Adamstown developer seeks reduction in density with new application.

ONE of NAMA’s biggest developers, *Joe O’Reilly, is pressing ahead with his Adamstown scheme despite the collapse in the housing market (my article on Lucan house prices). Castlethorn Construction has made a revised application to previously permitted scheme to build 72 new houses and apartments at Adamstown, reducing the density of the original application.

Adamstown was the first strategic development Zone (SDZ) to be granted in 2003, a planned urban development of 10,000 residential units built in increments with transport and community infrastructure tied into each application following a decision by An Bord Pleanála. To date A total of 3,227 units have been granted permission, of these 1,284 are commenced and 1,209 are occupied,  the development also has 2 primary schools, a secondary school a crèche operated by a large franchise. Built alongside the Dublin Cork railway line a new train station was opened in 2007 and Dublin Bus operates the 25B route which commence in Adamstown. The well landscaped and designed development also has a small retail unit and a kid’s playground.

In 2011 temporary school structure was erected within Adamstown to accommodate a 16 classroom primary school for a period of 3 years for Esker Educate Together N.S. That brings the number of schools currently within the Adamstown lands to four. A planning application has been received by SDCC for a new permanent school building at Esker.

Some residents have expressed concerned that any adjustment to the SDZ could lead to the developer breaking the conditions set down by An Bord Pleanála regarding the delivery of infrastructure in tandem with development. It would appear based on comments made by FG Councillor William Lavelle in the Lucan Gazette that there is some basis to this. (January 12th) “At a threshold of 1,800 units, there can be no development unless certain criteria are met”.

This would appear to indicate that granting permission for the 72 new homes will allow the developer to renege on conditions set down to deliver on a community centre and sports hall for Adamstown Community College in the current phase while continuing to build homes.

Councillor Lavelle’s comments are somewhat surprising in his support for low density housing.  “What this applications shows is that the developers are willing to move away from high density developments back to low density development with own door houses” Councillor Lavelle goes on to say that Low density areas put less pressure on the infrastructure of the areas”

Despite the slowdown in house building we cannot revert to the low density development model. Bad planning decisions made by successive County Councils throughout the 90’s allowed Dublin to sprawl without any consideration the strain it was putting on the transport infrastructure. The reason Adamstown was chosen as an SDZ was its “strategic” location beside the Dublin Cork railway line, without higher density development the long-term viability of the rail service will never be fulfilled.

My argument is reinforced by Dr Paula Russell of The UCD School of Geography, Planning an the Environment, in her comments for an article in the Lucan Gazette (9th February 2012) she states: “We have to look forward even now to 20, 30 years into the future. Dublin city has becoming  sprawling, and we need to provide those kind of densities around transport hubs”.

Ms Russell goes on to say “How can we balance what is desired, and what is sustainable in the longer term? I think it’s important that we do not go back to what we had in the past”

Lucan was badly deprived of transport and social infrastructure from 1990 onwards as the population exploded, and with the development of Adamstown may local interested group (Deliver It Right) campaigned to ensure that imbalance would be addressed in the phased delivery of Adamstown.

Having lived in Adamstown for close on three years, it was one of the better developments built over the past 15 years, a point that can easily be made by the infrastructure that was delivered in tandem with housing, through set down planning conditions.

We now know that the vast  majority of the planning decisions between 1990 and 2005 were driven by developers leaving the Irish landscape blighted with ghost estates that will never be completed. This latest application could be viewed as an attempt for developers to regain control of planning. This time lets hope Councillors and official’s make decisions based on what’s best for the future development of Dublin and it’s people.

I firmly believe there should be that no changes should be made to the Adamstown SDZ, tinkering with a good plan at this stage will bring us back to the hotch-potch planning of the 90’s.

*It should be pointed out that Adamstown is not a NAMA development, even though many of Joe Reilly’s companies are.

See the latest application to South Dublin County Council here Councillor Lavelle has written a letter in support of Castlethorn’s latest application.

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