Opposition to 'speculative' plans for Ukrainian campsite at Laytown

Plans by a private developer for a temporary campsite of more than 500 units to house Ukrainian refugees on a 39-acre site at Ninch, Laytown, have been submitted to Meath County Council.

The application caused some surprise locally as the site, which is located close to Laytown Train Station, had been identified as a strategic employment site in the Meath County Development Plan.

Last week, Melvin Properties and Ketut Limited lodged a planning application seeking a temporary planning permission for a period of five years for the development of an emergency temporary accommodation campsite and associated ancillary works on lands to the north of the R150 Laytown to Julianstown Road. The proposed 15.8 hectares site is situated to the west of Laytown Train Station and rail line.

Planning permission is being sought for 569 units with private open space. Each proposed unit is a detached, single storey, two-bedroom unit of 33 square metres each. The plans also include a playground, car parking spaces and bicycle parking spaces. Permission is sought for alterations to the existing access on the R150 layout road to provide vehicular (including emergency), cyclist and pedestrian access and the provision of internal shared route for vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians. Submissions can be made on the plans up to 27th June.

Meath County Council has confirmed that no pre-planning consultation took place on this application.

A number of councillors have spoken out on the plans with Cllr Sharon Tolan saying she couldn't support an application of that size, while Cllr Stephen McKee said he would be opposing the plan. Cllr Elaine McGinty said it was a not a practical solution for where they are proposing it and that a proposal like this would need all relevant agencies working together.

Locally there has been a lot of opposition, with hundreds of negative comments relating to the proposal on social media.

Meanwhile, Louth and Meath East Labour TD Ged Nash said it had been confirmed to him that the State agency responsible for accommodating refugees from Ukraine is not involved with this proposal submitted to Meath County Council.

"It appears therefore to be a speculative development proposal and it will be dealt with in the normal way by Meath County Council, through the planning process," he said. "If plans are being proposed by any developer to provide accommodation for refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine, they would be best advised to work in partnership with the International Protection Accommodation Service, the Department of Children and in the case of public land, the OPW, on any proposals they might wish to have considered," he added.

Cllr Tolan said creating a brand new village adjacent to Laytown in her opinion would create huge pressure on the local community.

"I totally appreciate where members of the public have huge concerns regarding GP access and other vital services. We will all be under pressure right around the globe in my own opinion, to try to deal with the Ukrainian situation and certainly if and when the war ends it will take a number of years to help Ukraine rebuild the country. We will need to look at these type of developments and new ideas in relation to housing Ukrainian people. However, 569 units is a new village and is a creating a brand new village adjacent to Laytown and in my own opinion, it will create huge pressure on our local community."

Cllr Stephen McKee said: "Ukrainians are very welcome to Ireland and we have a duty of care and responsibility to ensure that they are well looked-after and can safely settle in and integrate into our society. But it all has to be done in a properly planned way.

"The priority for East Meath as laid out in the Meath County Development Plan 2021-2027 is to focus on improvements in services, facilities and infrastructure that will meet the needs of our rapidly expanded population and assist in the creation of a more balanced and sustainable community. This is a sensible approach."

"It is unfair both on local residents and on those expected to live in such a development. The facilities and resources to accommodate potentially a couple of thousand new residents are simply not there."

He also pointed out that the site has been identified and zoned as a ‘Strategic Employment Site’ for the creation of local jobs.

Cllr Elaine McGinty said: "Anything like this needs to be considered at a higher level then Meath County Council and would take all the agencies working together to progress accommodation for numbers of that size in terms of education, health, transport and welfare."

She added that she had yet to see the details of the application to comment further.