Amendments to County Development Plan

Fingal County Council is currently preparing the County Development Plan to run from 2017 to 2023. The Draft Plan was on public display between February and April 2016 and a report on the over 900 responses received was supplied to Councillors at the end of July.

As Councillors we had until yesterday, 6th September, to draft proposals to amend the Plan based on the public consultation.  Those  amendments which the Council agrees to will go on public display in November.

I submitted amendments to a wide range of topics in the plan. A copy of my proposed amendments is here. In order to make them easy to navigate I have grouped them into the following topics:

  • On Special Amenity Area Order and Dublin Bay Biosphere Reserve
  • On cycle pedestrian routes to be added to the map
  • On public transport reservation from Clongriffin/Portmarnock – Balgriffin – Belcamp – Clonshaugh to metro reservations south of Dublin Airport
  • In relation to the Moyne Road bypass proposal based on discussions at the previous stage of the Development Plan and in response to submissions by the developer of the adjoining residentially zoned land and Portmarnock Community Association
  • On the zoning of the industrial estates beside Howth Junction railway station based on issues I raised at the previous stage of the Plan and a submission from a local business.
  • On the process for sub-county level plans based on the experience of Fingal councillors and citizens as well as submissions from public authorities including the National Transport Authority
  • Based on Fáilte Ireland’s submission
  • In relation to the circular economy and sustainable resource use
  • In response to the submission by Keep Ireland Open, Fáilte Ireland and others concerned with access to the countryside
  • Based on concerns about Fingal’s approach to open space in high density development, an issue raised both by developers and residents
  • On the transition to a low carbon climate resilient economy, a legal obligation of the Plan under the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act and raised in a range of submissions
  • On adaptation to climate change
  • On Ecosystem Services Approach
  • Transport motions based on a range of submissions by local road users and public transport users and the NTA
  • Motion incorporating text from the Dublin City Development plan in relation to cycle parking as recommended by the submission from the National Transport Authority
  • In relation to cycling in response to a wide range of submissions seeking better and safer cycling insfrastructure.
  • Based on text in the National Cycling Policy Framework, to which some of the submissions refer.

Observation to Dublin Airport Authority on proposed removal of nighttime noise restrictions

Dublin Airport Authority carried out a consultation in relation to the Environmental Impact Assessment of a proposal to remove the conditions in a permission they received from An Bord Pleanála which would restrict night time flights in order to enable local residents to sleep soundly. Exactly how they would apply to make such a change has not been explained despite direct questions.

I made the following submission:

1. The public is entitled to know what sort of application DAA is apparently planning to make, especially if we are being consulted on it.
For many months now, residents and public representatives have been hearing that DAA will be applying to change the planning conditions. However, we have not, despite repeated requests been able to understand whether this is a planning application or some other form of application. My request under the Access to Information on the Environment Regulations directed at obtaining this information also failed to clarify it.
Some sort of legal stratagem is presumably being developed. The fact that the public is being asked to participate in a consultation process where relevant details of the overall decision-making process are apparently being withheld is worrying. This is particularly the case when it is the ability of local residents to live normal lives and get a proper night’s sleep that is at stake.
2. DAA should not assume that it will be legally possible to make an application of whatever unspecified form which would relate only to two conditions of its planning permission given the passage of time since the granting of that permission, the fact that it has not commenced work on the permission and the requirements of the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive.
3. Analysis of aviation demand must take account of the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions drastically and rapidly in order to avoid dangerous anthropogenic interference in the climate system, as set out in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement. Predictions of aviation demand must incorporate anticipated and necessary measures to reduce emissions including measures to control demand and measures which would change the makeup of the fleet using the airport.
4. DAA has misled itself in concluding that it is not subject to the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015.
5. Analysis of demand for night time take off and landing must set out the degree to which this is stimulated or discouraged by pricing as well as the degree to which it results from measures taken at airports elsewhere to protect their neighbours from night time noise.
6. Alternatives examined should include the use of other airports in Ireland as well as technical alternatives, alternative modes of transport, and alternatives to transport.

Submission in relation to identifying Balscadden Beach as a bathing area

Fingal County Council, as required by EU regulation, consulted the public to identify locations where large numbers of people swim, so that the water quality at these locations can be tested.

Friends of Balscadden Bay made a detailed submission. I made the following brief submission:

Balscadden Beach is a historical swimming area in Howth.

It is heavily used by both local residents and visitors.

For the last two summers, at the request of local residents, Fingal County Council has sampled water quality at the beach and found it to be excellent on every occasion sampled.

Local swimmers use the beach every day throughout the year. Naturally it is particularly busy during good weather in the summer.

The beach previously had Victorian bathing cabins and has been visited by daytrippers from Dublin since the railway started in the mid-19th Century.

It is accessed by a public right of way from Balscadden road along steps provided by Dublin Corporation when Howth was within its jurisdiction. It is accessible by public transport (31 bus and Dart) and is near public car parking and toilets at the East Pier.

There is an organised swim and barbeque every summer by Friends of Balscadden Bay. This year, that will take place from 1pm to 4pm on Sunday 7th August.

There is also a long-standing traditional Christmas swim.

I attach some postcards/photographs covering the period from the late 19th century to July 2016. I took the most recent photograph myself.

1 balscadden postcard bw $_57 balscadden waterskiing  cleaning Balscadden Bay (FOBB)_1201Balscadden Bay Howth Saturday 16 July 2016

Fingal to join Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, and to draft common Climate Change Strategy with other 3 Dublin Councils

Councillors from all areas of Fingal and all parties have emphasised the importance of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from Fingal and adapting to climate change. We included relevant  objectives in the draft Development Plan which was on display earlier this year and had good in depth discussions at the Planning Strategic Policy Committee.

At the July meeting the Council decided unanimously to join the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy and to prepare a common Climate Change Strategy together with Dublin City, South Dublin, and Dún Laoghaire- Rathdown.

Details are in the report approved by the Council below:

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Where do you swim? Public Participation in the Identification of Bathing Waters

Under the Bathing Waters Directive and the Bathing Water Quality Regulations 2008 (SI No 79 of 2008) Fingal County Council must identify official bathing areas in our administrative area every year so that they can be monitored for safety, water quality and their level of use.

To help with this process, Fingal County Council is now asking people who swim at beaches and rivers to tell us if they think we should maintain the existing list of identified bathing waters and/or identifying any areas that are commonly used for swimming but not listed at the moment.

Among the popular swimming areas in Howth / Malahide Ward not currently recognised and tested as bathing waters are Balscadden Beach  in Howth and High Rock and Low Rock in Malahide. If you swim at these locations, please let the Council know.

To propose the Council recognise any well used beach not currently on the list or comment on an existing site please go to https://consult.fingal.ie/en/browse .

Meanwhile the occasional tests carried out by the Council at Balscadden and Ireland’s Eye happened again at the end of June. Both locations were identified as having excellent water quality. See results below.

Location Sampling Point Sample Number E. coli Enterococci Floating Materials Mineral Oil (visual) pH Phenols_Olfactory Salinity Surfactants Visual Inspection
MPN/100ml CFU/100ml pH PSU
(49934)  Balscadden Bay 27/06/2016  08:30 1163999 <10 <1 Absent Absent 8.1 Absent 33.4 Absent Normal
(49935)  Ireland’s Eye 27/06/2016  09:30 1164000 <10 <1 Absent Absent 8.1 Absent 33.5 Absent Normal

Proposals in Malahide Demesne for a Forest Adventure Area and an Extension to the Bridgefield Car Park

Late last year a proposal was brought before the Councillors for a “Forest Adventure Area and Multi-use Reinforced Grass Area.”

In principle I think a canopy walk or similar somewhere in Malahide Demesne could be an excellent proposal. However it would depend on the design and details of the proposal including its environmental impact and its impact on park users.

That information is not available because it doesn’t yet exist.

I pointed out the inadequacies in the information supplied at the December Area Committee meeting, saying I expected that detailed information would be in the proposal put on public display. I didn’t receive a reply to that comment at the meeting and unfortunately it didn’t happen. I also pointed out that they proposal appeared to be two separate and distinct proposals and suggested they be put to consultation separately. The joint proposal was nonethless put on display as presented to the Councillors:

So I checked the applicable legislation to establish what is legally required to be put on display.   The regulations provide as follows:

83.(1) A local authority shall make available for inspection in accordance with article 81(2)(d)(i)—

(a) a document describing the nature and extent of the proposed development and the principal features thereof, including-

(i) where the proposed development would consist of or comprise the provision of houses, the number of houses to be provided,

(ii) where proposed development would relate to a protected structure or a proposed protected structure, an indication of that fact,

(iii) where the proposed development would comprise or be for the purposes of an activity requiring an integrated pollution control licence or a waste licence, an indication of that fact,

(b) a location map, drawn to a scale of not less than 1:1000 in built up areas and 1:2500 in all other areas (which shall be identified thereon) and marked or coloured so as to identify clearly the land on which it is proposed to carry out the proposed development,

(c) except in the case of development of a class specified in article 80(1)(b) or (c),—

(i) a site layout plan, drawn to a scale of not less than 1:500, showing the boundary of the site on which it is proposed to carry out the proposed development and the buildings or other structures, and roads or other features, in the vicinity of the site, and

(ii) such other plans and drawings, drawn to a scale of not less than 1:100, as are necessary to describe the proposed development,

(d) in the case of development of a class specified in article 80(1)(b), such plans and drawings drawn to a scale of not less than 1:2500, as are necessary to describe the proposed development,

(e) in the case of development of a class specified in article 80(1) (c), such plans and drawings drawn to a scale of not less than 1:200, as are necessary to describe the proposed development.

The requirements which I have highlighted in bold have not been met.

At the May Area Committee meeting I asked the officials to confirm that the above is the applicable legislation, which they did. The Committee then agreed to my proposal to ask the Law Agent for advice, to be received before the June meeting. As of today (Monday 30th May) that advice has not yet been received by the Councillors.

The Parks Department have confirmed that they are trying to get an approval before the design is done.

It is clear to me that it would not be legal for the Councillors to give Part 8 approval to a project which hasn’t been designed and for which the information required to be put on public display has not been made available. I will be most surprised if the Law Agent advises otherwise.

It may be less convenient, but the correct procedure, as for any one else making another type of planning application, is to produce a design, put that design on display and make a decision on the basis of the design and the public consultation.

As for the Car Park extension, this was originally presented to Councillors as a multi-use area. It later became clear from the Planning Department that they see it as a car park extension. Such a proposal should only be considered, if at all, in the context of overall changes to traffic and parking in the town – which to date have not been proposed.

UPDATE 31st May:

This afternoon the Councillors received the Law Agent’s advice which sets out the legal requirements which have not been met and warns that going ahead with the project would be vulnerable to legal challenge. I expect that the current process will be abandoned.

I hope the Parks Department will continue to work on the idea of a forest adventure area with a view to coming up with a clear proposal which everyone would welcome.

UPDATE 1st July:

The Councillors at the June Howth/Malahide Area Committee voted 5 to 3 against approving the project, all of the majority asking for the two proposals to be separated from each other and for proper design and analysis to be done on the forest adventure area, which we all would like to see in principle.

The Parks Department have indicated that notwithstanding the vote at the Area Committee, they will be asking the full Council meeting on 11th July to approve the project.