The State’s planning watchdog has urged Kerry County Council to alter its draft local area plan for Dingle amid concern that it is rezoning land for housing on the outskirts of the town which were “leapfrogging” better, more sustainable sites closer to the town centre.
The Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR) has recommended that the council should change its plans which, if adopted, would expand the town’s settlement boundary by more than 400 metres through a new housing development at the north-east side of Dingle.
The OPR questioned why the council had not zoned a much larger, nine-hectare site to the west of the town centre for housing as it was a much better location to achieve compact growth for Dingle.
The Government’s National Planning Framework sets out that the objective of compact growth of existing towns and villages should be achieved by residential development on a sequential basis with any new housing initially being built on undeveloped lands nearest town centres.
The local authority is proposing to zone a 1.14 hectare site off the Spa Road on the outskirts of Dingle for residential use.
Kerry County Council bought the lands a few years ago in support of its public housing programme.
However, while the site is across the road from an existing housing estate at Cois Chnoic, the OPR said it was not sequentially located relative to the centre of existing settlement in Dingle.
The regulator acknowledged that government policy is geared toward progressing the delivery of public housing.
However, it said such zoning extensions as those proposed by Kerry County Council would be regarded as non-sequential development which would lead to the “leapfrogging of better and more closely located lands for housing relative to the town centre of Dingle”.
The OPR deputy regulator, Anne Marie O’Connor, said sites nearer the town centre would facilitate easy, non-car based access to amenities in the town, including schools, shops and other community facilities.
Ms O’Connor said it was unclear why Kerry County Council had zoned about nine hectares to the west of the town centre in Dingle as “strategic reserve” — a designation of land zoned for development at some time in the future but with no specific objectives at present — when it was a more suitable location for housing development than the Spa Road site.
The council has been urged by the regulator not to proceed with the rezoning of the site off Spa Road for housing unless it can provide “a comprehensive, evidence-based justification for its inclusion”.
Ms O’Connor said it needed to demonstrate there was an urgency for the provision of public housing in Dingle without any alternative site that would deliver more sustainable residential development.
The OPR has recommended that other similar public housing lands not compatible with the sequential approach to the zoning of land should be also identified in the draft area plan which covers the entire Dingle peninsula in order to comply with the principles of compact growth.