A plan to limit the development of land for housing in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown is being opposed by the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin on the basis that it will lower the value of church and school properties.
The archdiocese is one of a number of religious organisations and schools objecting to a new land zoning in the county development plan which would restrict housing construction on institutional lands.
Hundreds of plots of land throughout southeast Dublin would be affected by the change. These sites are currently zoned for housing but the new “sustainable neighbourhood infrastructure” (SNI) zoning proposed for the 2022 development plan would mean residential development would not be permitted in principle on such sites and while housing would be “open for consideration”, the council would have to be satisfied there would be no “undesirable effects” as a result of its construction.
Several hundred residents and residents’ groups have welcomed the new zoning, to protect their neighbourhoods from excessive development. However, religious congregations said it would prevent them from realising the value of their lands.
The new zoning "discriminates against religious" and was "unacceptable", the Congregation of Dominican Sisters said in a submission to the council. "There are 4,500 people on the housing list in this area – how can it be just or reasonable to prevent housing development on any available land."
In a submission on behalf of the Marianists of Ireland, Hughes planning consultants said an application for a strategic housing development (SHD) on lands at St Laurence College in Loughlinstown was to be submitted to An Bord Pleanála imminently. SHD applications are made for schemes of more than 100 homes or 200 student accommodation spaces.
The site was an “ideal location for residential development”, the consultants said and the proposed rezoning would have a “detrimental impact on the existing school as the sale of the 4.6 acres for residential development is required to support the financial requirements of Saint Laurence College”.
The development plan did not provide sufficient information as to the circumstances required for residential development to be considered, they said.
“It is considered that the development potential of the site would be jeopardised, particularly as there is no guidance in the plan as to what criteria should be met for a residential scheme to be considered favourably.”
The Edmund Rice Schools Trust, patron and owner of the Christian Brothers College, Monkstown Park, said a plot of land to the north of the school, surrounded by established residential development on three sides, was "suited to infill residential development" due to its "proximity to Monkstown village, accessibility via high-capacity, high-frequency public transport, and situation close to a wide range of facilities and amenities". Residential zoning should be "reinstated", it said.
The Archdiocese of Dublin told the council it owned "a large number" of church and school properties located thought the local authority area.
"It is possible that there may be a requirement to amalgamate parishes and close a number of churches in the future due to declining attendances and a shortage of priests," it said. "This proposed rezoning of Roman Catholic Church sites and school land would result in considerable restrictions on permitted uses and a negative imposition on property values."
The letter from the archdiocese’s finance secretariat noted there was a “shortage of residential property and a serious shortage of development land for housing” and asked the council not to change the current zoning.
Fine Gael councillor Barry Saul said his party had sought new zoning to address the issues of school playing pitches being developed for housing.
“The protection of green open space and playing pitches is of paramount importance in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, particularly with reference to Our Lady’s Grove and Clonkeen College lands and the history surrounding those sites,” he said.
"According to the [planning regulator] there is enough zoned land in Dún Laoghaire without the need to start developing playing grounds which should be for the use of future generations."