Master plan for Castlelands deferred after ‘dictatorship’ debate

by Sylvia Pownall
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A decision on a master plan for Castlelands in Balbriggan has been deferred after concerns over a lack of joined-up thinking were raised by area councillors.

The Draft Castlelands Master Plan – a blueprint for the delivery of up to 1,000 houses on a council-owned tract of land – has been put back to allow for further consultation.

Councillors expressed concerns that the high-density housing development proposed would repeat past planning mistakes because of the lack of amenities and open spaces.

Fingal County Council agreed to defer its adoption on foot of a motion from Cllr Tony Murphy (Ind), who warned it was “dismissing” the opportunity to get the National Transport Authority and the Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR) involved.

He called for the plan, which will play a key role in shaping the future development of north Balbriggan, to be delayed pending a review of the County Development Plan to be undertaken later this month.

Speaking at the Area Committee meeting, Cllr Murphy said that the council in its response was “dismissing” the opportunity for the NTA and the OPR to make submissions – as well as councillors.

He said there was a need to “take cognisance” of the fact that “we live in a democracy, not a dictatorship”, adding that he would be “very interested” to hear what the NTA in particular had to say.

Cllr Karen Power (GP) was one of eight who voted in favour of a deferral, with three against and four abstaining.

She said: “It would be short-sighted to sign off on a master plan when we do not have sight of the overall plans for Balbriggan and the wider Fingal area.

“Castlelands is a huge project, requiring huge investment, and needs to be carried out to the highest standard. The great work that has been done on the rejuvenation plan for Balbriggan is being directly contravened with the Castlelands master plan as it currently stands.”

She added: “This type of proposed large-scale housing development on the edge of town goes directly against the logic of the rejuvenation plan, which was created to start compensating our town with those things that should have been done when previous developments were built without sustainable infrastructure.

“We acknowledge that we are dealing with a very serious housing crisis, and I believe that the community will readily accept the appropriate number of houses on the site when the infrastructure and services deficits in Balbriggan have been addressed.

“The current housing shortage is not a valid excuse for bad planning,” said Cllr Power.

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