One Community One Voice – Agreed Statement from CoBRA and the six Residents’ Associations that neighbour the Castlelands Masterplan

February 9, 2021 0

Since the Castlelands Masterplan (CMP) was first published in May 2019, Fingal County Council (FCC) has been aware of the Balbriggan Community’s serious concerns about the Masterplan and the proposed development. A totally unprecedented 1,300 submissions were made setting out the community’s concerns (50-70 submissions would be typical for a Masterplan) and these concerns were basically ignored in the first Chief Executive’s Report in December 2019 – of 19 submission categorisations by FCC, just one was changed to reflect the submissions. The Balbriggan Area Councillors twice refused to pass the CMP because it is clearly non-compliant with the Government’s Project 2040 Regional Economic and Spatial Strategy (RSES). How could it be compliant when the CMP was published 3-months before RSES?

castlelands_masterplan_field_aug18_2At a public meeting on 4th November 2019 in the Balrothery Inn, four of the TDs who represented Balbriggan at the time, including the current Minister Darragh O’Brien, and all five Councillors for Balbriggan at that time pledged their full support to seek changes to the CMP such that would make the development acceptable to the community.

In February 2020, FCC management had to withdraw the CMP from the Agenda of the Council meeting because of severe criticisms lodged during the Public Consultation phase on the County Plan Review by the Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR) of FCC’s County Development Plan. The OPR’s criticisms clearly echoed many of the Balbriggan community’s 1,300 submissions. In short, FCC has continued to refuse to listen to the Balbriggan Community and our concerns about this Plan/Development.

The CMP is now expected to be presented to a full Council meeting that is scheduled for early March. In addition to that, the community is aware that the Land Development Agency (LDA) has entered a pre-planning process with An Bord Pleanála with regard to the CMP site – apparently availing of the Strategic Housing Development (SHD) legislation that is due to expire shortly – those two facts also being of serious concern to our community.

The following Agreed Statement on the CMP and Development of the site was prepared by the six Residents’ Associations who live adjacent to the CMP site.

Following very welcome and encouraging consultations with each of the five Councillors for Balbriggan and Skerries – Cllr Gráinne Maguire, Cllr Karen Power, Cllr Seána O’Rodaigh, Cllr Tom O’Leary and Cllr Tony Murphy – this document was provided to the Councillors ahead of the Balbriggan Area Council meeting scheduled for Thursday this week – 11th February at which the CMP is to be debated. The Councillors have acknowledged and welcomed this cooperative initiative by the Balbriggan community and have undertaken to seek amendments from FCC to the CMP to bring it as close as possible to a form that will be acceptable to the community.

This document has been prepared and agreed by the six Residents’ Associations committees who represent the estates neighbouring the CMP site:

  • Castlelands Park; Castlelands Court; Castlelands; Pinewood; Ardgillen Heights & The Chantries.

Working together with members of the wider CoBRA group of 18 Residents’ Associations from across the whole town of Balbriggan, the community has essentially set out their carefully considered views of key elements that would constitute acceptable development for the CMP site.

We believe it is very important that the Authorities hear and acknowledge that Balbriggan people are open, reasonable and flexible in these matters, we are not NIMBYs and we await reciprocation!

Agreed Statement

Foreword:

The planning and development history of Balbriggan over 25 years has been widely acknowledged as having been a disaster for the town in many respects. This acknowledgement itself must be a ‘given’ by virtue of the existence of the €30m rejuvenation project “Our Balbriggan” – a project that has been hugely welcomed by the town both for its long-overdue recognition by FCC and indeed by the Government of the need for change in the planning approach and the need for investment to make Balbriggan a better place to live. The CMP was mentioned in passing by the Departing CEO of FCC at the launch of the ‘Our Balbriggan’ Project in April 2018. Our Community defies anyone in authority to claim that the CMP is any way consistent with FCC’s claims for the ‘Our Balbriggan Project’. In our view, and in the view of the 1,300 submissions made to Fingal County Council (FCC) in the Public Consultation on the CMP in 2019, it is a travesty that such a major development of this kind should even be considered in Balbriggan within the next 5-10 years.

Balbriggan needs time to recover, to implement its rejuvenation programme, and develop its infrastructure and local employment and education services – before it is subjected to any further developments, never mind development on the CMP scale, which itself is demonstrably not close to compliant with the Regional and Spatial Strategy (RSES).

Being realistic about the urgent need for housing in our town and for our own younger generation from Balbriggan, and taking into account the need for new development around Balbriggan that would be RSES compliant, we believe that the CMP, if it is to be developed, must be realised with a sensitive and gradual phasing approach with a maximum housing of 650 units, as outlined below.

We believe that the aim must be to prioritise the “Our Balbriggan” rejuvenation initiative and let its claimed benefits be realised before the anticipated increase in population and demand on the infrastructure and services that will accrue from the CMP development.

We, therefore, present the following, in simple and plain form, as our joint statement on the CMP development.

  1. The Skerries Road Bridge infrastructure and related works are built and in service before the development of housing starts
  2. The officially acknowledged capacity issues on the Hamilton Road/Roundabout (refer to the Public Consultation on the Harry Reynolds Road Cycle-path and adopted changes) must be addressed before housing development starts
  3. Opening of a road/access from Pinewood to the Skerries Road bridge will not be accepted
  4. A detailed map showing all access routes to/from the site for construction vehicular traffic will be presented to the five estates to be agreed before any work commences
  5. Before any development, the existing estates will be provided with an independent and comprehensive engineer’s report on the sewage and water services for the CMP site and its environs – including pipe capacity and integration with existing systems.
  6. The maximum no. of units on the site will be 650
  7. 80% of the units will be 2-storey
  8. 20% of the units will be 3-story, similar to surrounding built units in Castlelands
  9. There will be no buildings above 3 storeys on the site
  10. If necessary to provide extra ground space to enable removal of high-rise, the swimming pool should be relocated to Stephenstown, or a similar suitable site – with a written, legally- protected guarantee, e.g. in the form of a formal Motion adopted by FCC, that it will be delivered as promised, and by a specified date, to the town under and within the “Our Balbriggan” schedule.
  11. National Disability Inclusion Strategy 2017-2021; Align fully with the Strategic Vision and Strategic Policy of Fingal Development Plan 2017-2023 Fingal C.C. with essential funding to by ring-fenced by a formal motion to be adopted by FCC
  12. Densities will be in the range 35-45/hectare – a key priority
  13. Tenure mix on the site will be 70% Affordable, 20% Private, 10% Social – a key priority
  14. No underground facilities are acceptable – e.g. car park, subways etc. – mandatory position
  15. Design implications must be addressed upfront in revisions to the CMP to cater for the post-CoVid-19 world, including such issues as adequate outdoor space; working from home [hubs]; space and design in houses etc.
  16. Ensure Crime Prevention through Environmental Design- (CPTED) Crime Prevention and Reduction Strategy – putting prevention First (2017).  An Garda Síochána- safe design; no underground areas; minimisation of alley-ways; safe entry and exit points; safe outdoor areas; ensure proportionate emergency service per population and so on.

Conclusion:

For reasons that we believe are well known to the authorities, the trust of the people of Balbriggan has been greatly damaged when it comes to planning and development. There is an opportunity here to begin to rebuild that trust – our community is listening. Are all of the pertinent authorities listening?

Read previous articles on the Castlelands Masterplan here