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Politicians frustrated over failures to plan for schools, childcare and transport for large housing developments


Labour Senator Rebecca Moynihan. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Labour Senator Rebecca Moynihan. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Labour Senator Rebecca Moynihan. Photo: Gerry Mooney

TDs and senators have voiced frustration over failures to ensure large-scale housing projects have adequate public services built in.

Childcare, school places and public transport were falling behind, or being left out completely, when planning permission for major residential developments was granted.

“I can’t get my head around why we are taking each individual planning application on its merits and we’re not planning around infrastructural projects,” Labour Party senator Rebecca Moynihan told the Oireachtas Housing Committee.

“I had one in my own area recently which is over 900 units. It’s a site that really needs to be developed but there was an issue with schools - the site that they had available for the school was too small.

“But also the National Transport Authority are building a DART-plus project and they’re bypassing it and not putting a stop in.”

She said there was a “non-connection” between the state agencies responsible for delivering public services and individual planning applications that would generate need for such services.

“How do we knit all of these together? I don’t think anyone has come up with a satisfactory answer to how we do it,” she said.

Her remarks followed reports in the Irish Independent about how the Department of Education objected to planning applications at least ten major housing developments comprising some 7,000 homes because it said it was unable to provide sufficient school places.

Social Democrats TD Cian O’Callaghan said there had been a similar problem with the provision of childcare places.

“We have had these grants of [permission for] thousands and thousands of homes, and an under-provision of childcare places which is causing real difficulties for people trying to get back into the workplace,” he said.

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Committee chairman, Green Party TD Steven Matthews, said there was a lack of accountability in the process.

“A developer can say a development is in close proximity to public transport but that can just mean a bus stop somewhere down the road that doesn’t have a frequent service,” he said.

He cited another example where there was a stipulation that a certain amount of land was left as open space.

“We envisaged that as one large park but the developer came along with a plan to divide it up into pocket parks.”

Maria Graham, assistant secretary at the Department of Housing, said the points made about infrastructure were “really important”.

Paul Hogan, planning adviser to the Department, said the city or county development plan should provide for adequate public infrastructure and services.

“It’s really important that the development plan enables engagement with statutory providers, the likes of the Department of Education,” he said.

“There are mandatory objectives to do with community facilities in plans and they should be in both the development plan and local area plans.”

In some of the cases reported in the Irish Independent, the local plans had stated provision for schools was adequate but the plans were ten years old, finalised during a recession when home-building was almost at a standstill.

“It can happen that plans get out of date or that circumstances change,” Mr Hogan conceded.

He said a review of planning legislation currently taking place envisaged development plans with an even longer shelf life and if that was to happen, a mechanism would have to be found so that they could be more “agile” in responding to changing circumstances.

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