Mayor ‘demoralised’ by ‘ridiculous’ planning refusals

Galway City Council may soon have to make hard decisions and look at increasing the heights of buildings in order to facilitate the growth and housing need of the city, this week’s meeting was told at The Ardilaun Hotel.

City Mayor Clodagh Higgins said that the recent ‘ridiculous’ refusals of planning permission for hundreds of housing units in the city had left councillors ‘demoralised’.

Galway currently has over 4,000 people on its housing list, with projections that the city’s population will grow by 40,000 by 2040, but Mayor Higgins told the meeting that hitting this target is unlikely if such planning decisions continue.

“We are totally demoralised by the whole process. You have to ask what is the point. Someone has to listen to the nonsense that is taking place.

“We are trying to increase housing supply but we are being met with ridiculous conditions and decisions by An Bord Pleanala. 68 private units and 71 social units at Keeraun denied planning permission simply because they were excessively car dependent?” she said.

In refusing the permission some weeks ago, An Bord Pleanála said that although the land at Keeraun was zoned residential, this development would “continue and extend the piecemeal development of the area,” without adequate infrastructure.

The decision said that the lack of safe pedestrian links, the distance to public transport, and lack of social and community facilities nearby would make it heavily car dependent.

The lack of alternative travel options meant that the development would be “contrary to national, regional, and local policy objectives on sustainable mobility”.

However this week, Mayor Higgins went on to say that if this continues, the Council will have to review the housing strategy and look at increasing the heights of buildings.

“If we cannot get housing delivery, do we need to look at increasing the heights of our buildings in order to be able to facilitate th growth of the city?”

“If this continues to happen, we will struggle to house the proposed population growth unless we make some hard decisions. We need to tackle this head on.

“Everyone is really demoralised. The Council is trying to make efforts to solve the housing issue, but we are being knocked back consistently.

Mayor Higgins said conditional planning permission could have been granted.

“I can’t understand why planning couldn’t be granted with conditions attached, such as upgrading the footpaths, roads and so forth,” she said.

“We all appreciate that the road at Keeraun needed to be upgraded, and there were active plans in place that the upgrade would happen in tandem with housing developments.

“An Bord Pleanála didn’t give Galway City Council an opportunity to explain that, they just flatly refused the application.”

City Manager Brendan McGrath said that he shares the frustrations of the Mayor and the other councillors.

“This ruling impacts on where we can get land, not only in 2023, but 2024 and 2025.

“The most frustrating thing about the Keeraun project is that it was with An Bord Pleanala for 18 months before their decision. It took three and a half years to get to there following the need for three business cases, with our own planning department, the transport department and the recreation and amentiy department, to ensure we had a sceme that met planning criteria.

“Galway City is 41 sq km. The project refused on the Headford Road is a 20 min walk from Eyre Square, because it is not served by a public bus service.

“I would be deeply concerned at the aspects of the refusals. Both projects had specific elements to cater for the needs of the Traveller community and that has been set back.

“I am deeply concerned and I have drafted a letter to the Department of Housing taskforce expressing our concern to meet our housing targets. The pressure to deliver social housing is very significant.

“When we go to buy land, we buy land that is zoned and serviced for development, that meet the criteria.

“The Headford Road site was zoned and in our ownership. Keeraun was bought in the noughties and the scheme is in planning since 2016, so these refusals are concerning,” he concluded.


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