WAITING FOR THE ADAMSTOWN TRAIN THAT MAY NEVER COME

This is an article I wrote for the Irish Independent and published on May 13th 2003 after the SDZ plan was passed by the Council. It then was passed on to an Board Plenala who held a 8 day Oral hearing on the plan.

Irish Independent, 13th May, 2003, by Tom Dowling

Adamstown is currently a green field site of 550 acres beside Lucan. But following a vote last week in South Dublin Council, it is set to have 10,000 new homes, equivalent to packing a town the size of Drogheda into the space of a golf course. Local activist TOM DOWLING explains why he believes Lucan, already choked with traffic can’t cope without trains.
Lucan in the mid 1970’s was a small town of just 8,000 people ten miles West of Dublin city. In the early 80’s and 90’s large areas of land were rezoned and developed for housing.

The quiet village grew in time into a large town struggling for public transport and schools to keep pace with development. Between 1996 and 2001 Lucan was the fastest growing area in the whole country, CSO figures show that the population almost trebled in that time.

At present Lucan has a population in the region of 35,000 people. It is besieged with traffic congestion perhaps inevitable because of the inadequate public transport. School provisions is a major issue, with only temporary accommodation for some and little hope of alternatives. One of the schools is currently used as a Scouts Den, and school places are allocated by lottery.

Adamstown is currently a green field site of 550 acres beside Lucan. Following a vote last week in South Dublin Council, it is set to have 10,000 new homes, equivalent to packing a town the size of Drogheda (25,000) into the space of a golf course. Located just off the N4 past Superquinn and extending over to the Dublin-Cork railway line to the South. After several refusals this land was rezoned in 1998 under controversial circumstances. In July 2001 the Government designated Adamstown a Strategic Development Zone. This new legalisation allows the development to be fast tracked without normal planning appeals.

A key justification for the designation was Adamstown’s proximity to a rail line. In January 2003 SDCC publicised the Adamstown (SDZ) Draft Planning Scheme. The plan proposed the building of 10,159 new homes, doubling the strategic planning guidelines: basically it was for high density housing including high-rise of up to fifteen stories.

The plan proposed incremental developments over thirteen phases. However, one of the main concerns of local groups was that there were no checkpoints to ensure that before developers could start another phase of development that basic services were up and running for the previous phases.

The Council plan proposed that the whole of Adamstown could be built without an operational train service at Adamstown. The development could proceed as long as the station was built – but there were no guarantees about how many, if any trains would serve Adamstown.

The plan also said that classrooms had to be provided, but they could be temporary. No proposals were included to outline how these schools were to be made operational. Development could proceed without a single pupil being accommodated. Numbers of classrooms proposed were also inadequate.

Quality Bus corridors were outlined in the Council’s plan but there is no checkpoint to see if a single bus has been provided as the development proceeds. It is clear that, while the higher density and positioning of this development was being justified on the basis of sustainable public transport, Adamstown is going to be a car driven society.

The plan has also passed even though reports required by the councillors on Storm & Flood Management had not been completed. In 2000 flooding in Lucan devastated hundreds of new homes. A smaller study was undertaken, but paid for by developer-landowners.

An additional concern was that the transport study for the area has not been completed (it only became available long after public could make submissions on the plan. The study assumed Luas & Metro would be servicing and that major road networks would be upgraded.

Finally local people were also concerned that SDCC were not intending to carry out an Environmental Impact Study to independently assess the viability of the development and its effects on the greater Dublin area.

In all some 126 submissions were made on the plan, of which 30 were misplaced in the planning office and were unavailable to the County Manager when drawing up his report. This report was presented to the 26 Councillors on March 31. Amendments for the plan had to be handed in by April 2nd, giving Councillors less than 72 hours to read a 100 page Manager’s report and draft amendments. Two dates were set aside for debate April 16 and May 7.

The intention was that on May 12th the council would vote on the Adamstown Draft Planning Scheme.

There were 3 options open to the Councillors – Adopt the plan as drafted, adopt it with amendments – or Reject.

If the council passed the plan it would form the basis for the whole development and it could only be appealed to An Bord Pleanála. Once passed, any development in line with the scheme can then be passed within weeks. There are none of the usual chances to address any oversights in the SDZ process.

During this time local interest groups together with local councillors drew up over 50 motions. These motions required operational services, permanent school buildings, and an EIS to assess the full effects of Adamstown on the West Dublin Area. Furthermore, there should be an enforcement section in the plan, which would discourage developers from proceeding to the next phase until operational infrastructure was in place.

At the same time, the Deliver it Right campaign commenced in the area and posters were erected along the roads of Lucan.

By clicking on http://www.deliveritright.com a message was generated and sent to all Councillors of South Dublin along with other key political figures to alert them of our concerns about the development.

This was a huge success and thousands of people clicked on the site within a 3-week period.

At the start of the second meeting last Wednesday (May 7), the management informed the councillors that the vote on the plan would take place that day despite it was not on the Agenda. The reason given was that the vote was required to comply with time frames specified in the legislation. After only 5 hours of debate only 17 of the motions were voted into the development plan. Director of Planning Kieran Kennedy deemed the rest unworkable.

He did not say there was a problem legally, but the developers would have them removed by An Bord Pleanála. The majority of members agreed with managements ruling and in the end all motions were lost.

In the end a 15-12 majority voted through the plan.

So what has the Deliver it Right campaign achieved?

We got permanent school structures for the children of Adamstown. We got lower building heights facing existing communities. We got amenities into the area – playgrounds, all weather pitches, tennis courts, and a swimming pool.

These are positive results, but what is wrong is what is still missing. There is no stop on further development if key operational services are not provided. Before phase 7 there is a review of what services have become operational for the population, which then exists in Adamstown.

However, we believe this will be too late, by then Adamstown will have become a car-based society. So here we have another development without real infrastructure. Because they are missing from the plan Adamstown could end up like Tallaght in the 1970’s. We are not asking SDCC to supply the transport Services – we are asking them to constrain development until it is provided.

We are not opposed to development. We acknowledge the need for housing development. But we want viable development with a reasonable quality of life for those within and around it.

The plan that was passed last week will again lead to another car-driven society, but with higher density. There is now only a four-week period to make a one shot appeal to An Bord Pleanála to make sure Adamstown is developed with the necessary public transport and services.

The clock started ticking last Wednesday. This SDZ is the first to get this far. It will set precedents, and is important for all the people of Dublin and not just Lucan for that reason.
__________________________________________________________________________________
Tom Dowling is the Press Officer for residents groups in the Lucan area who are opposed to the Adamstown plan unless adequate public transport systems and other social infrastructures are provided for in the development.

(c) Tom Dowling

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