Headings for Santa Sabina objection

Below I attach the draft headings of Michael O’Neill’s submission for the Santa Sabina Action Group, as discussed at recent meetings.  I will replace it with the full objection when I receive it.

Re: Planning application for residential development of 130 no. dwelling units and a crèche on lands that formerly formed part of the curtilage of the Santa Sabina St. Dominic’s School and Convent complex at Greenfield Road, Sutton, Dublin 13, for Parsis Ltd., Sandyford, Dublin 18.  ( Reg. Ref  F06A/1099)
•    Fig 1: Aerial view of subject site – outlined in red.
1.1    CONTEXT
•    Suburban Lands
•    Institutional Lands
•    Surrounding Land Uses
•    Backland Site
•    Embedded Site – within Educational religious precinct
•    Shared Educational Use
•    Archaeological Impacts
•    Government Sustainable Development Policies 1997
•    National Spatial Strategy
•    Regional Guidelines for the Greater Dublin Region
•    Residential Density Guidelines
•    Dublin Transportation Office Policy Documents
•    Fingal County Development Plan 2005 – 2011
•    Special Amenity Area Order for the Howth Peninsula
•    Contextual constraints
•    Compliance with Planning Parameters
•    Residential Density Guidelines
•    National Spatial Strategy
•    Special Amenity Area Order
•    Compliance with Fingal County Plan 2005 – 2011
     Zoning Objectives
     Policy for Residential Areas
     Policies for Public Open Space
     Development Control Standards
     Residential amenity
     Character and pattern of development in the area
     Development Potential of adjoining lands
     Zoned Public Open Space Lands
     Institutional Setting
     Protected Trees
     Potential Protected Structures – Church and Convent
     Protected views and prospects
     Special Amenity Area Order for the Howth peninsula
     Environmental Quality of the area
     Impacts of Traffic – conflict with school traffic
     Drainage and Water supply

Fig 4: Potential impacts of proposed development on surrounding land uses.
A.    Impact on the residential amenities presently enjoyed by residents in the vicinity
B.    Impact on the Educational Facility
C.    Impact on the Development Potential of Adjoining lands
D.    Impact on Protected Trees
E.    Impact on zoned Public Open Space  
F.    Impact on school recreational facilities.
G.                Specific overlooking
1.5.1    Development Plan Policy
The subject lands are within the functional area of Fingal County Council and are therefore covered by the statutory Development Plan for the area.  The most recent Development Plan for the County is the Fingal County Development Plan 2005 – 2011, and in that Plan the subject lands, which in land use terms contain the school, convent and recreational areas, are split between two zoned areas, i.e. residential and Public Open Space.  The current zoning on the lands is shown in Fig. 2 below, and, as can be seen from this map, all of the lands in use as hockey pitch and basketball areas have been zoned for open space and recreational uses.   The other lands, which contain most of the subject site, all of the school buildings, convent, and surrounding areas are zoned for residential use.
•    Fig 2: Fingal County Development Plan 2005 – 2011 zoning objectives for subject lands.
At present, as can be seen from Fig. 2 below, approximately 27% of the site is zoned “OS”, i.e. “to preserve and provide for open space and recreational amenities”, while the rest (73%) of the site is zoned “RS”, i.e. “to provide for residential development and improve residential amenity”.
•    Fig 3:  Zoning Fingal County Development Plan 2005 – 2011(left), overlaid on site plan of proposed development (right).
•    Uses permitted in principle on the residentially zoned land include, inter alia, residential.  
•    Uses permitted in principle on the open space zoned land include, inter alia, community facilities, recreational facilities and sports club.  
•    The vision of the Planning Authority for public open space zoned lands states that:
       “Only community facilities and other recreational uses will be considered and encouraged.”  
The lands presently zoned for residential development are severed from the public road by zoned  Open Space lands.  The use of these lands for a residential road to serve an embedded  backland residential development – particularly of the size and scale proposed must constitute a material contravention of the statutory Development Plan for the area as the  zoning does not allow for residential developments.  Part of Block B is being built on the Open Space zoned lands. This is clearly a material contravention of the Plan.  
It would be our contention that the Public Open Space zoned lands make up a substantial part of the subject site – approximately 4200 sq.m. or twenty seven percent of the overall site, and are been used to facilitate the residential development to the rear.  On these grounds alone the proposed development should be refused planning permission.   
1.5.2    Development Control Standards
The critical Development Control Standards for the proposed development are set out in the statutory Development Plan for the area, and the following Standards are relevant in the present instance:-
    Density
    Car Parking
    Private open space
    Public Open Space .
1.5.3    Density
The area of the zoned residential lands at 1.128 hectares is well above the 0.5 hectares required to determine a separate density from the site.  The proposed density of 110 units per hectare (46 per acre) is well above the maximum permitted on sites which have all the necessary characteristics for maximising density. In the present instance a density of even fifty units per hectare would have to be predicated by the obvious constraints that the site offers, particularly the following:-
•    The zoning on the subject lands, and adjoining lands,
•    The transitional nature of the site – in both land use and zoning terms,
•    The institutional nature of the lands,
•    The surrounding type and scale of residential development in the area,
•    The educational and recreation use – for girls  – on two sides of the proposed development.
•    The distance from the DART station – above that recommended in the Dublin Transportation Office document Platform for Change,
•    The roads and traffic constraints, danger to road users particularly school going children,
•    The development potential of adjoining lands,
•    The tree protection policies of the Council,
•    The proximity to a pSAC, pNHA.
•    The location of the site within attendant lands subject to the Special Amenity Area Order.

All of the above have to be considered before any decision can be made on an appropriate density for the site.  
The proposed density of 110 units per hectare is over seven times the existing general density in the area, – which is roughly fifteen units per hectare.  
1.5.4    Car Parking
The 2005 – 2011 Fingal County Development Plan Parking Standards identify the following parking requirements in relation to the proposed use for the site.
Land Use    Maximum Permissible
Dwelling     1-2 spaces per dwelling
Source: Fingal County Development Plan 2005 – 2011
Based on the above, the proposed development would require between 130 and 260 car parking spaces for the proposed development.  A total of 195 car parking spaces are to be provided to cater for the overall development – including the crèche.  This number of car parking spaces is deficient in terms of numbers – none allocated for crèche or visitors.  A further twenty spaces need to be provided for these uses, reducing the number available to the future residents to 175 spaces.  The result of all this is that there will be an overflow of car parking unto the surrounding roads, which is already deficient in width and alignment.  Car parking near the entrance to the proposed development would create a traffic hazard and affect the safety of other road users.   
On these grounds alone the proposed development constitutes overdevelopment and contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area.
1.5.5    Open Space
The lack of private and communal open space in both quantitative and qualitative terms must be mentioned, and in this regard the proposed development has not been adequately addressed in terms of its institutional land use and Public Open Space zoning.  
In apartment developments private open space may be in the form of balconies, terraces, roof gardens or communal landscaped areas exclusive of surface car parking. Balconies or terraces shall be usable and be a minimum of 5 sq.m. in area and should be integrated or recessed into the main structure of the building with a view to providing shelter, privacy and where possible to avoid overlooking.  The minimum private open space requirement for apartments in the general area, as per the statutory Development Plan for the area, should be as follows:
Suburbs     12 – 15 sq.m. per bedspace
In the present instance there are approximately four hundred and forty one bedspaces in the proposed development.  This represents a requirement for a total of between 5292 – 6615 sq.m. of private open space on the site.  Private open space at this level has not been provided and the communal open space available is only 2085 sq.m.     
In the Fingal County Development Plan 2005 – 2011 the policy is to retain in open space use institutional lands and similar properties with established recreational or amenity uses, as far as practicable.  Open space provision in excess of the normal standards is required to maintain the open character of such parts of the land as are considered necessary by the Council for this purpose.  The quantity of land required for this purpose is not stated, but in the Dublin City Development Plan 2005-2011, the policy is that, where residential development occurs on former institutional lands public open space should be located in such a way as to be accessible to the general public.  They require that 25% of the site shall be set aside for accessible public open space and/or community facilities.  We would be of the opinion that this standard of Public Open Space is appropriate, and in the present instance this level of Public Open Space should be provided within the residentially zoned lands.   Therefore a minimum of 4800 sq.m.  of Public Open Space should be provided to cater for the proposed development.  Only 2085 sq.m.  is provided to cater for the proposed development, less than half that required.
1.6.1    National Spatial Strategy
In terms of the location of housing in urban areas, the NSS states that this must involve:-
Concentration of development in locations where is it possible to integrate employment, community services, retailing and public transport;
Mixed use and well designed higher density development particularly near town centres and public transport nodes like railway stations;
The efficient use of land by consolidating existing settlements, focusing in particular on development capacity within central urban areas through re-use of under-utilised land and buildings as priority, rather than extending greenfield development.
We would submit that the subject development is not in compliance with the basic  requirements as set out in Table 4.1 of the National Spatial Strategy, and does not adequately match the character, community, or integration tests listed.
1.6.2    Strategic Planning Guidelines  2000 – 2004
The principal objective of these guidelines is to establish a broad planning framework for the area which comprises Dublin City, Dun-Laoighre Rathdown, Fingal, Kildare, Meath, south Dublin and Wicklow all of which are experiencing unprecedented growth driven by the recent buoyant economy. This planning framework will provide an overall strategic context for the formulation of Development Plans at local authority level.
In line with the overall vision, the strategy for the Metropolitan Area is to follow a development path that will:
    Consolidate development within the area.
    Increase overall densities of development.
    Thereby facilitate the provision of a considerably enhanced public transport system and facilitate and encourage a shift to public transport.
1.6.3    Residential Density Guidelines 1999
The Department of the Environment published guidelines on residential density in 1999, following circular letter PD 4/98.  Briefly, the guidelines seek to promote higher densities in new residential schemes.  They have emerged against a background of rising demand, falling household sizes and government policy on sustainability.  The guidelines set out policies and standards but are not intended as a design guide.
In general terms, the guidelines discourage densities less than 20 dwellings per hectare (8 dwellings per acre), and they suggest that a range of 35-50 dwellings per hectare (14-20 per acre) would result in more efficient land usage.
The guidelines recommend the following for residential densities in towns and villages:
    In the case of residential development on serviced lands in towns and villages located in existing or planned quality public transport corridors, particularly those which have spare capacity in existing facilities such as schools, shops, libraries, health centres, childcare facilities etc., increased densities would be appropriate in order to maximise such social and infrastructural investment (Section 3.6.1).

Of import in the present instance is Section 3.3.1 of the Guidelines, which deals with “Infill Residential Development”, where it is stated that,
“….In residential areas whose character is established by their density or architectural form, a balance has to be struck between the reasonable protection of the amenities and privacy of adjoining dwellings, the protection of established character and the need to provide residential infill.  The design approach should be based on a recognition of the need to protect the amenities of directly adjoining neighbours and the general character of the area and its amenities…..”
In the present instance the subject site does not meet all of the above criteria and the design of the apartments are such that it would not blend into either the character or the pattern of residential developments in the area.  Indeed it is submitted that the proposed development would maximise the disamenity by virtue of the location of the development proposed, its three/four/five storey design – with windows and  balconies directly overlooking neighbours, i.e.  residential, educational, and recreational properties.
Section 5.1, of the Residential Density Guidelines deals with the General Approach – Criteria for Higher Densities. The following are deemed important in arriving at suitable sites for the development of higher densities.
•    Size of site
•    Proximity to town / city centre facilities and to existing or planned public transport systems
•    Quality of proposed layout and elevational design
•    Quality of proposed open space and general landscaping
•    Levels of privacy and amenity
In section 5.7.4 Recommended Qualitative Standards suggest that the following criteria, inter alia, should be utilised when assessing the appropriateness and impact of any development.  
•    Quality of design and layout.
•    Standard of residential environment.
•    Protection of privacy.
•    Issues in respect to adjoining property;
•    Overlooking.
•    Overshadowing of habitable rooms (daylight and shadow projections may be required to be submitted as part of a proposal)
•    Height (In general low rise buildings which respect the scale and character are appropriate if adjoining existing development is low rise).
It will be our contention that the proposed development does not properly address the issues raised in the Guidelines for Planning Authorities on Residential Density , nor does it particularly address the issue of set backs, overlooking and overshadowing.  We would suggest that the proposed development contravenes both the government’s and the Planning Authority’s policies with regard to the protection of residential amenity of adjoining properties.
 Zoning Objectives
Land Use Zoning Objective RS: To protect, provide and improve residential amenities.
The general objectives for primarily residential areas are to provide a measure of protection from unsuitable new development or certain ‘bad neighbour’ developments that would either threaten or be incompatible with the overall residential function of the area. It is not intended to rule out development other than housing development but simply to apply a test that the new development should be compatible with or reinforce the residential function of the area as a whole.
General Site Development Standards
The creation of attractive environments with a genuine sense of place is a prerequisite to achieving sustainability. The quality of where we live, work and visit depends not just on the design of buildings, but on their layout and landscaping, the arrangements made for access, and in particular, how they relate to their surroundings…..
Development proposals will be assessed in terms of how they contribute to the achievement of the objectives above, and having regard to various qualitative and quantitative standards. Of foremost importance will be the encouragement of development of the highest possible architectural and urban quality.
Density should achieve optimum use of urban land appropriate to its location and context.
In implementing the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government guidelines on residential development and to encourage sustainable residential communities, consideration must be given to the qualitative and quantitative standards outlined above and to the following elements:
• Density: High densities should be provided in appropriate locations. Site configuration and area will have an impact on the density levels achievable.
• Quality of the proposed layout and elevations: The quality of the residential environment will be paramount in the acceptability of planning applications. Layouts, elevations, and design must be designed to emphasize a sense of place and community. Residential complexes including social and affordable housing shall be built to designs, which do not articulate social difference and will be laid out in a way that makes no sharp territorial boundaries between different housing origins.
• Quality of proposed open space and general landscaping:
Detailed landscape proposals, including specifications, must be submitted with all planning applications. The detail of these proposals will form an integral part of the assessment of the quality of the proposed layout….
• Levels of privacy and amenity: The relationship of buildings to one another, potential overlooking, sunlight/daylight standards and the use of screening devices and landscape elements will form the basis of assessment……
We would submit that the proposed development neither complies with nor supports these reasonable objectives.  It is clear that the proposed development would represent a material contravention of the said policies and objectives of the current plan.
Daylight and Sunlight
• The Planning Authority considers that all buildings should receive adequate daylight and sunlight. Careful design of residential buildings, where the amount of incoming light is important, can ensure that sufficient sunlight can enter habitable rooms to provide comfort and also reduce the need for artificial lighting.
The proposed development does not comply with the reasonable objectives of the Planning Authority in this regard.

Aerial photograph of subject site showing trees on site and densities around site.
Such a diversion from the densities of adjacent buildings and indeed from the densities of the surrounding area must be seen as both unreasonable and excessive, and contrary to the Density Guidelines and statutory Development Plan for the area  which states that; ‘The density of new residential development will generally be influenced by the density of the surrounding area’
Indeed the Planning Authority, and An Bord Pleanála, have refused planning permission for less dense apartment developments in similar  areas for the reason of its density being excessive in relation to the low to medium densities which characterize the particular area and therefore,
 ‘would injure the special amenities of the area and would set an undesirable precedent for further such developments in the area and would be contrary to the proper planning and development of the area’
We would contend that the density of the proposed development is a much more serious breach of this reasonable reason for refusal given previously.
This view is fully consistent with the Guidelines for Planning Authorities on Residential Density.  Although the Residential Density Guidelines targets infill residential in Inner Suburban locations for higher residential densities it qualifies it by stating that,
‘the design approach should be based on recognition of the need to protect amenities of directly adjoining neighbours and the general character of the area and its amenities i.e. views, architectural quality civic design etc.’
We would submit that the proposed development does not protect the general character of the area, i.e. medium density single family dwellings set in small gardens
1.6.4    Building Form & Size
Dwellings in the immediate vicinity of the proposed development site are two-storey.  It is therefore suggested that the form, size and height of proposed development does not relate to that of the surrounding dwellings and therefore is contrary to the statutory development plan.  Again it is the policy of the Planning Authority that housing development should relate to the surrounding urban form and land use. Protection and respect of the existing amenities and the character of the area are important and should be regarded as a feature of good design.
Lack of Open Space
The level of Private and Communal Open Space on the site is, given the nature of the lands, seriously deficient.  The deficiencies can partially be met by reducing the number of residential units on the site, but this requires a major revision to the current plans.  It would be our contention that the deficiency is of a scale to require the Planning Authority to refuse planning permission on grounds of material contravention of the statutory Development Plan for the area.  
1.6.5    Overshadowing
Given the proximity of the proposed development to adjoining properties, and its orientation, the potential for overshadowing is significant.  The proposed development, by virtue of its size, proximity and height will significantly diminish the amount of sunlight into many of our clients’ properties, thereby affecting the residential amenity and the value of the property.
1.6.6    Concluding Remarks
On the basis of the above analysis we would ask the Planning Authority to refuse planning permission for the subject development for the following reasons:-
1.  “The proposed development due to its density, height, bulk and scale, would overall represent an unsatisfactory standard of development in terms of design and layout.  The proposed development would contravene materially the current statutory Development Plan for the area and would also conflict with the Department of Environment and Local Government Residential Density Guidelines, Section 5.1, 5.2 and Section 5.5 and would therefore be contrary to the proper planning and development of the area”.
Due to its unsatisfactory design and layout the proposed development is considered to be out of character with the pattern of adjoining residential development and would seriously injure the amenities and depreciate the value of property in the vicinity. The proposed development would therefore contravene materially an objective of the County Council, as expressed in the Development Plan “To protect and / or improve residential amenity”.
It is clear from the proposal that the proposed development is totally reliant on the removal of attractive mature specimen trees which are designated in the Statutory Development Plan for the area.  Access to the site is also inappropriate, given the existing access from the regional route, which is more than adequate to serve the existing development.  
In Table 2 below we have set out the key development control standards – as per the statutory Development Plan for the area and the Guidelines for Planning Authorities on Residential Density – applicable to this site, and as can be seen from this Table the proposed development is significantly in breach of most of the development standards – both quantitative and qualitative – applicable to ones assessment of the subject application.
Development Control Standard    Proposed Development    Development Plan requirement    Development Control Standard Met
Residential density    110 per ha.      30-50    r
Open Space /bedspace    9 sq.m.     12 – 15 sq.m.     r
Car Parking    195     130-260     r
Consultant’s Estimate
Our clients’ private residential amenity will be significantly affected by the proposed development.  As already stated one of the key recommendations emanating from all of the reports is that higher densities can only be countenanced in situations where the size, and location, of the site is adequate to create its own density and design without significantly damaging neighbouring properties or the neighbourhood.   The test for higher densities is therefore two fold, but both have to be achieved.  In the present instance none of the criteria for higher densities are present.  Therefore, as is clearly stated in the guidelines, but very often ignored by Planning Authorities, the type of development must be consistent with the character and pattern of residential development in the area.  Only in this way can the residential amenities presently enjoyed by our clients be protected as outlined in the statutory Development Plan for the area.  
It is clear from a perusal of the statutory Development Plan for the area that the proposed development is a contravention of the objectives, policy, and Development Control Standards therein.  Given the size, type and location of the subject lands and the impacts of the proposed development on adjoining residential, community, and educational amenity, including the environmental quality of the access road through Public Open Space zoned lands, the subject development materially contravenes the statutory Development Plan for the area.
In conclusion we would respectfully submit that the subject development is a material contravention of the statutory Development Plan for the area; and is therefore contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area; would seriously injure the residential amenities of our clients’ properties, and would destroy the residential character of this area.
Michael A. O’ Neill, MIPI