected in the strategic guidelines."

The letter takes particular exception to the proposed rezoning of 250 acres of land north of Clonee, adjoining Meath's boundary with Fingal, for a large business park on a scale that "far surpasses the area of land zoned for industry in any of the targeted towns" in the county.

Referring to the rezoning of 120 acres of greenbelt east of the old railway line in Dunboyne, Ms Moylan told the county council that this proposal, which is strongly opposed locally, would constitute "a piecemeal approach to the development of this future transportation corridor".

Her letter, which has been seen by The Irish Times, also describes the proposed rezoning as "premature" pending a detailed feasibility study, as provided for in the draft county plan, of a rail link between Dublin and Navan using the former railway line.

The letter points out that agreement in principle only has been reached on the future transportation corridor. However, because the proposed rezoning in Dunboyne encompasses the railway line itself, it "could compromise the reservation of that line for public transport."

Ms Moylan, who heads the Department's planning division, has also complained that none of the issues she had raised in an earlier letter to the council on May 30th about proposals for a "new town" at Kilbride, just across the county boundary with Fingal, had been addressed.

The Kilbride land, which is owned by Bovale Developments Ltd, would accommodate about 2,000 new homes if its draft rezoning is confirmed by Meath County Council.

The council's planners advised against the scheme because it conflicts with the strategic planning guidelines.

The councillors sought to overcome this anomaly by amending the draft county plan to include a "new town" at Kilbride as an objective in the strategic guidelines. But Ms Moylan has described this move as particularly inappropriate.

"As noted in the Department's letter of May 30th, 2000, there are special circumstances in relation to the proper planning and development of counties such as Meath in the greater Dublin area arising from pressures from the metropolitan area," she says in her letter.

"It is of particular importance that planning authorities in the greater Dublin area should adhere to the strategy," she told the council.

"Accordingly, I have been asked to request a report from your council, within four weeks of today's date, in relation to the issues raised in this letter, with specific reference to the apparent conflict with the Strategic Planning Guidelines for the greater Dublin area."

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