Williamstown proposal is first of many for the area

Several subject to approval housing development proposals within proximity of the earmarked Strategic Housing Development on the Williamstown Road underline the inability of the locality’s existing infrastructure to cope with such an expansion, it’s been claimed. In its objection to An Bord Pleanála regarding the proposed construction of 324 residential units on a site in Granstown accessed by the existing entrance to The Paddocks, the Bishopsfield Residents Association cite the infrastructural deficit which has led to lengthy morning traffic delays that locals are already well accustomed to.

Traffic on the Williamstown Road on Monday morning.

Traffic on the Williamstown Road on Monday morning.

According to a member of the Residents’ Association: “The bigger picture can’t be lost sight of here. For example, there’s a relatively small (Phase 1) site just off the Williamstown Road for which a 49-house development was initially proposed. This is one of the smaller parcels of land in the area where we’re all but certain to see houses built at some stage within the next 10 years. Waterford City & County Council, in a further information request, wants to increase the density of development on that site to between 35 and 50 houses per hectare, which would bring the initial 49 touted for there up to 67. There’s a much larger (Phase 2) site directly next to that particular site and on the basis of the increase I’ve already mentioned, you’re probably talking another 150 houses there. And if you take the even larger (Phase 2) sites zoned for housing off the Dunmore Road and on the hill linking the Dunmore and Williamstown Roads, there are massive infrastructural issues facing this area beyond what’s been proposed for The Paddocks. That proposal is only the tip of the iceberg as far as I’m concerned.”

The proposed development, lodged by Cone Pine Properties Ltd (with Kieran Wallace as Receiver) on February 6th, seeks permission for the construction of 324 residential units, including 228 houses, 96 apartments, a creche and associated site works. The case is due to be decided by Tuesday, May 28th.
The applicant’s planning statement (which, along with additional information can be accessed via www.williamstownplanning.ie – although the site was offline as we went to press), states that the ambitious proposal would “provide much needed housing at a sustainable location in Waterford City suburbs. The application site is zoned for residential development (Phase 1) and presents an opportunity to strengthen the city’s residential offer. The provision of 324 residential units in Grantstown will do much to increase the housing supply available in the Waterford City area. The mix of dwelling types and sizes proposed is entirely suited to this area of the city and will appeal to a variety of occupiers and households. The proposed development represents a plan-led approach to development and will see the completion of an unfinished housing estate. The applicants are keen to undertake this housing development in order to realise the Government’s policies and objectives to provide high quality housing options on appropriately zoned lands amid the current housing crisis. There is a pressing need to facilitate a significant increase in housing output whilst creating high quality accommodation.”

In addition to the 324 residential units, a total of 657 car parking spaces (552 of which would serve residents) would be created, in addition to 81 visitor spaces and a further 24 serving the proposed creche. A total of 104 bicycle spaces will also be provided for on site. The consensus that’s been broadcast at residents’ meetings held over the past fortnight is that there is not wholesale, NIMBY-like opposition to development on the Granstown site per se. However, the scale of what has been proposed, in addition to the inability of the Williamstown Road to cope with traffic during the 8.15am to 8.45am school rush in particular as things currently stand, represent “legitimate and longstanding” worries on residents’ behalves.

As the Bishopsfield Residents Association objection to An Bord Pleanála notes: “It is in our opinion that the applicant may not have fully appreciated the adverse traffic and transport implications of the scheme proposals…There is no evidence in the Engineer’s Report to demonstrate that other major junctions in the vicinity of the site have ever been reviewed and commented upon. The (applicant’s Environmental Impact Assessment Report) states: ‘Each of the main junctions on the local road network has been assessed during the morning peak period (08:00 – 09:00), and the evening peak period (17:15 – 18:15), on the local road network for the base year (2018), the opening year (2020), five years after opening (2024), and fifteen years after opening (2034). The analysis has determined that the additional traffic associated with the proposed development can be accommodated within the current and future local road network.”

The Resident’s Association’s objection claims that the applicant’s Traffic and Transport Assessment “only assesses the Site Access Junction,” and does not account for “the existing major junctions in the vicinity of the proposed development and the impact this would have on the existing local road network”.
These junctions included the Farronshoneen Roundabout and the signalled Williamstown Road/St Mary’s Place junction. “The above two major junctions on the Williamstown Road are already at capacity during the AM and PM peak periods. With the additional demand that will be generated by the scheme proposals, these junctions will be operating over capacity and may result in a material deterioration of the existing road conditions.”
A member of the Bishopsfield Residents Association told this newspaper: “I don’t think any of us who have raised concerns about this, and who will be objecting to this proposal, are opposed to development of any kind in this part of the city. Anyone saying otherwise is misrepresenting our concerns. This is primarily an issue of scale. We’re talking about a development adjoining a road which right now only has a footpath on one side and no bicycle lane in either direction. As noted in our objection, which I’ve already mentioned, there are four housing development sites in this wider area which, given the densities proposed, could amount to a further thousand residential units being built within the next decade.”

On the question of scale, it’s worth noting that as things stand, the aspiration of delivering 850 houses in the greater Ferrybank area (in the context of Project Ireland 2040) has been described as “insufficient” by Kilkenny County Council Senior Planner Denis Malone regarding the concentric development of Waterford city.
The “limited number” of houses Mr Malone described for an area of much greater scale than the Dunmore Road/Williamstown Road ‘parcel’ could, in time, be dwarfed by the potential new housing density which could be delivered in the city’s south east suburbs over the next 10 years.

“In spite of what we may be facing into, there’s no proposal that I’ve seen which seeks to improve local road infrastructure,” according to a member of the Bishopsfield Residents’ Association. “Surely if you’re going to press ahead with housing on such a scale, then providing for a widened road or even a brand-new road for that matter would already be on the table and up for discussion? And in addition to all of this, which again we note in our objection, it’s our understanding that St Mary’s National School and Gaelscoil Port Láirge are, in some instances, unable to cater for all of the children living in the area as is. Now in the guidelines for planning authorities when it comes to sustainable development, one of the questions applicants have to answer is the following: ‘Has an assessment of the capacity of existing schools or the need for school facilities been carried out in connection with proposals for substantial residential developments?’ My reading of the application would suggest that’s not been done in this instance.”

General Election candidate and local Councillor Eddie Mulligan (FF) stressed his belief that residents are not opposed to the development of new houses in one of the city’s most affluent areas. “Such developments were inevitably expected but the reservations in relation to residential unit density through additional apartment blocks must be listened to,” he stated. “Residents in this area bought their houses to enjoy the amenities and planned low density of neighbouring estates in the area. There is, in my view, an absence of suitable and practical open space in proposed development. And it’s worth noting that residents in the area currently suffer traffic congestion during peak hours, live in an area with a complete absence of a fit for purpose public transport system, have under resourced adjacent educational facilities, in addition to minimal teenage, youth and community recreational facilities.”

Referencing the Government’s 2017 decision to enable planning applications in excess of 100 residences to be made directly to An Bord Pleanála as part of an effort to increase housing supply, Cllr Mulligan contends: “The Government have created a fast track system for receivers and land owners to flip high density sites with planning permission for huge profit…Through the Council input to the system and a submission, I will be requesting that all these issues are addressed, amongst others (along with) a condition by An Bord Pleanála that the Receiver is not using the housing and homeless crisis as a means to fast track a planning permission for financial gain.”

According to the applicants: “The proposal provides for a highly sustainable development on lands zoned for residential development…and will provide housing for local people hoping to live in the area in a sustainable location within close proximity to Waterford City. The development achieves a density of which is consistent with national guidance on density. The scheme has designed with regard to (the Design Manual for Urban Roads and Streets) principles and provides a high-quality residential environment. The proposed development will make a valuable contribution to the supply of housing in Waterford and will help to alleviate the current housing crisis in Waterford. The proposed development contributes to the overall proper planning and development of the area and should in our view, be permitted.”

Sinn Féin Local Election candidate Michael Doyle who, along with Cllr Pat Fitzgerald to discuss the application, believes that “four storey apartment blocks in the middle of a settled residential estate and with no additional civic amenities proposed are totally unwarranted and must be opposed at all costs. European style maisonettes with individual units would be much more suitable and akin to the housing which already exists in the paddocks.” Mr Doyle also took issue with the stance adopted by sitting Fianna Fáil Councillors whom he described as “riding around on high horses at present with residents in the area when it is their very party which sat on their hands at the time of the passing of the (fast tracking) legislation and abstained from the final vote in both the Dáil and Seanad allowing Fine Gael and Independents to pass it despite opposition from Sinn Féin and other groups.” Appeals in writing can be submitted up to and including Tuesday next, March 12th and sent by post to The Secretary, An Bord Pleanála, 64 Marlborough Street, Dublin 1

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