Proposed development would see ‘The Meadow’ replaced by floodlit pitches, sprint track and sports building
A green area which became a sanctuary for the elderly during the pandemic is to be turned into an active recreation zone despite protests from local residents.
Situated in Shanganagh Park, Shankill. the area known as ‘The Meadow’ is, subject to planning permission, to be transformed into floodlit pitches, a sprint track and sports building by Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council (DLRCC).
In a move which has angered those who use The Meadow on a regular basis, DLRCC is proceeding with works which were first mooted in 2019 and will, according to the council, “improve outdoor amenities for all Shankill residents; balancing active and passive recreation in the park while enhancing biodiversity”.
The project includes the provision of sand based and floodlit grass pitches, a sprint track with floodlighting, a shared baseball and cricket area, all with associated safety netting and minor fencing. There is also the proposed net increase of one GAA-sized pitch and a sprint track, in addition, further works are proposed to entrances and to improve access over the DART line.
The masterplan includes a sports building and car parking in the nearby Shanganagh Castle site; within this area, further facilities will be developed including an area for yoga and a boules/petanque court, among others. In addition, a pitch is to be removed from the front of the park and this will be developed as a natural area with attenuation, mounding and meadow.
On its website, DLRCC says, “The upgrades to the park will provide much needed facilities for the growing number of diverse sports clubs in the area, and will future-proof the park as Shankill and the surrounding areas continue to welcome new residents in the coming years.
“We want to ensure that all members of the Shanganagh Park community are fully informed on what Phase 1 will involve and how this aligns with the longer term goals for the park as outlined in the Masterplan.”
However, John Coveney of the Save Shanganagh Park (SSP) group, says the council’s plans are “unsustainable” and that there is “overwhelming public opposition” to the development locally.
“The people living near the park are not opposed to upgrading its sports facilities, we’re simply concerned and puzzled why they want to move from the existing sports facilities to the meadow. That’s the crux of the issue,” said John.
“That meadow has been managed for biodiversity for many years. It’s the nearest field in the park for a lot of the older people living nearby, the first and last place they go to when visiting it.”
This is DRLCC’s third attempt to redevelop this section of the park with its 2019 master-plan shelved after a local resident made an “application to judicial review the decision of the council members on a number of grounds” last July. A High Court review subsequently took place on October 3, 2022 and, following advice from its legal team, DRLCC took the decision not to challenge the review to “reduce the risk of significant legal costs and delay”.
However, its legal team also advised that there appeared to be “procedural issues” relating “largely around a technicality of the new development plan coming into effect” and advised it would be best to start the process again with knowledge of this technicality. As a result, the plans are once more on the table and once more the subject of strident opposition locally. A petition set up by the SSP has more than 1,700 signatures and John says there a number of reasons why those in the area don’t want this section of the park to be developed.
Referencing the High Court action, he said, “The community’s message has been delivered loud and clear over and again: leave the heart of the park alone and upgrade existing pitches and facilities.
“This (development) would have devastating consequences for traffic in the area, lead to a massive increase in footfall to a smaller park footprint, be a disaster for the remaining unspoilt and quieter green areas and habitats, and result in an increased risk to safety and reduced access for young, old, the disabled and those of limited mobility.”
With sports facilities already in existence and in use at the park, John and the SSP argue that those could be upgraded instead of developing more pitches.
“The local sports clubs require and deserve access to better facilities, instead of more pitches, existing facilities in the park and nearby Stonebridge can be upgraded to increase year-round playability through drainage and floodlighting with easier access to public transport,” he said. “The upgrading and greater access to use of facilities by clubs at nearby schools will also be more sustainable, and mean pitches won’t be left idle at the end of school use, while further democratising sport participation enabling children access sport facilities during school time.
“The empty plot for the proposed crematorium, could also be used for additional facilities such as basketball courts, pitches, changing rooms, parking. These alternative solutions put forward by the community are based on technical and local knowledge and are not fantasy. Unlike the DLRCC plans, they are economically viable, socially acceptable and environmentally sound.”
Aside from the practicalities of the development, John believes that by disturbing The Meadow, DLRCC will destroy an area which has become a sanctuary for those living locally.
“The Meadow means a huge amount to the local people, even more since the pandemic when we were all locked down. You had some people walking through the nearby estates just to come here,” he says.
“If you stand in the middle of the field you could almost imagine yourself in the countryside. Preserving it is a must for the mental health and wellbeing of the community as natural spaces are now recognised for their contribution and benefits to psychological as well as physical health, providing a free ‘green prescription’, never more so since the pandemic lockdowns.”
“The council’s park department has done great work throughout the county, this is a disagreement on one specific project, they would be our natural allies ordinarily. None of us want to be involved in conflict.”
DLRCC has held a series of meeting with sports clubs, residents and nearby schools in recent weeks and one of those clubs, Cuala GAA, issued the following statement regarding the proposed development at the park.
“Cuala is a club of 3,500 members fielding over 150 teams in competition as well as providing an important social connection for people and groups from Blackrock at the north of our catchment area to Shankill in the south,” said PRO Rob Hartnett.
“We rely entirely on facilities managed and made available by Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council and on floodlit facilities which we source ourselves externally and pay for at market rates.”
“We remain in constant dialogue with the council over the best way to accommodate the needs of our members as part of our important place within the community.”
In a statement, DLRCC said, “A Shanganagh Park & Cemetery Masterplan was developed in 2019 and the upgrade of existing facilities was considered as part of that plan. The Masterplan was developed with all users of the park in mind and will ensure the park is more inclusive and accessible for all.
“Phase 1 of the Masterplan will include improvements to the current sports facilities, new play facilities, additional seating and more accessible access points, viewing areas, and significant additional tree planting. The facilities will be open and accessible for the local community to use.”