Rezoning of south Dublin lands questioned by regulator

Lack of transport and schools puts areas in west Dublin under ‘development pressure’

 M50 at the M4 Junction – Lucan. Photograph: Alan Betson

M50 at the M4 Junction – Lucan. Photograph: Alan Betson

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Planning regulators have told South Dublin County Council not to rezone rural land between the expanding suburbs of Lucan and Leixlip for housing, saying the area is under “considerable development pressure”.

In an assessment of the council’s 2022-28 draft development plan, the regulators also questioned the level of housing foreseen for the west Dublin villages of Rathcoole and Newcastle because of concerns about rapid population growth.

Although the Office of the Planning Regulator welcomed the majority of the council’s housing policies and objectives, it wants some specific measures changed. The office was formed in 2019 to oversee planning, one of its jobs being to assess development plans for national policy compliance.

In a September 15th letter to the council, deputy planning regulator Anne Marie O’Connor questioned moves to allow a cluster of low density homes on land in the “open break” between Lucan and Leixlip. She said there was “no clear justification” for the proposed rezoning of the land at Cooldrinagh Lane, east of Weston airport. In addition, the proposed rezoning was inconsistent with policies to restrict the spread of rural dwellings.

“The office is of the view that development at this location is not consistent with the principles of compact growth or sequential approach to development, and would erode the existing break between Lucan and Leixlip in an area that is under considerable development pressure,” the letter said.

For all that, the regulator was “generally satisfied” with the distribution of population and housing growth in the plan. But it raised concern about the plans for Newcastle and Rathcoole, noting they had limited public transport and “deficits in social services in particular for education”.

Newcastle was targeted to grow by 63 per cent to 5,039 people between 2016 and 2028, and Rathcoole by 47 per cent to 6,409 people. The council was told to change the zoning of “any surplus” residential land without planning permission – which allowed population growth exceeding 30 per cent above 2016 levels – to strategic residential reserve.

Asked about the regulator’s assessment, the council said it was reviewing all submissions. “Over the coming months we will be considering how best to address the many responses we have received.”

The regulator acknowledged plans to use local authority lands for social and affordable housing but said “the blanket nature of the objective may limit the flexibility of the planning authority to provide for diverse neighbourhoods”. It told the council to review the planning objective “to provide sufficient safeguards and flexibility” in relation to local authority lands zoned residential.

The regulator questioned plans to support community housing for older people and social and affordable housing on land zoned for open space, saying that “could prejudice the delivery of the primary purpose of the zoning objective”.

Still, the regulator praised the council for a “best practice” approach to climate action and sustainable transport.

It welcomed energy measures to decrease fossil fuel use, including low-carbon district heating, waste-heating recovery and solar and small scale hydro-electricity. “Of particular note is the ongoing Tallaght district heating project which will use waste from a data centre to provide low carbon heat to public sector buildings, apartments and commercial buildings.”

Targets to increase walking, cycling and public transport use and a decrease in private car use were “extremely positive”.