Sean Walsh Park older housing plan approved

By Mary Dennehy

FEW WERE spared a roasting in South Dublin County Council chambers, when the proposed development of an 81-unit older persons’ housing scheme in Sean Walsh Park came before members for decision – and was passed.

In recent months, the proposed development has generated a lot of heat, after a number of campaigns against the housing scheme was ignited.

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An artist impression of the housing units in Sean Walsh Park

The removal of the council depot in Sean Walsh Park and the caretaker’s house and garden led to concerns that the high standard of the Green Flag park would not be maintained, while objections were also raised against the use of parkland for housing.

In council chambers, Colm Ward, Director of Housing, Social and Community Development, delivered a report compiled after the Part 8 public consultation process on the development of an 81-unit residential scheme on land at Sean Walsh Park.

According to the report 576 submissions were received in relation to the development of 63 one-bed and 18 two-bed apartments on the existing depot site.

According to Mr Ward, “no publicly accessible” park land is being taken for the development, which will be located on the site of the current depot and adjacent council-owned house and garden, both of which are not available to the general public as parkland.

He also addressed concerns over the loss of a community garden area which, used under licence by groups and not available to the general public, will be relocated to an alternative site.

Mr Ward also touched on the aging nature of the county and, with 21 per cent of people in the county aged over 55, there is a “demand” for older person’s housing.

Opening up debate on the proposal, Tallaght Central Councillor Brendan Ferron (Sinn Féin) noted that councillors have no say in relation to the closing of the depot and the removal of the caretaker’s bungalow.

However, Cllr Ferron, who voted in favour, did note that councillors can be part of the decision on what goes on the site once vacant.

“There is a huge housing crisis in Tallaght Central,” Cllr Ferron said.

“There is a desperate need for this.

“For us in Tallaght Central the easiest thing would be to oppose this.

“If it was about votes for us we would do that, but this is about providing housing – we have to step up to the mark.”

According to People Before Profit councillor Emma Hendrick (Tallaght South): “South Dublin County Council has not done enough to eliminate the housing crisis.

“They have not given us any options as councillors and reluctantly I am going to support this proposal, only due to the nature of the housing crisis.”

Stressing that local people are “central to any Part 8”, Independent councillor Guss O’Connell, who voted against the proposal, said: “If we are removing the depot, why not replace it with something that enhances the park.

“This is the wrong place, it’s bad planning and that’s it.”

Also voting against the proposal, Independent Lucan councillor Paul Gogarty said that a “visionary proposal” was needed, “instead of robbing bits here and there in response to the housing crisis.”

Rathfarnham councillor Deirdre O’Donovan (Independent), who voted against, questioned what impact Tallaght Stadium would have on those living in the development if it was to be extended.

All sitting Fine Gael councillors also voted against the proposed development.

According to Fine Gael councillor Emer Higgins (Clondalkin): “There is enough zoned land in South Dublin County to build 37,000 houses.

“The population is due to grow by 20 per cent, and we’re growing up and out.

“Investment in and enhancement of parkland is important.”

When it was time to vote, 25 councillors supported the development, including all 12 Tallaght councillors – which resulted in the proposed development being given the green light, with 25 councillors voting in favour and 13 against (two absentees).

Branding the proposal a “very reasonable development”, Social Democrat councillor Dermot Looney (Templeogue/Terenure), who voted in favour, stressed that the average wait time for any type of social housing with South Dublin County council is nine years.

Tallaght Central councillor Charlie O’Connor (Fianna Fáil), who voted in favour, said: “I’m listening to views for and against this.

“I’m also listening to people who are vulnerable and listening to people who are homeless, and I have to do what I believe is right.”

Independent Cllr Martina Genockey (Tallaght South) spoke of the how she believes the site “is appropriate” for older people.

While Solidarity councillor Mick Murphy (Tallaght Central) said: “If this was a piece being taken off the park, I wouldn’t be supporting it.

“At the end of the day, it’s not in public use, there is no loss of amenity.”

Cllr Murphy, did however, raise a technical question about the flood-risk assessment, reminding council officials that there was flooding on site in 2003 and 2011.

In response Mr Ward said that that there were “significant” mitigation measures in place.

In his contribution, Tallaght Central councillor Mick Duff (Independent) noted the important work of the Litter Mugs, a community group which was instrumental in helping to secure Sean Walsh Park a Green Flag – and which was among those who campaigned against the development.

He appealed to the group, and other environmental volunteers, to continue with their work.

Mr Colm Ward concluded that if the development was approved that the council would “ensure” the park is maintained at its current standard.

He also noted that an Ecological Impact Assessment was undertaken, and that a management plan for knotweed, which was identified on site, has been prepared.

For full details on the development and to read the report and submissions visit www.sdcc.ie

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