City councillors have this week voted to include national guidelines on new apartment developments in the draft Galway City Development Plan 2017 - 2023, despite concerns that the rules will see a reduction in the size and quality of new apartments built in the city.
The guidelines, published by the Department of the Environment, Community, and Local Government last year, include provisions for studio style apartments, which divided opinion among councillors. However as the guidelines are national policy they must be included in the development plan.
The guidelines set the minimum size of one bedroom units at 45sq m, two beds at 73sq m, and three beds at 90 sq m. The document also allows the inclusion of studio apartments with a minimum floor space of 40sq m, as well as single aspect apartments in new developments.
A submission from the Department requiring that the new guidelines be referenced in the city development plan was among some 260 submissions being discussed and adjudicated on by councillors this week and next.
Galway City Council chief executive Brendan McGrath told councillors that, as the guidelines were subject to a ministerial order, they had no option but to include them in the plan.
“The Department have pointed out in their submission that we are required to comply with it,” he said. “I can’t change the development plan without the consent of the elected members, I’ve got no choice. In my opinion they’re a disimprovement, but they’re being done in the context that the Minister has said we have a national housing emergency.”
A refusal to include the guidelines in the plan would delay the adoption of the new plan, Mr McGrath warned.
Several councillors expressed their concerns about the new standards, particularly with regard to the inclusion of smaller studio apartments, which Cllr Frank Fahy described as being “designed to increase profits for developers”. “I won’t be voting for this, ministerial order or no ministerial order,” Cllr Fahy added.
However other councillors were open to the idea of smaller apartments, particularly for younger, single, occupants.
Cllr Pearce Flannery, who told the meeting he had lived in “something no bigger than a dog kennel in New York at one time”, saw a benefit in the provision of smaller apartments for this demographic. “What suits a 21-year-old, and what suited me when I was 21, wouldn’t suit me today, but it was more than adequate back then,” he recalled.
Councillors ultimately voted to include the guidelines in the plan, with half the members either voting against the proposal or abstaining.
The council has also agreed to examine proposals to increase in housing density and building heights in some areas to allow for development in the city.