Re-location of playground and civic offices are also being considered in new masterplan for the council-owned site
Over 420 apartments could be developed on the lands owned by Wicklow County Council on Mill Road in Greystones, local councillors have heard.
Elected members of Greystones Municipal District received an update on the proposed masterplan for the site during their February meeting.
Christine Flood, senior executive officer, Wicklow County Council, told councillors that consultants Conroy Crowe and Kelly had been appointed in 2019 to develop a masterplan for the valuable town centre site, which could results in upkeep costs for the local authority.
The masterplan is intended to offer a vision for the use of the site, Ms Flood said.
James Kelly of Conroy Crowe and Kelly told councillors that the lands are zoned to allow for an extension of the town centre. The site includes a playground, a park and ride and the civic offices. An area of the lands include a protected cluster of trees. The Mill Road lands are considered ideal for residential and open space purposes. The consultants were also asked to consider if a hotel could be accommodated on the lands.
1.3ac of the site is due to be purchased by the HSE for the new Greystones Primary Car Centre. Ms Flood told councillors that the HSE would develop this portion of the site independently, subject to approval of the disposal of the site.
Mr Kelly outlined four concepts for the Mill Road lands. In ‘Concept A’, 151 apartments could be developed on the lands alongside 5,400sqm of commercial space. The playground would remain in place and around 450 spaces could be provided in a park and ride.
‘Concept B’ would include 240 apartments and 10,000 sqm of commercial space. The park and ride would be reduced to 360 car parking spaces and the playground moved from its current location to the tree cluster. Additional car parking could also be created by adding a second level to the park and ride facility.
In ‘Concept C’, the full site would be developed to provide 423 apartments by building on the current park and ride facility. The civic offices and playground would be relocated There would be no change to the amount of commercial space available, and the site could also accommodate a 75-bed hotel. The park and ride would be moved to an alterative site which could provide up to 1,400 spaces at Charlesland Golf Course.
Mr Kelly said the site could not accommodate a large outdoor arts space and suggested that the La Touche car park could provide an alterative location for this facility.
Sorcha Walsh, Wicklow County Council senior planner, told councillors that the development process for the new Local Area Plan (LAP) would start soon. This would have a focus on identifying infill and brownfield sites which could potentially be used for housing, though not all of these lands would be in the ownership of the local authority. The development of the masterplan for the Mill Road lands would help with the LAP process.
Cllr Derek Mitchell said the proposals for the site look attractive, however, he is not keen on the primary care centre being located on these lands. Cllr Mitchell said he would not favour the re-location of a park and ride to a green field site, noting that the South Beach park and ride was full by 7.30 a.m. in pre-Covid times.
He also raised concerns that Irish Rail may wish to use a portion of the site to store railway carriages following the completion of the Dart+ project .
Cllr Mags Green asked for further information about the possible new location for the playground. She also questioned if the masterplan would be subject to public consultation.
Cllr Jodie Neary said she had concerns about the masterplan process and the need to stop urban sprawl. She asked if the County Development Plan (CDP) and LAP would consider restricting development to allow for infrastructure in the district to catch up to the rate of development.
Cllr Neary suggested that the Mill Road lands could be used for social housing as the situation is “worse now than when I was co-opted”.
“There are unbelievable amount of people without homes,” she said.
Cllr Neary said she would not be supportive of moving the park and ride. She also raised concerns that new retail units would take business away from existing traders.
Cllr Gerry Walsh said he would not be happy to see the playground moved as a lot of work had gone into this facility. He questioned if the site could accommodate a hotel, alongside residential and commercial units. Cllr Walsh noted that creating a larger park and ride may be counter-intuitive especially with the drive to reduce car dependency.
Cllr Tom Fortune said more discussion is needed about the proposals to tease them out and to avoid similar “mistakes” to the development of Greystones Harbour.
Refferring to Cllr Mitchell’s query about Irish Rail, he said this project would take years to develop.
Cllr Fortune also raised concerns about the viability of a hotel. He recalled hotel groups had been approached before, however they did not think the town could sustain a premises.
Cllr Lourda Scott said she would not support the re-location of the park and ride facility further away from the dart station. If the playground is re-located, it would need to be the same size or bigger than it is currently. She also asked about the feasibility of locating a hotel on the site.
Ms Flood said the masterplan process is not yet finished. Any housing development would provide social homes through the Part 5 process, though the lands would not be developed in their entirety to provide social homes.
She agreed that the council would engage with Irish Rail about their plans, adding that the Mill Road lands are a prime location and may not be suitable for train storage.
Other sites had been considered for the primary care centre with the Mill Road land deemed to be the most suitable by the HSE.
Ms Flood highlighted that it is likely that equipment in the playground would need to be replaced as part of its lifecycle by the time any development occurred on the site.
A study by Wicklow Tourism had identified Greystones as a location where a hotel could be viable due to the media campus.
Ms Walsh told councillors that a masterplan is non-statutory and not subject to public consultation. However, new rules under Housing For All would allow councillors to designate certain action zones.
She said the district has an asset that is “not working hard for you and could work harder for you”.
The lands could be used to provide facilities or money towards other projects if it is sold, The site is suitable for multi-storey apartment blocks, but standard homes are preferred for social housing.
If the land is sold, it could be brought to market with conditions. Any proposed development would be subject to the planning process.
Ms Walsh acknowledged that services in Greystones needs to “catch up” , but some development would be permitted in line with Government policy. The new CDP would try to “moderate” the rate of growth.
She noted that a growing population can require more retail and extending the town centre is preferable to an out of town shopping centre. She said any design would be expected to connect Mill Road with the town centre.
Ms Walsh said the Charlesland Golf Course is zoned as active open space. It is unconnected to the Mill Road lands. She said councillors could look at the zoning of these lands during the LAP process.
Cllr Scott sought clarification about the green space proposals and welcomed the protection of the tree cluster.
Mr Kelly said the tree cluster could accommodate the same size playground as the existing one. Open space would be provided as part of a development.