Plan for 79 local housing units meet with opposition
Angry residents in Ashbourne have started a petition to stop a proposed social housing development from being built on land adjacent to their estate without public consultation.
Meath Co Council plan to build 79 social housing units at Ashewood under 179a, a section of planning law that allows local authorities to proceed with planning applications without the obligation to engage with the community.
The government introduced the emergency legislation earlier this year to address the housing crisis. Under the regulations a local authority can build social or affordable housing on land they own bypassing the normal planning process.
A recent meeting of Ashbourne Municipal District heard that the development to be called ‘Archers Glen’ will consist of 26 one-bedroom apartments, four one-bed duplexes, four two-bedroom duplexes, four 1/2 bedroom terrace houses and four three-bed terraced houses.
Residents of Ashewood Green say they “refuse to be bullied” by Meath Co Council into accepting this new development that is being rushed through under temporary legislation without proper due diligence.
“We are not against social housing being created in the area but the council are railroading this through without any say from residents or any forward planning,” said resident's association committee member Paul Doyle.
“The only access to this site would be through the Ashewood estate and we already have massive concerns for the safety on our roads both for our estate and nearby Hunters Lane, Archerstown Wood and Brookville,” he added.
“The roads aren’t safe in their current status for construction traffic and the extra traffic this estate will bring. Serious upgrades are needed in advance of this build but we’ve got nowhere trying to liaise with Meath Co Council. “
Paul pointed out that earlier this year the Housing Minister issued guidance on how housing should be build within the state. In the “Design Manual for Quality Housing” building housing estates consisting solely of social housing units is not recommended.
“The reason for this is based on past mistakes , research and people from these estates being stigmatised,” said Paul. “The government recommends a mixed tenure, this can be private, social or affordable.”
The recommendations also state that if an estate has to be purely social units their size should be based on the population of a town.
“It states for a town the size of Ashbourne (15000 people) there should be no more than 50 social houses in a single development,” said Paul.
“We have had zero affordable homes offered in Ashbourne even though we have one of the youngest populations in the state and rental accommodation has sky rocketed in recent years with no vacancies in the area whatsoever.
“Basically they are going to plough ahead with this in its current form and to hell with future consequences or thoughts of the people of Ashbourne.
“There is a crisis and we are not against housing being built but we are against housing being built in direct contravention of recommendations made by the Government.”
Resident Kevin Dowling says although there have been three other section 179a applications in Meath, none of them are on the scale proposed for Ashewood.
“There has been one in Navan where there was a derelict building with an application to be replaced by six houses for the elderly
“One in Trim on Haggard street - again for a derelict building which has been withdrawn since.
“This scale of development is unprecedented in Meath.
“We just feel they are using the emergency legislation to suit their own needs, bypassing their own recommendations.”
Fine Gael Cllr Alan Tobin said:
“Everyone accepts that there is a housing need and residents in the area support development but their concerns should be heard.
“This is the first time that a planning process in Ashbourne has had no public consultation phase, in a normal part 8 planning application councillors have the final say.
Tobin pointed out that in a similar development councillors unanimously voted for 74 homes on Castle St now under construction but will have its own playground on councillors insistence.
“Ashbourne has just one playground servicing an astonishing 15,000 plus people,” he said.
“The adjoining Ashewood estate has been left out completely. Ashewood needs traffic and pedestrian safety measures now never mind with an additional 160 potentially cars coming through the estate.”
Cllr Bonner says he welcomes the proposal for social houses in Ashbourne but he is unhappy with the lack of consultation with the community and the members have totally been left out of the process.”
“As councillors we are under serious pressure to ensure that this development is designed properly and that the concerns of the community are given just consideration in the process,” said Bonner.
“We want houses provided, but we want quality houses and estates with proper facilities for the homeowners that will stand the test of time,” he added.
A spokesperson for Meath Co Council said:
"The development in Ashbourne is being pursued to respond to the high level of social housing demand in the area as identified in the Council’s Housing Delivery Action Plan.
"An amendment to the planning legislation was inserted under section 179A of the Planning and Development Acts 2000-2022 to provide a temporary exemption for local authorities from the ‘Part 8’ “own development” approval process to construct housing developments on both local authority and designated State-owned lands which are zoned residential use.
"There is a notification process under S179A by means of site and newspaper notices to inform interested parties of the intention to undertake the development. This process is mandatory for local authorities."
The statement goes to say that "speed surveys were carried out in 2015 within the Ashewood estate and the estate was included within the subsequent 2016 30 km/h Speed Limit Bye-Law and appropriate signage was installed.
"Speed surveys were carried out again in 2022; no further speed measures were required. The Council will arrange for a repeat of the speed surveys to be undertaken when Archers Glen is complete."
"As regards the Design Manual for Quality Housing and number of houses in a development, the housing guidelines recommend that the ‘number should not be taken as an absolute maximum and that flexibility is possible."
Meath County Council say they intend to meet with a representative group of Ashewood Estate Residents in the near term.