Executive present: Kevin O’Regan (MDO), Andrew Hind (Senior Planner), Ross Palmer (Senior Executive Planner), Martin Ryan (Executive Planner)
Councillors present: Derry Canty (FG), John Collins (FG), Marcia D’Alton (Ind), Mary Rose Desmond (FF), Deirdre Forde (FG), Joe Harris (Ind), Seamus McGrath (FF), Michael Frick Murphy (SF), Daithi O’Donnabhain (FF, Chairperson), Donnacha O’Laoghaire (SF)
AH: The purpose of this meeting is give Members a chance to voice their concerns about the Shannonpark Masterplan. The key issue to be discussed today is that of connectivity.
(He ran over the concerns listed by the residents in relation to the proposed connectivity.)
This is very much a ready-to-go site. We anticipate the amendment being closely followed by a planning application. We see the site as being an important part of providing an immediate relief to the shortage of housing.
In recognition of the submissions made to the Masterplan consultation, we think the best resolution to the issue of connectivity is to solve it at the planning application stage. Those who are concerned will have the right to appeal to An Bord Pleanala. Citizens who are concerned, if they are dissatisfied with Cork County Council’s decision at that stage, they have the right of appeal to an independent body.
Cllr McGrath: Thanks for facilitating today’s meeting that was requested by a number of us. Today’s meeting is absolutely essential. We could not have a proper debate on this report at the last meeting. The Masterplan issue should be debated at Municipal District level anyway. It is an enormous Masterplan and we need to get it right. Can’t support it in its current form. Thinks further changes are needed. Residents made submissions. Is very disappointed with the response from Management. The changes proposed are miniscule. Connectivity is one of the main issues. The response from Management is only shifting the deckchairs around. In many respects, the proposed paragraph strengthens the connectivity. Sets out clearly the intention of having connectivity between the two estates and refers to the planning process down the road. The residents have outlined very legitimate concerns. Response from the CE does not reflect the genuine concerns flagged by the residents. We need to review the position on this issue. Thinks we should readdress this. It is fine to put connectivity into a new development but here we are retrofitting connectivity into established residential areas and force public access points into those areas. Connectivity needs to be dropped out of the Masterplan. Another main concern are the infrastructural requirements, in particular the N28. In theory, this Masterplan could be developed in full before the N28. In one part, it refers to an upgrading of the Shannonpark roundabout or provision of the new N28. Signalisation of the Shannonpark is not enough to provide for 1000 houses. Would like to see the Carrigaline Relief Road included also. But crucially, we have to pin down provision of the new N28 with the development.
Cllr Desmond: Supports everything Cllr McGrath has said. The connectivity issue is very real for residents in Heronswood. The Masterplan cannot be supported with the connectivity and infrastructural issues that are there at present. It is not good business or practice to override concerns that the residents have raised. We are kicking to touch with regard to the changes proposed.
Cllr D’Alton: Also agree 100% with everything Cllrs McGrath and Desmond have said. Also have extreme concerns with regard to the connectivity with Heronswood. Am concerned about the linking of the development with the upgrade of the N28 but am even more concerned about the linking of the development with Carrigaline. So many studies, so many plans have commented on traffic issues in Carrigaline and the need to improve infrastructure around the town yet this Masterplan does not as much as mention it. More importantly though, the Council proposes to provide badly need housing through Masterplans. Some have denigrated the Masterplan approach. I think it can work and this site is the first real chance for the Council to develop a Masterplan on the ground. But in its being the first, it should be a flagship. A flagship in terms of site design and house design. Building houses is one thing. Building homes is quite another. And the County Council should be about building homes. So we need to build a community, integrate it with the existing community in Heronswood. We will not do this by ignoring concerns of existing residents with regard to accessibility between the two estates. We need to integrate the new Shannonpark community with the existing community in Carrigaline. We will not do this if we ignore the issue of traffic between Shannonpark and Carrigaline. We need to provide houses that address the issues that are being discussed at national level every day: climate change, traffic, energy efficiency, water conservation. These are not addressed in the Masterplan at all. This is our first Masterplan and we need to be able to point other local authorities to it and be proud of what we have developed. Until we do that, I cannot support this Masterplan.
Cllr Collins: I can understand the need for connectivity but I am not sure that the red arrows indicated on the Masterplan are the right place to put them. People will need connectivity to schools. In terms of getting cars off the road, this is the best way to do it. The greenway is outlined in the Masterplan. It is about 30 – 60 m wide. I suggest that half is put aside for a greenway and the other half is used as pedestrian access around the back and onto the spine road which is to run through the centre of the development. There may be issues with regard to land ownership which will have to be addressed. The way to set out dealing with issues like obesity is to encourage walking and cycling. As an alternative to the crossing points highlighted by the arrows, use the greenway. Agrees with the word “practical” in the proposed wording change. Some of the proposed crossing points are already blocked by concrete driveways, etc. So ownership is a real issue. But thinks the greenway should be that point of access between the two estates.
Cllr Canty: As the longest serving councillor, I know what this was like in Ballincollig, Grange, Douglas and Frankfield when they were developing. The residents will make their own access points. There are still people that would blacken me in relation to getting walkways closed in Ballincollig. There are people who wanted them to be kept open to allow access for walking to Mass, to school, to the shops. If there is only a ditch between the two estates in Carrigaline, they will make access themselves. If there is to be no access, the two estates will have to be fenced and walled off from one to the other. If you don’t do that, the kids will make the access points themselves.
Cllr O’Laoghaire: Will not be supporting this most recent proposed amendment in relation to connectivity but wants to recognise what is positive about the Masterplan. Much work has been done on this. By and large, it is positive. The idea of Masterplans was attacked by other councillors from other municipal districts. I support it. I think it can deliver cohesive, well-serviced communities. This Masterplan has some commitments to community facilities, to phasing, to public transport and to education. But two primary concerns relate to housing and to phasing. In September, I said that Phase 2 should not be delivered without the N28. As it stands, the Masterplan offers a choice. I said Phase 3 should not be delivered until the Western Relief Road is in place. I still hold those views. My concern around provision of social housing still stands and was discussed at some level in the Chamber. The response from Management is always centred around Part V. Cannot see why it is not possible to come to an arrangement with a developer and identify where additional social houses could be assigned. There is one social housing development being built on the southern side of the town. This will provide about 48 houses. But there are hundreds of people on the waiting list for Carrigaline. This is the biggest development which will be built in Carrigaline for many years. Believes we can find a place within it for social housing outside of the Part V agreement. Knows there is an issue with access points. Hard to see where they will fit. But there is a valid point raised by Cllr Collins, particularly as there will be a school in the Shannonpark area. There does need to be access between the two estates to allow access to the school. But it needs to be done in such a way as to impinge only in a minute way on residents of Heronswood.
Cllr Forde: Carrigaline is very lucky to have this Masterplan. We cannot look people in the eye when they are crying out for housing, we cannot but want to have this Masterplan delivered as soon as possible. Went to look on the ground. If I buy my house in a cul-de-sac, I want to stay in a cul-de-sac for a reason. To take that loss of amenity away is to deny these people their right. Supports the Masterplan as a whole and recognises that there is an issue here to be dealt with. Cllr Collins is the only one who came up with a solution. Thinks we should see this proposal as feasible. Residents mentioned the railway line as a means of access. Takes on board what Cllr D’Alton has said about the way we style things. Thinks a lot of these issues could be addressed at the planning stage. We used to have a meeting with the planners a few times each year where such issues could be thrashed out. If we reinstated this discussion between councillors and planners we could address these issues and it would be valuable. Cllr O’Laoghaire mentioned extra social housing. Recognises that we need them but we don’t want to ghettoise the estate either. Thinks this will be addressed another day. This Masterplan is absolutely vital. Between now and whenever we have to vote it through, we have to sort these issues out. Wants to support it but doesn’t want access between Heronswood at the three identified points. Cllr Canty is right that informal access will be made regardless.
Cllr Harris: Appears that a lot of work has gone into this plan. The residents of an existing estate are trying to preserve their way of life and as Cllr D’Alton said, it is an existing mature area now. Is confident that with the expertise we have in the Council, we can find a way around without these access points discommoding people. There are a lot of strong feelings about it down there at the moment and it appears they have a legitimate case. It is such a huge plan, is confused by why these access points are so vital. An awful lot of time and effort has gone into this, you have done a great job and this is a solvable problem.
Andrew Hind: Am pleased to hear Members think this can be solved. This is the second round of consultation to this plan. At the first stage, only 6 submissions were received, none of which were from members of the public. The purpose of that preliminary consultation was to raise issues like this when the Council had the legal freedom to change the plan. It is regrettable that this didn’t happen at that stage. We now are in the position where we may not have the legal power to change the plan. It is a difficulty that these issues were not raised earlier in the process.
From the executive side, we think there is a very strong need to support this housing provision. It is badly needed. We have been working for a large number of years to make this site a proposition. Irish Water has invested in the new wastewater treatment plant and this is one of the big infrastructural deficits which would formerly have stood in the way of the Shannonnpark development.
There is a need for connectivity between the two developments. The Shannonpark development will have social infrastructure that will also benefit Heronswood. It is hard to conceive that future residents of Heronswood will not send their children to school in Shannonpark. There will be good open space in the Shannonpark development which residents of Heronswood will want to use in the future. The public transport interchange – residents of Heronswood will want access to that. Agrees with Cllr Canty. If we confine ourselves only to access at the greenway, informal access will be created which will be more difficult to deal with in the longer run.
There are alternatives to the red arrows and that is why we are proposing to remove the red arrows from the Masterplan. The type of alternative proposed by Cllr Collins is the type of proposal the new text is intended to facilitate. Because of the legal restrictions imposed on us, we cannot make specific reference to such alternatives.
The issue of tying the development to the delivery of the N28 and nothing else is that we carried out an independent traffic assessment of the impact of the development. This was published publicly. The upgrade of the Shannonpark roundabout will have capacity to accommodate the development. It is a fact from an independent source. Delivery of social housing is a matter for the housing section of the County Council. At a planning level we are limited to operating within the parameters of Part V.
Cllr McGrath: Referring to two public consultations is very disingenuous. The first did not have detail like the second.
Ross Palmer: Yes it did. The two documents are almost exactly the same. There were very few changes made because there were so few submissions.
Cllr McGrath: I said at that Municipal District meeting that connectivity with Heronswood would be an issue. What was the point of the consultation if people sent submissions in good faith and you are now saying that legally we cannot change the plan?
Andrew Hind: You could also turn that question around. What was the point in the preliminary consultation when these issues which were so deeply held by residents were not raised then? Not a single submission was received from the public and not a single comment was made in this Chamber along these lines. At that time, we made it clear that the law had changed, the Council had been involved in a legal case in Charleville over making changes to plans at a late stage and we made it clear that we could not allow material changes at a late stage in the consultation process. What we have done is that we have proposed a change. We have taken out the word “it is critical” and replaced it with “where practical”. This is a downgrading of the issue of connectivity, not an upgrading. And we have taken the red arrows off the plan.
Cllr O’Donnabhain: Asks that a briefing note would be sent in relation to the statutory process, the various steps the Council is obliged to adhere to and the Charleville case.
Andrew Hind: We have quoted from the act in the report. Page 7. In our view, if we move from a position of some connectivity to no connectivity, this is a step too far for the meaning of this paragraph. We are proposing to move from a policy environment which says “connectivity is critical” to “connectivity is best considered at the planning application stage”.
Cllr D’Alton: I do not disagree about the need for connectivity between the two estates but it cannot be at the expense of existing residents. Cllr Collins’s suggestion about the greenway may be the answer. It is just not fair to residents of Heronswood to provide this connectivity through their cul-de-sacs. When they were buying their houses, they specifically sought out houses in a cul-de-sac because they wanted a particular lifestyle, they wanted their children to grow up in a place that was relatively safe to play in. They paid a premium for that privilege. It is not fair that the County Council would now come along and propose to destroy the way of life existing residents have actively sought and enjoyed. The proposed wording will not do because it does not provide existing residents with the reassurance they need.
Andrew Hind: If we added the “views of local residents” to “where practical”, would that be making process?
Cllr Forde: Thinks this may be a way forward. Doesn’t buy into some of the things the residents outlined but if I buy a house in a cul-de-sac, I expect it to stay a cul-de-sac until I no longer want it to be a cul-de-sac. We do need to walk and get healthier and we’ll be the very ones screeching at management when flooding is on the road, etc. But we never talk about what we can do. Cllr D’Alton is right about the bigger picture. I hopes a lot of these issues will be teased out and responded to at the planning level.
Cllr Collins: Supports the idea that these people who bought their houses in cul-de-sacs deserve their privacy, etc. It was mentioned that there were legal issues with regard to some of the access points indicated. I’m not going to support the proposed red arrows and believe my suggestion would keep the integrity of the both estates but would provide connectivity. We are already providing a greenway through it. It might be a way around this issue.
Cllr O’Laoghaire: Suggested that none of these issues were brought up at the preliminary consultation. They were. Doesn’t think that 20% of 1000 houses is anything like ghettoization. Provision of a school is the responsibility of the Department of Education. If we are going this far, why can we not plan social housing also? There was reference to a railway station in the preliminary consultation document – is that still there?
Martin Ryan: Yes there was but that has been removed.
Cllr O’Laoghaire: In terms of a process, what would it require of the planning officials that will be dealing with an application if they have to take account of a document like that?
Andrew Hind: Reluctant to give a definitive statement because there is no planning application in front of us. If we include a reference to taking an account of local residents, it is an invitation to the residents to submit their points of view. It will indicate that the elected members of the Council have stated in the Local Area Plan that the views of the residents on this issue are an especially important aspect when taking a decision on this issue. Not that they wouldn’t be taken into account anyway, but it is putting extra emphasis on them.
Cllr Harris: The issue is one of trust from the residents point of view if these arrows are put away for a while and reintroduced again.
Andrew Hind: The proposal is to put the arrows away and not to reintroduce them into the Local Area Plan.
Cllr Harris: Communicating and allaying people’s fears is the most important thing. If we can communicate to the residents our bona fides, that would help a lot.
Cllr Canty: We are an hour and a quarter into this and we have all had our say. Could we have five minutes out to have a chat ourselves and then come back and agree consensus? We need consensus regardless of what residents will say.
Cllr Collins clarified that because of the phasing of construction, there is only one red arrow causing an immediate problem. That is through Woodvale. Could that be taken off and the others left on to be dealt with at a later date? Also clarifying that the red arrow by the entrance will remain.
Andrew Hind: We will retain the single red arrow by the entrance. So the only access in the context of the first future planning application is the red arrow through Woodvale. Doesn’t want to take one red arrow off and leave the others on. Wants to deal with them all in the same way.
Cllr O’Laoghaire: Is it possible to make a reference to the desirability of retaining existing cul-de-sacs?
Andrew Hind: Not under the Act. We cannot go from “connectivity is critical” to “cul-de-sacs must be preserved”. If we get rid of the reference to “critical” it is not such an about-face.
Cllr Collins: In any event, the Masterplan is about the Shannonpark lands, not about Heronswood. So referring to preserving cul-de-sacs would not be possible?
Andrew Hind confirmed that that is correct.
Cllr D’Alton: There were no public responses to the preliminary consultation and then many many responses to the second consultation. One of the issues – and this whole issue of consultation needs to be discussed at full Council level – is that people are very busy with their daily lives. They find it difficult to connect with Council consultations and with other consultations. It is also very hard to relate to a text-based consultation. But during the Council’s second consultation period, Astra had a public information event. Unlike the Masterplan consultation, they provided plans and illustrations of what the Shannonpark development might look like. So for the first time, people were able to see for real what the potential issues were. Perhaps this is something we as a Council need to try to learn from: to talk in pictures as much as possible rather than in words. I bet if you check the dates of your submissions, you will find that most of them arrived towards the end of the consultation period. This was after the Astra information event. I also mentioned other concerns I had in relation to the Masterplan. These were connectivity with Carrigaline and the overall sustainability of the layout and housing design. These haven’t been addressed by anyone at all, apart from Cllr Forde who was kind enough to mention them! You mentioned there were no comments in the Chamber about these issues. In fact, I did mention the issue of connectivity between Shannonpark and Carrigaline and Ringaskiddy at the Municipal District meeting at which the preliminary consultation was discussed. You chaired that discussion, Ross and you agreed that those issues were really important.
Cllr McGrath: Would like to see further clarity in relation to the legal process. Presume the preliminary consultation is non-statutory? Under the legislation, is it the case that there is only one consultation required?
Andrew Hind: No. It is called non-statutory because Section 20 of the Act says that the planning authority will take “whatever steps it sees fit” to consult with the public, etc. So we do this non-statuory consultation to respond to that broad remit. So although it is non-statutory, it is actually statutory! I am trying to stop calling it “non-statutory” and to call it “preliminary” instead.
Cllr McGrath: When you do undertake statutory consultation, is there any provision for incorporating a significant change subsequently?
Andrew Hind: No. It cannot be done under current legislation. If the County Council wanted to make a material change, the County Council would have to abandon the proposed amendment and begin again. It would have to do the preliminary and secondary consultation gain. This would take an extra 6 months probably.
Cllr McGrath: Surely the preliminary consultation would not be required seeing as there have already been two consultations? So that would mean one further consultation of 6 weeks. If the will is there, this should be possible.
Andrew Hind: We have to be careful with that. We have never done it before so we have no precedent to refer to. Would have to think about it. If the Council Members instruct the executive to proceed in this way, then that is what we will do. There are parts of this consultation that the public does not see, like giving the authorities and the various government departments a statutory time to respond to the consultation.
Cllr Forde: We came in here today with an issue of connectivity being the primary concern. We really need to focus on the job in hand. One of the issues raised was permeability from the cul-de-sacs. The executive has proposed alternative wording to respond to my concern. There is phasing involved which buys us time. The second issue is that of social housing. Thinks this can be addressed through our Housing SPC and then coming to full Council to change the 10% to 12 or 15%. Also Cllr D’Alton’s issues of quality of estates, issues we meet on a daily basis, climate change and all these issues are really important. To address this, can we reinstate the meeting between the planners and councillors once each semester?
Cllr D’Alton: My points please? Could we address those?
Andrew Hind: A design guide for residential estates was approved by elected members some time ago. It is a very positive document. Presenting visual imagery in consultations is a problem because the Council is not designing the development. Nonetheless, accepts the point made. As regards connectivity between the estate and Carrigaline, the two new Municipal District Local Area Plans for Carrigaline are going to have a chapter to discuss solutions to this kind of issue. This is the best place to raise this issue.
Ross Palmer: It is correct that we did discuss this before. The Masterplan document talks about the importance of connectivity of this site to the town and Ringakiddy via the greenway. So the greenway is the key here.
Cllr D’Alton: That is absolutely true that the greenway will be essential to connectivity. But if the greenway is going to solve this problem, then why is there a big straight spine road running through the Shannonpark estate splitting residential areas in two?
Ross Palmer: Practice tells us that at least 20% of people will be using bicycles or walking. There still is a role for the motor car. Roads are necessary in any community. They connect east to west to allow the Rock Road and other alternatives to be used. You need that connectivity. Best practice is that there is a spine road. Any state of this size really needs two access points.
Andrew Hind: Agree strongly that an estate of this size needs two access points. What you do with that spine road in the context of traffic calming is a matter to be determined at the detailed stage.
Cllr D’Alton: At the Astra information session, the message I received was that on Council instruction, the road was straight and to receive no traffic calming. They mentioned Council’s instruction was for curvature of the road to provide for traffic calming.
Ross Palmer: That is not the case. The Masterplan specifically says that this is to be designed as a 30 km/h road. That is a very slow speed indeed. Traffic calming will need to be incorporated at the planning stage.
Cllr D’Alton: Agree that this is indeed slow. Confirming that traffic calming will be sought at the planning stage. (Confirmation received from both Andrew Hind and Ross Palmer.)
Cllr Collins: It is true that house design is important. There are some terraced houses in Heronswood where there is no facility for residents to bring in bins. They look awful with the bins scattered out the front. Also it is said that residents who live north of the Ashgrove roundabout go to shop in Douglas whereas those south of the roundabout shop in Carrigaline. It would be good if we could encourage all residents to shop in Carrigaline.
Andrew Hind: That sort of issue is one which should really be dealt with by the Local Area Plan.
Martin Ryan circulated the proposed alternative wording to deal with the issue of access between the new development and Heronswood:
“2. Insert a bullet point in 1.4.26 as follows:- Where practical, the layout and design of residential areas R-11, R-14 and R-17 allows for connectivity with the existing Herons Wood housing estate to the south. Cork County Council and the Developer will examine the various options at the planning application stage taking account of the role of the Greenway to the east of the site, the views of nearby residents, the Ministerial Section 28 Guidelines on Sustainable Residential Developments in Urban Areas (2009) and the NTA’s Permeability Best Practice Guide.”
***We took a short break to discuss options and how we might proceed. The executive left the room and councillors spoke together.
During the break, councillors discussed this new proposed wording. Many still not happy with it because it provides residents with no assurances. It is still open ended. Cllr D’Alton proposed alternative wording with which the other councillors were satisfied. However, many councillors still not happy because even if the accessibility issue between Shannonpark and Heronswood is resolved, there are still other issues which remain unaddressed.
The meeting reconvened.
Cllr D’Alton read out the following proposed alternative wording:
“Connectivity with the existing Herons Wood estate to the south will be provided by the existing Greenway. This will address the Ministerial Section 28 Guidelines on Sustainable Residential Developments in Urban Areas (2009), the NTA’s Permeability Best Practice Guide and concerns of adjacent residents.”
She added that this wording responds to the “critical” element of connectivity by defining a connection between the two estates but provides the necessary assurance to residents that points of access will not be through their cul-de-sacs.
Andrew Hind is concerned about that we are going from several red arrows to only one. He says that he will take away the new wording and think about it.
Cllr Forde said that she was satisfied with this wording but that other councillors had other issues. Cllr O’Donnabhain invited councillors to recap on them.
Cllr D’Alton: Other key issues are linking with the N28 upgrade and a commitment to sustainable design being incorporated in the Masterplan.
Cllr McGrath: Other key issue is linking with the N28 upgrade.
Andrew Hind: This wording from the Members is a positive suggestion. Will think about it outside of this meeting.
With regard to sustainable design, the County Council follows national regulation. Going beyond the building regulations is not something we intend to do in particular with this estate. We have addressed all the other issues – flooding, etc. – in the Masterplan. The only one we have not addressed is water conservation. Does not support the view that the construction of the N28 is linked to the development. The independent study commissioned by the Council said that upgrading of the roundabout would be sufficient. Linking the upgrade to the development would be counterproductive because the NRA has said that the N28 upgrade is not to accommodate commuting traffic. We would be giving the wrong signal to government in relation to the N28 upgrade if we were to link the development with the N28 upgrade.
Cllr Canty: Is this to come before full Council on Monday?
Andrew Hind: We have to make a decision on this by 25th January. The other option that is open is that we bring this back to the Development Committee on 15th January where the options for wording can be considered again.
Cllr Forde: You have given your opinion in relation to the N28 issue. Several Members won’t be happy with that and won’t vote for the Masterplan as a result. Would be happy with the permeability wording. In relation to the housing issue, thinks a lot of the concerns can be addressed within the planning process which we can as a municipal district make a submission to. Some of us here won’t vote for this Masterplan under any circumstance so thinks we have gone as far as we can today.
Cllr Desmond: It is really important that this comes back to us as a Municipal District again. Wants to vote for the Masterplan, not against it. Is very taken aback by the view that the N28 is not to take commuter traffic. This is more of looking at each issue in isolation. Like the consultants telling us the Carrs Hill interchange will not impact on Douglas! The Port development was tied into the N28 upgrade. It is just good planning that the Shannonpark development would be tied in too.
Cllr McGrath: Where are we going from here? A discussion at this forum is far more productive than in a chamber with 55 councillors, all the others of which do not have this development in their core area. It should come back to Municipal District level and then on to full Council.
Andrew Hind will go back to the CE and decide with him whether to bring it to Development Committee or to a Municipal District meeting before bringing it to full Council on 25th January. The Development Committee has a stake in this because it is out of a Development Committee meeting that this meeting arose from. The next Development Committee meeting is 15th January. In the interim, he would like to discuss and think of tweaks to the wording proposed by Cllr D’Alton. He would like to canvas opinion on that on the executive side. Any changes to the proposed wording will be emailed to us in advance of the Development Committee meeting.
This concluded the meeting.