Planning board grants permission for Metro North

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AN BORD Pleanála has granted permission for the Metro North, but has cut three stops and 2.3 km of track from the line sought two years ago by the Railway Procurement Agency.

The cuts will mean a new railway order, the planning application for rail infrastructure, will have to be submitted for aspects of the project. An Bord Pleanála said it was too early to say whether a new oral hearing would be required.

Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey yesterday said the metro was a “priority public transport project for this Government”, but would be subject to a cost-benefit analysis before the Government signed off on the project.

Doubts have been cast on the project’s viability in the current economic circumstances. Labour leader Eamon Gilmore recently said the project would be “shot back” if Labour was in power.

The line was to have been 18km long, running from St Stephen’s Green to Bellinstown in north county Dublin. However, the railway order granted by the planning board yesterday eliminates the final two stops, Lissenhall and Bellinstown, as well as Seatown, the stop closest to Swords town centre.

A new railway order is necessary because Bellinstown was to have been the location for a depot for the metro and for a landfill to take the spoil material from the construction.

The board said the 36-hectare depot site at Bellinstown, which would house stock and other ancillary services for the line, was too far from Dublin airport or Swords for efficient operations of the service. It also noted the site was prone to flooding and while engineering solutions could minimise the flood risk, this might push floods into neighbouring communities.

The land to be used to bury the spoil from construction was “good quality agricultural land” and the proposed “extensive landfilling” was not justified, the board said.

The board has directed the railway agency to submit a new application for a relocated depot at Dardistown immediately south of Dublin airport at a point where Metro North and the proposed Metro West would intersect. The application must also deal with a management plan for the construction spoil. With the exception of enabling works such as moving underground utilities, the board said construction could not begin until the new railway order was approved. The board could not say how long it would take to made a decision on the new railway order.

The railway agency yesterday said it had already developed proposals for a depot at Dardistown and would apply for permission for the depot in the near future.

Lissenhall and Bellinstown had been earmarked as new centres of residential development before the property crash. While there has been some apartment development, particularly at Lissenhall, stops at these locations were eliminated by the board because they would “promote a pattern of development and an unsustainable use of land unlikely to be supported by future travel demand in the short to medium term”.

The Seatown stop was rejected because there were sufficient stops for the Swords area and it was not justified by current or foreseeable growth in population.

Notwithstanding objections to the construction of the metro in the city centre, most notably from businessman Colm Carroll, who owns nine city-centre gift shops and runs the “No to Metro North” campaign, it said the scheme’s benefits would outweigh the short-term impact of construction.

It said the metro would not adversely affect any protected structure or national monument. However, it conceded the construction phase would have “serious impacts” on the Dublin region, particularly adjacent to the city centre, Ballymun and Swords stops.

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