A PLAN TO deliver 1,000 new homes in west Dublin was given the go-ahead by councillors earlier this week, despite concerns and objections from local residents around flooding risks.
On Monday, the vast majority of Fingal County Councillors voted in favour of adopting the Barnhill Local Area Plan (LAP), with just three councillors voting against it.
The LAP is expected to deliver in the region of 1,000 new homes in an area which covers 46 hectares of land located in the southwest of Blanchardstown, west Dublin.
The lands are adjacent to an existing railway station at Hansfield (next to the Hansfield Strategic Development Zone) and are set to be accessed by a new road connecting it with Ongar.
Fingal said that developments on the lands will consist of mixed-tenure housing, as well as social and community infrastructure.
The council put the plan out to public consultation in October of last year, and 31 interested parties made submissions, including councillors, local sports clubs and residents from the surrounding areas.
Among the issues raised were concerns about density in the area, green space, transport connections and potential flooding risks associated with developments of the lands.
Various submissions from residents in the surrounding areas addressed fears around the increased risk of flooding.
“We are exceptionally concerned regarding the increased risk of significant flooding to our dwellings… and the houses built in recent years in Hansfield,” one concerned party wrote.
In addition we are concerned that this plan proposes building new homes at high risk of flooding in the future
Other residents from surrounding areas submitted photographs of flooding in back gardens and the fields around the Barnhill area.
One local man said that Fingal should send a letter to householders in Barberstown who live adjacent to the site, saying that the council accepts “full liability for any flood damage to our property”.
The individual voiced concerns that the entire area is flood plain – an area of low-lying ground prone to flooding.
“While I understand the need for new housing, I don’t agree with building new housing on a flood plain. Not now and not ever,” another submission notes.
There are plenty of examples of housing built on flood plains in the past in this country which have led to disastrous consequences for those living in the areas.
At the council meeting on Monday, councillors put forward motions in relation to a number of issues related to the LAP.
Three councillors – members of the Solidarity Party – voted against the plan, asking for further risk assessment of flooding risks in the area.
“We are supportive of development of those lands,” Solidarity councillor Matthew Waine told TheJournal.ie.
“What was brought to our attention by local residents was a concern over the process to assess the flooding on the lands,” he said.
Waine said during the council meeting that he had been made aware that there were significant concerns that area could be subject to “a level of flooding that would cause anyone concern”.
He said that a proper risk assessment over pluvial flooding risks (meaning flooding as a result of a heavy downpour of rain) had not been carried out, and that the LAP should not be given approval until the assessment was carried out.
“What went out on display did not address adequately the question of pluvial flood risk and that’s fundamentally the issue we have here,” Waine said.
We’re not opposed to housing, we’re opposed to flooded housing.
Other councillors strongly disagreed with Waine’s assessment, saying that the level of planning put into the proposal had been sufficient and that it had their support.
At the meeting there were calls for Waine to apologise to the planners amid strong objections to his motion, saying it would be highly detrimental to the LAP.
Councillors said that the Strategic Environment Assessment (SEA) in the plan had been carried out well, and that Waine and the other councillors were wrong to criticise it.
Green Party councillor Roderic O’Gorman put forward a motion, that was later passed, requesting that a flood justifications test be required for planning applications.
“I welcome the passing of this plan. I think a detailed analysis was done on any concerns related to flooding,” he told TheJournal.ie.
“I’m happy my amendments to bring in the flood justification test across the entire site was passed.
I think this means that any future planning applications here will go through an extra rigorous process of assessment.
Council planners also said that they had carried out rigorous assessment of flooding risks in their preparation for the plan.
“We’re absolutely confident it’s been run through the proper planning guidelines… and we’re confident with this assessment of flooding and draining for this area,” one official said.
Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Waine repeated that he was not against the construction of houses in the area, but that further assessment of the risks of pluvial flooding needed to be carried out.
“It’s not a question of coming back to square one… you’re talking about tweaking 5% of the plan,” he said, adding that this should only add “two or three months” to the length of the process.
In response to a query from TheJournal.ie in relation to the potential flooding concerns, a spokesperson for Fingal County Council said that the LAP was subject to a robust Strategic Flood Risk Assessment.
“The framework for development of the area has also been prepared in accordance with best practice including applying the precautionary principle and making provision for future climate change scenarios,” the spokesperson said.
Separately, but integral to the drainage of these lands, the Barnhill Stormwater Management Plan has been prepared to set out strategies and principles for the drainage of these lands.
Speaking to TheJournal.ie, one resident who lives adjacent to the Barnhill area said that she and neighbours were disappointed with the adoption of the LAP.
“There was absolutely no consultations with the residents,” the resident said.
We were absolutely ignored and they steamrolled it through.
The resident highlighted issues with flooding risks, but also said the density and size of residential buildings due to be built in the area, as well as a lack of proper amenities and transport infrastructure, were issues with the plan.
Following the adoption of the LAP the next step is to build a bridge across the Dunboyne train line.
The council said the procurement process for a contractor to do this is expected to begin this year, with construction due to commence by 2020.
Following the construction of the bridge, the council said it was its intention that it would start to develop the lands in a sustainable manner over a period of longer than six years.