Meath population cap could see hundreds of acres of land 'de-zoned'

Story by Ann Casey

Tuesday, 11th September, 2018 4:10pm

Meath population cap could see hundreds of acres of land 'de-zoned'

Meath is facing spiraling house prices, a sharp rise in the housing waiting list, a devastating loss of inward investment and the death knell of the Navan railway line -  all due to a proposal to limit the county's population.

A plan due to be adopted by the Eastern and Midland Regional Assembly will effectively shut down Meath and devastate Meath County Council's capital fund, which relies mainly on development levies.

Councillors have issued a stark warning that it will decimate investment in jobs, and developers could face huge financial losses as lands currently zoned for housing will have to be rezoned.

A massive 205 hectares  of land in Navan alone would have to be dezoned as part of the Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy, which will override the county development plan and local area plans.

At a time when there are almost 4,000 families on the housing waiting list, it would also mean spiraling house prices and possibly less social housing.

The Strategy is expected to  be voted on by the assembly  within the next month or so and is expected to be highly contenious, If adopted , it will go on public display and submissions will be sought from the public.

Cllr Brian Fitzgerald, a member of the Assembly warned it would "destroy County Meath."

"It will completely undermine the economic strategy for the county.

"Large tracts of land all over the county will have to be dezoned.

 "What sort of confidence will that give to investors in the county," he asked.

"It will also have a detrimental effect on every conceivable club, school and football club in the county.
"We cannot stand by and let this county be destroyed, We want political action at the top to stop this," he said,

Cllr Maria Murphy warned that it would decimate investment in Meath.

"When big multi nationals come looking for sites for prospective development, the minute they see a cap on residential development, they will just turn away," she warned.

"Restricting the number of houses built will mean that house prices will increase dramatically."

She said he wanted to see local people born and raised in Meath able to buy houses where they grew up.

Cllr Tommy Reilly said the plan would decimate housing with 205 hectares of land due to be dezoned in Navan alone.
"There would only be 8,600 houses built in the county between now and 2026.

"If we take the 4,800 houses for which there is already planning permission, we can only have 3,800 new planning permissions between now and 2026," he said.

Cllr Reilly said the strategy would end any hope of the railway coming to Navan and would put a stop to the provision of infrastructure in the county.

Cllr Damien O'Reilly warned of the strategy's consequences for council finances.

"As most council projects come from development levies, Meath County Council, who already are the most under funded and under staffed council in Ireland, will have their capital budget collapse from the restricted amount of developments in the county. Many projects such as parks, playgrounds and other amenities will be shelved for good!" he said

Meath County Council Director of services, Kevin Stewart explained that the National Planning Framework aims to curtail development in the east and Dublin region and promote additional development in places like Galway, Limerick and Waterford.

Under the new proposals, Meath's population would only be allowed to grow to between 215,000 and 221,000 by 2026 and at the last census, it was already at 195,000 - so the population can only grow by between 20,000 and 26,000 over the next eight years - that would mean between 8,000 and 9,000 new houses over that period.

At a meeting of Meath County Council last week, a call on the elected members and officials to put forward a united voice in this issue was made by Cllr David Gilroy.

Cllr Ronan McKenna pointed out that only 100 houses a year could be built in Navan - both private and social housing - which would mean about 10 social houses a year in the county town.

Cllr Gerry O'Connor warned that if the proposals go ahead it would cause the housing crisis to worsen.

Regarding the strategy, Minister for Housing Damien English said its proposal to increase the population by 26,000 people above 2016 levels would be the equivalent of  adding the entire populations of Ashbourne, Kells and Trim combined, to the County in a ten year period. 
He said it was a matter for Meath County Council and its elected members to address how best to match and prioritise previous locations and levels of land zoned for housing to the overall national and regional plans.
“We must avoid past mistakes of over or inappropriate zoning and lack of co-ordination between all the local authorities in planning infrastructure and services that people need and expect,” he said.