Sunday, January 14, 2007

 

From Table Mountain to Table Six

It was back to work with a bang this week, after a really refreshing break in Cape Town. I travelled down on St Stephen’s Day and got back on Monday morning. A real advantage about Cape Town at this time of year is that the days are long and the nights are warm. It’s a long way from the cold boreens of Nobber, which is where I’ll be spending a lot of the next few months!

Apart from walking the laneways of North Meath, the rest of my time over the next three months will be taken up with the review of the County Development Plan. We review the Plan every five years and are currently in the review period. On Monday we met from 10am until lunchtime and we met again on Wednesday, when we went on until just before 11pm.

The Plan is made up of several chapters. The main area of interest is the chapter on “Settlement Strategy”. This sets out the Council’s policy on where they will allow further residential development between now and 2013. After reviewing advice from many quarters (including the Department of Environment, Regional Planning Guidelines etc.) the council is clear that only a very small amount of housing will be allowed over the lifetime of this new plan.

The Department has suggested that a way of restricting demand would be for the County Manger to de-zone some of the currently zoned land. However, the Manager’s view is that this might leave him open to compensation claims. Instead, he intends to introduce a system of demand management to restrict growth.

The scheme he is proposing is as follows:

For each town and village he has published a table of the amount of houses he expects to allow over the next 6 years. This Table is known as TABLE SIX and to date has been the most contentious part of the County Plan review.

Each of these towns and villages will have a further restriction applied in relation to “local need”. For example:

* In villages like Donore and Donacarney ALL new houses will be restricted for first-time buyers who have lived within 10km of the village for five consecutive years, or who have worked in the area.
* In areas like Bettystown and Laytown 50% of new houses will be restricted for first-time buyers who have lived within 10km of the area for five consecutive years, or who have worked in the area. The other 50% are open to anyone.
* In places like Ashbourne and Drogheda environs there will be no restriction for local need.

Of course, people from outside these areas will be able to buy second hand houses just like they can today. So, it’s trying to manage future growth through demand management techniques.

A few months ago I asked the Manager for legal advice on whether this was a defensible policy. On Monday he produce a legal opinion, basically saying that an even mores restrictive policy is in existence in Wicklow and it’s never been challenged in the courts. My worry, and I stated this to him at the meeting, is that just because it wasn’t challenged in Wicklow doesn’t mean it won’t be challenged in Meath. I am sure some landowners and developers will “hit the roof” when they see they plans. We can expect to be challenged on them so we need to make sure we that what we are suggestion is constitutionally defensible. I’d be interested to hear any views on this matter.

All friends here
Kermit and staff smile for the camera

We had hours and hours of arguments and counter-arguments about Table Six. Some Councillors are of the view that it's overly restrictive; they see that by adopting Table Six then this limits the amount of housing allowed in future years. That goes against the wishes of some Councillors, especially those who believe in unconstrained growth. I think there will be a few very late nights before we reach agreement on Table Six.

The next stage for the review is for Councillors to submit Motions to the Manager, seeking to have changes made to the plan to reflect and concerns they have. The closing date for these motions is next Tuesday. I will be submitting several and intend to argue for their inclusion at the next review meeting on Monday week.

Our monthly Council meeting this week went on longer than usual – we finished at 7:30pm. I had a motion down asking the County Manager to install bins for dog-litter across the County. The County Manager refused my request: he claims there’s no evidence to suggest that bins are needed. I know from my walks around every estate in the county that we do have a problem in some areas with dog litter. I’m suggesting that people should send him any evidence (NOT the physical samples, in this age a photo will be sufficient).

Comments:
Dominic, we have just gone through the Development Process here in Waterford and I must say I found it interesting to say the least. It was a long process with 14 meetings of the council as we worked through the Plan chapter by Chapter. We are now at the stage where the Draft Plan is on public display. On my proposal the Council are organising a number of information meetings in each of the electoral areas where planning officials will attend. The idea is to bring the plan to the people. Anyway I wish you well with your plan - Seamus
 
Regarding the Laytown-Bettystown beach:
I am a regular visitor to Laytown beach and enjoy water-sports and beach sports there throughout the year. The beach is one of the most beautiful in the country in my opinion because it has not been spoiled by intervention by engineers. I would be very concerned that the proposed work will reduce the beach to looking like something from World War 2 with boulders and barriers ruining the view. Surely this is not the only beach in the country that has conjestion problems.
My suggestion would be proper investigation of how other beaches have successfully dealt with this such as in France or Spain. There are a number of possible solutions:
1. set up a park-and-ride car-park in-land (possibly near the new hotel), then the Council can get revenue from a bus service
2. Pedestrianise Bettystown during summer Saturdays/Sundays (look at Dunlaoire) in conjunction with park-and-ride.
3. Review the use and ownership of the land at the Boyne river where it meets the sand dunes, it would be possible to fit a car-park here without effecting the look of the beach.
4. Employ the services of a Tractor to create temporary sand barriers during the Summer season to control car access (plough a single line of trough above the water-line) until the permanent off-beach car-park is built.

The biggest concern I have is you create an eye-sore which will be permanent in order to deal with an issue which is temporary. Temporary control of cars coming onto the beach can be dealt with in a temporary way without distroying the landscape. Please, please please get the council to think carefully about this.

As a final note, any addition to a beach can have effects on the erosion of the beach and it's surroundings. What if the boulders some-how cause increased silting of the Boyne for instance. Has this been properly vetted by experts?
Many thanks,
colman Billings (visitor)
 
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