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Councillors in Dublin have voted against including safe walking and cycle routes for schools in development plan

Last night, however, councillors voted in favour of cycle routes for specific schools – against opposition by the council manager.

Image: Fingal County Coucnil

COUNCILLORS ON A Dublin local authority have voted against providing safe walking and cycling routes for schools as part of their development plan.

Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, Labour and Renua councillors on Fingal Council joined forces to narrowly shoot down a motion which would have included, as an objective in the development plan the provision of safe walking and cycling routes for new schools.

The 2017-2023 Fingal Development Plan sets out the planning and zoning requirements for the local authority area, which is the fastest-growing in Ireland.

Councillors are continuing to hold meetings to decide broader council’s plans for the area for next five years.

The motion, a video of which is available here, proposed by the Green Party, was defeated by 19 votes to 16.

The Government schools cycling policy commits to providing safe cycling and walking routes to schools. Many schools in Fingal are some distance from the pupils’ main residential areas.

The Malahide/Portmarnock Educate Together national school, for example, is in Kinsealy – miles from main population centres like Portmarnock, Malahide or Clongriffin.

Green Party councillor David Healy proposed a motion to commit the the council to acquire and develop foot- and cycle-paths between schools and residential areas when acquiring and developing land for new schools.

At the meeting, Fingal Council Manager Matthew McAleese said they had a difficulty with the motion, especially as it might lead to compulsory purchase orders (CPO) for the creation of cycling routes for the schools. CPOs involves the acquisition of land for public purpose without requiring the consent of the owners.

Mayor Darragh Butler (Fianna Fáil) questioned whether the motion could delay schools “and potentially hold us to hostage in terms of the price we pay”.

Healy said the county’s development plan already provides for CPOs and acquisition of sites for schools on behalf of the Department of Education, and the cycling and footpath routes would be an add-on to that process.

“It’s not something new that we would be doing. The only question is, are we serious in providing safe cycling and walking routes to school, or not? Because at the moment we have a spectacular failure.”

20161010_114358 Pupils from St Columba's National School in Dublin asking motorists and cyclists to slow down outside their school. Source: TheJournal.ie

The motion was proposed after safety concerns from Portmarnock Community Association and other community groups in Lusk and Rush.

In September, two young boys were killed while cycling in separate incidents in Louth and Offaly. All told, nine cyclists have lost their lives this year, including two in Dublin.

Twenty-one pedestrians have died so far this year, meanwhile, according to the latest Garda statistics. Yesterday, pupils from St Columba’s school on the North Strand in Dublin called on motorists – and cyclists – to obey red lights outside their school.

Galling

Cllr Natalie Treacy (Sinn Féin) told TheJournal.ie that the motion was a “no-brainer”.

“Why would anyone one vote against it? As a mother I would always put the safety needs of people and especially children to the for fore.”

“It’s a huge surprise that people could vote against something like this,” David Healy told TheJournal.ie. ”Thousands of students will be affected, basically the whole of Fingal.

People were saying it would have interfered with commerce, and people’s ability to do business. But it’s not as if you’re shutting down the entire transport network.
It’s about safety and encouraging active travel, and sustainable ways for getting around. Public transport links to existing and planned schools aren’t great.

The Government’s National Cycle Policy framework states: “We will provide safe cycling routes to all primary and secondary schools and third level colleges by 2020″.

shutterstock_401831665 File image. Source: Shutterstock

Who voted what 

In keeping with this, Healy’s proposed amendment to the development plan stated:

In tandem with identifying and procuring new school sites, plan safe walking and cycling routes to school from the residential areas to be served by the school. Where land must be acquired to provide these routes, work with landowners and relevant parties to acquire or arrange for the necessary land.

The Council’s own planning department opposed the motion, as did Fine Gael (5), Fianna Fáil (5), and two Labour councillors. Six independents and one from Renua also voted against. Sorted by ward, they are:

  • Balbriggan: Farrell (Lab), O’Connor (Ind), Maguire (Ind), O’Leary (FG)
  • Castleknock: Mahony (FF), Loftus (FG), Leddy (FG), Murray (FF)
  • Howth/Malahide: O’Brien (FF), Guerin (Ind), Lavin (FG), Redmond (Renua)
  • Mulhuddart: McGuinness (Ind), Dennison (FG), McCamley (Lab)
  • Swords: Butler (FF), Henchy (FF), Devitt (Ind), Smith (Lab)

Sixteen councillors from the Green Party, Anti-Austerity Alliance, Sinn Féin, Social Democrats and several independents supported the motion.

  • Balbriggan: Quinn (SF)
  • Castleknock: Treacy (SF), O’Gorman (GP), Kavanagh (AAA)
  • Howth/Malahide: O’Callaghan (SD), Healy (GP), Ní Laoi (SF), McDonagh (Lab)
  • Mulhuddart: Donnelly (SF), Nolan (Ind), Waine (AAA), Doyle (AAA)
  • Swords: Coppinger (AAA), Lynam (SF), Newman (Ind), Mulville (Ind)

Four councillors were absent: Barry Martin (Ind); Brian Dennehy (FF); Tony Murphy (Ind) and Edmond Lukusa (SF).

Councillor Keith Redmond told TheJournal.ie that he voted against, as it “required of the council to potentially institute compulsory purchases of lands”, and potentially delay new school building.

Councillor Butler told TheJournal.ie:

If I voted against Councillor Healy’s motion it would have been to support the management and the professional planners who in my mind would have made a better argument as to what could be realistically delivered.

“If the motion was defeated then obviously more councillors agreed with the Council management than with Councillor Healy.”

Fingal Council Fingal County Hall in Swords Source: http://www.swords-dublin.com/fingal-county-council.html

Youngest population in Ireland

Stretching across north and west county Dublin from Balbriggan, Swords, to Blanchardstown, Castleknock and Santry and Howth head, Fingal has the youngest population in Ireland.

It’s also the fastest growing local authority area in Ireland, growing 8% between the 2011 and 2016 censuses censuses.

The Government’s National Cycle Policy states:

We will provide safe cycling routes to all primary and secondary schools and third level colleges by 2020. An audit will be carried out of every school / routes leading to the school from residential areas.

It says the responsibility for this is with local authorities (ie councils) and the Department of Transport.

Fingal planning department also opposed 30kh speed limits around cycling routes. That motion for 30kph speed limits near schools was nevertheless passed.

Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 18.00.52 (1) An indicative cycle/pedestrian from Abbeyville to Kettle's Lane in north County Dublin. Source: David Healy

Fingal Council management did not comment when asked by TheJournal.ie.

Last night, 27 councillors voted in favour of a separate motion tabled by Councillor Healy, providing for specific cycling routes to certain schools across Fingal.

The motions were to add cycle/pedestrians route between

  • Abbeyville and Kettle’s Lane (see map, above)
  • Balgriffin and Kinsealy (via Malahide Road)
  • Balgriffin and Teagasc Kinsealy
  • Portmarnock and Teagasc Kinsealy

The Council opposed last night’s motion.

Read: Gardaí catch 24 times more Dublin motorists than cyclists breaking red lights

Read: ‘It’s bananas!’: Fury as funding pulled for Dublin cycling projects

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