Failure of planning on Station Road Portmarnock

The failure to make the junctions at both ends of Station Road Portmarnock safe for people walking and cycling is rightly getting some attention. I’ll try to set out the situation, which is one of non-compliance with a planning permission.

Planning permission 305619 was granted by An Bord Pleanála for Portmarnock South Phase 1C of St. Marnock’s (website taken down but archived.)

The junctions at each end Station Road are highly dangerous for people walking. One of the issues in the application was the need to address the inadequacy of these junctions However the consideration in the the traffic report from the applicant on the Fingal planning file (SHD/012/19) was only about the issue of the motor vehicle capacity of the junctions. (Ridiculously, that traffic report, which has only one page on road safety, calculates the walking times from the development to nearby areas which are completely unaccessible by foot due to hostile road designs, such as Kinsealy.)

Unfortunately An Bord Pleanála’s inspector seems to have also assumed that the need to redesign the junctions was solely about capacity for motor traffic and made no reference to the safety issues.

The Inspector reported Fingal’s submission on the application as follows:

“upgrade of the two junctions should be provided prior to the construction of the proposed development/Can be achieved by way of condition”

and

“I note that Fingal County Council have raised concerns in relation to the existing and future capacity of the road network, in particular the capacity of two no. junctions, the Station Road/Strand Road/Coast Road junction, and the Station Road/R124 Junction, which are either close to, at or above their capacities. Fingal County Council consider that the required junction upgrades will have to be addressed in light of the current proposal and considered that detailed costing and design can be required by way of condition.”

(pp.27 and 50 of report)

The Inspector agreed with Fingal’s proposal. Taking his advice, the Board imposed the following condition:

“2. The following requirements of the planning authority shall be strictly adhered to:
a) The applicant shall provide a detailed design and costing for the upgrade of the two junctions – the R124/Station Road and Strand Road/Coast Road/Station Road, for the written approval of the planning authority.
b) The upgrade of the two junctions shall be provided prior to the construction of the proposed development.
c) Construction vehicles associated with the proposed development shall not access the site via the junction of the R124 and Station Road as the road width is insufficient for two HGVs to pass without mounting the footpath.
Reason: In the interest of proper planning of the area.

p.7 of decision

This permission was granted on 30th January 2020. Unfortunately, the Council has allowed the developer to start and continue development in clear breach of condition 2(b), a condition which it recommended. Criticism by local councillors of this clear breach of the planning law has had no impact.

The developer made the following submissions to comply with the condition: 8th June 2020;14th October 2020;16th November 2020.

Note the change in the November 2020 submission to remove the traffic lights at the Drumnigh Road end. Traffic lights at this location are vital the for safety of people who have to cross the road here to get to the train station. The Council at some stage decided that the Drumnigh Road junction would remain without traffic lights until a larger scheme involving CPO of land to widen Station Road can be implemented. I’ve been unable to get an explanation of why the developer’s engineers’ proposal for lights at this junction are wrong.

Hoping to understand what’s happening, a local resident asked for the relevant documents under the Freedom of Information Act and I asked under the Access to Information on the Environment Regulations. We were both refused. I have appealed to the Commissioner on Environmental Information. Unfortunately his appeal processes typically take years.

A fundamental part of the problem here is that vital elements like these two junctions should never have been pushed off for agreement by condition. These are important planning decisions which should be open to public consultation, and there is no provision for public consultation in the agreement of conditions. The reason for leaving these elements for agreement under condition is that this is an SHD development, with only one opportunity for public input and no appeal.

The fact that it has taken close to two years to have the conditions agreed (and that what has been agreed doesn’t meet the condition) is an indication that trying to do things faster often has the opposite effect. The ending of the SHD process is very welcome. It’s very important that lessons are learnt, and that there is no new restriction on further information requests in the planning process, because that would exclude the vital public input and lead to “more haste, less speed.”

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