THE Mayor of South Dublin was accused of “playing to the public gallery” as South Dublin County councillors approved plans for the Clonburris Strategic Development Zone (SDZ) last week.
The council debated over 350 motions suggesting amendments to the plan in a series of meetings that ran from Friday, February 2 until the early hours of last Friday morning (9 Feb).
The amended plan, including the opening of Kishogue Railway Station, a reduction in the overall size of the development, the inclusion of additional green space and the inclusion of a thorough approvals process for the potential opening of cul de sacs in some estates in Lucan and Clondalkin, was approved by 22 votes to one, with 10 councillors abstaining.
But there were some tense moments during the final debate on Friday, when Mayor Paul Gogarty attempted to push through voting a motion without debate, that called for Adamstown to be 80% completed before work on Clonburris commenced.
Cllr Gogarty has previously said that he does not believe that the land at Clonburris should be developed and some councillors questioned whether he should have been chairing the debate, given his views.
Cllr Cathal King (SF) branded it a “sneaky” move and said that while he felt Cllr Gogarty had been an excellent chair since taking over as Mayor, he said he felt that Cllr Gogarty was “playing to the public gallery”.
Cllr Brian Leech (Sol) also said that he felt Cllr Gogarty’s chairing of meetings had been “exemplary” up until the meetings on Clonburris.
He said to Cllr Gogarty – who has consistently called for webcasting of council meetings – that “you can thank your lucky stars we didn’t have a webcast here” to applause from many councillors in the chamber.
Cllr Ed O’Brien (FF) said that he did not think motions were being put down to frustrate the process, while Cllr Breeda Bonner (Lab) said that while she would not support Cllr Gogarty’s motion, she defended Cllr Gogarty saying that: “It’s been a very difficult set of debates to chair.”
Cllr Gogarty said that he was only trying to be helpful in proposing that the motion be voted without debate and pointed out that he still fought on issues affecting Adamstown even though he had not agreed with the building of that particular development.
In a statement released following the meeting, Cllr Gogarty said he was “hugely disappointed” with the decision of councillors to vote against most of the phasing and infrastructural motions.
“In the bad old days of developers funding certain political parties, we had this mantra of build at all costs, the facilities will follow,” he said.
“The facilities did not follow and communities were left stranded, sometimes for decades.
“What I witnessed the past week was something similar.
“The type of housing may have moved in favour of increased social and affordable housing provision, but the argument was the same: build and be damned.”
Three Fine Gael councillors also abstained from approving the amended plan.
Cllrs Vicki Casserly, Kenneth Egan and Emer Higgins said they supported the need to develop almost 7,000 homes in Clonburris over 20 years, but voiced concerns around the sustainability of the plan from planning and transport infrastructure perspectives.
FG councillors voted with Fianna Fail, the Mayor and the independent alliance on a motion that sought to ensure social and affordable housing was delivered in line with government policy.
The vote was not carried and instead SF and Labour voted to increase the number of social units within the development to treble the national statutory minimum.
“I don’t believe the plan that was adopted last night is perfect; but I am happy that we’ve another phase of public consultation now and that councillors can make more amendments before it’s finalised,” said Cllr Higgins.
Cllr Francis Timmons (Ind) proposed approval of the plan but said he found the process “less than inspiring”.
“Councillors have little real say in major issues, traffic and transport being two of the biggest,” he said.
Cllr Madeleine Johansson (PBP) called on the National Transport Authority to engage with the local representatives on transport issues related to Clonburris.
“The National Transport Authority has failed to engage properly with local representatives and the only option left for us was to force the NTA’s hand by including public transport in the Phasing of the scheme, against the recommendations of the planners,” she said.
“I call on the NTA to engage in meaningful discussion with local representatives, and on the people of Lucan and Clondalkin to get organised to demand better public transport.”
Cllr Ruth Nolan said that she voted in favour of the plan as she felt that the delivery of homes should be a top priority.
“A lot of positive measures were taking on transport and infrastructure,” she said on Friday.
“I attended every meeting and I’m convinced all councillors worked to the best of their ability.
“Unfortunately, today Cllr Paul Gogarty and Cllr Liona O’Toole have taken to the media to accuse councillors who voted against their motions “as having no understanding of what we were doing”, and blocking good motions.
“Do these councillors not realise this is called democracy?
“Those who voted against their motions did so to stop the delaying of houses, which was the game they and the councillors who co-signed these motions, Cllr Guss O’Connell and Cllr Francis Timmons, were playing.”
Cllr Mark Ward said that he was pleased to have a motion passed that could see up to 2,700 social and affordable homes delivered in the SDZ.
“This plan when delivered will not only help those on our housing list but also those who are over the threshold for social housing but cannot afford to buy their own home,” he said.
The plan will now be sent to An Bord Pleanala and then put out to public consultation before being brought back to councillors for a final decision.