Monday 21 October 2019

Objections anticipated to plans to build Rosbercon apartment blocks

David Looby

Councillors moved to have Wexford local authority reverse its decision to go ahead with building two apartment blocks in Rosbercon at the monthly meeting of New Ross municipal district.

At their February municipal meeting councillors were informed by acting director of services for housing Padraig O'Gorman that a new social housing development for Rosbercon will include two four-storey apartment blocks.

According to plans, the €5.2m, 28 housing unit estate will include two apartment blocks - with 16 apartments in total, with one beds on the top floors of four storey buildings.

Mr O'Gorman said: `We need to move ahead with it and to move to Part VIII planning process in the next three weeks. A site has been acquired and we have designed a scheme for 28 houses: ten three beds and some four beds, and two blocks of apartments.'

He elaborated that there will be located in lower Rosbercon across the bridge from New Ross town centre, the entrance will be from the N25, with a possible second entrance from the Thomastown road. Between ten and 12 car parking spaces will be available on the Thomastown road side, which could facilitate parking for users of the Kilkenny Greenway.

Wexford County Council architect Shay Howell has designed an entrance from the Waterford road. Mr O'Gorman said the apartments meet departmental accommodation guidelines on density and would present great value for money. Mr O'Gorman said all going well the sod will be turned on the houses and apartments in late 2019, or early next year. Cllr Michael Sheehan objected to the proposal for any further apartment blocks in Rosbercon, calling for housing to be built instead.

He said although councillors no longer have a direct say in planning policy within local authorities, he wanted the message to go out that some New Ross councillors weren't in favour of the construction of two more apartment blocks in an area with one of the highest densities of apartments in the region.

Cllr Larry O'Brien said he has never had such a response to a local authority accommodation plan. 'I haven't had as many calls about something like this housing scheme being built. I think we might have to review our plans. We have so many (apartments) in town that are lying empty and in Rosbercon too and this has caused a bit of a scare. It's not the housing, it's just the apartment blocks.'

Cathaoirleach Cllr John Fleming said when the Kilkenny Greenway is opened it will look visually askew to have it surrounded by apartment blocks on either side.

'I know in theory it's an area of higher density but practically it didn't work. We would prefer bungalows for older people. There are issues on School House Road also.'

Mr O'Gorman said the councillors passed a resolution at the February meeting to proceed with Part VII planning. 'That is a process whereby we have public consultation. It's a four week period. There was a previous planning application granted on that site for a storey higher for a development in private ownership. The design element is tied to the County Development Plan and densities and for the department it's value for money.' He said funding is dictated by the number of housing units that can be built on a site. 'We have to achieve densities required. We have been listening to councillors outlining the need for more houses and this is the only project in development in New Ross at the moment. There is a process the public can engage in and when we have that report we will come back to the members for consultation.'

Cllr Anthony Connick said the previous planning for a privately built apartment block was also for a four storey complex. He said since the article was published in this newspaper alerting readers to the plans he has been inundated with calls, emails and messages. 'I definitely think there should be a meeting there (for residents),' he said.

He said he understood what the department was saying about achieving housing densities, while criticising the lack of joined up thinking between the state's housing department and the council, adding that times are different and a re-think is needed about whether or not apartments are suitable in the area.

Cllr Sheehan said: 'We have been crying out for good houses not apartments. The department and planning will end up fighting tooth and nail for this.'

He called for a contingency plan to be drafted in the event that a decision is made not to build the apartments.

New Ross Standard