Westmeath County Council has revealed plans to build a social housing development of 20 units on an area of land at Arcadia, Athlone.
The plans are part of an overall proposal by Westmeath County Council to construct 78 social housing units across the county.
The area of land at Arcadia, which is in the ownership of the council, comprises approximately 1.59 acres (0.7 hectares ). It is located beside St Kieran’s Community Centre, immediately west of an access road serving Athlone Mixed National School, and east of an existing council estate, Ashdale.
Diagonally to the north east is the existing B&Q/ Apple Green complex, while to the south are playing fields associated with St Kieran’s Community Centre.
As the site in question is currently zoned as ‘commercial’, it will be necessary to pass a variation to the Athlone Town Development Plan 2014-2020 in order to allow for residential development on the site.
The construction of 20 units on the site equates to a density of 35 units per hectare. The council intends the development to tie in with the vacant site to the south east, which is also in their ownership and has been identified for social housing.
The council has indicated that, based on an examination of OPW data on pluvial flooding, the site is not at risk of flooding.
A further four sites in the county have also been identified for social housing developments: 18-21 houses at Ennell Court, Mullingar; 20 houses at the rear of Tesco, Mullingar; 13 units at Water Street, Castlepollard; and Robinstown Road and Delvin Road, Mullingar.
Speaking at Monday’s county council meeting, Fine Gael’s Cllr John Dolan said that while he welcomed the news, he was concerned about the timeframe to get the houses built.
“We are playing catch-up due to the economic crisis, and the timeframe worries me. We all know there is a process to go through, but we will need to get the zoning fast-tracked,” he said.
Cllr Aengus O’Rourke (FF ) said the developments were “a drop in the ocean in terms of housing requirement” in Athlone and across the county.
Meanwhile Cllr Paul Hogan (SF ) suggested that the council consider other possibilities to zone further lands for the provision of social housing.
“If we had these houses up tomorrow it wouldn’t be early enough, because of the demand out there,” he said.
The council’s director of services David Hogan said there were plans to deliver 850 housing units in the county by 2020, through a mixture of builds, purchases, and rental schemes.