Green minister opposes plan to rezone green space in his estate for housing

Joe O’Brien says more housing is ‘absolutely’ needed but children need spaces to play

A Green Party junior minister has expressed opposition to the proposed rezoning of some of the green space in the estate where he lives so that it can be used for housing.

Minister of State for Community Development and Charities Joe O’Brien has written to fellow residents in an estate in Skerries, Co Dublin, saying he is against the proposed change in use for the land.

The issue of politicians opposing plans to build new homes has been controversial amid the ongoing housing crisis.

It is understood the land in question is approximately one hectare in size and if rezoned could provide enough space for at least 30 homes under current density guidelines.

Asked about his opposition to the proposed rezoning, the Dublin Fingal TD said that more housing is “absolutely” needed but that children need spaces to play. “It’s important to note too that there is not a scarcity of zoned land in Fingal,” Mr O’Brien said.

The proposal to rezone the land appears on a map drawn up as part of the process of drafting Fingal County Council’s development plan for the years 2023 to 2029. The draft plan is to go on public display in February after it is considered by councillors over the coming weeks.

‘Concerning issue’

Mr O’Brien wrote to nearby residents about the threat to the green space in the Mourne estate in Skerries, saying it was a “concerning issue”.

He said Fingal County Council is proposing to change the use of about half of the green space to residential and this would result in the loss of two playing pitches.

“I am against this proposed change as it will see two less playing pitches in a town that already has a shortage of pitch space,” he said. Mr O’Brien said it would “dramatically reduce” the amenity area of residents.

He said his party colleague Cllr Karen Power will be tabling a motion to stop the proposed plan and to retain the space. Mr O'Brien encouraged residents to email other councillors to ask them to support Ms Power's motion.

Mr O’Brien told The Irish Times: “We absolutely need more housing and the housing completion rates have increased significantly in the last year.”

He added: “People in Dublin Fingal know better than most that proper housing is not just bricks and mortar. Children need spaces to play, adults to exercise and sports clubs to play games. If the proposed scale of rezoning goes ahead it has the potential to make two soccer pitches unviable.”

He said a small local community soccer club, Mourne Celtic, plays its home games on the pitches. “Where will they go in a town where there is already huge pressure on available pitches and playing space?” he asked.

“There is a right way and a wrong way to build more housing; it must also be about building and supporting communities. Taking scarce and precious community and club green space is not the way.”