Persistent public concern over aspects of apartment block construction in Waterford was echoed by members of the City Council at its October meeting on Monday last.
Substantial provision of such accommodation has ‘destroyed’ certain areas of the city, according to Cllr. John Halligan who pointed out that in some locations the apartments, built as part of urban renewal with tax relief incentives, are not even occupied.
He wondered whether planning permission should have been given in some instances, just because developers satisfied minimum requirements.
Cllr. Mary Roche pinpointed Thomas St., Anne St. and Penrose Lane as an area of the city where a significant density of apartments have sprung up without matching green space and basic recreational facilities, particularly for the young and the elderly.
Cllr. Davy Daniels said that while some apartment developments were tastefully done, others were ugly in appearance. And Cllr. Seamus Ryan voiced concern over the operation of some so-called management companies, in relation to which apartment residents had serious misgivings owing to problems over repairs, refuse collection and such matters.
New guidelines
The subject was debated in the context of new guidelines from the Department of the Environment aimed at improving design standards for new apartments.
With apartments becoming an increasingly popular form of dwelling in urban areas, the primary purpose of the guidelines is to promote sustainable urban housing ‘by ensuring that the design and layout of new apartments will provide satisfactory accommodation for a variety of household types and sizes, including families with children’.
Accordingly, the guidelines provide recommended minimum standards for floor areas, storage space, open space, room dimensions, balconies and patios, as well as parking space, communal facilities including satellite dishes and facilities for children. There are also recommendations regarding safety and security and on such issues as daylight and sunlight considerations in terms of design.
Cllr. Tom Cunningham said the guidelines provided an opportunity for the Council to make it more attractive, realistic and feasible for families to live in the city centre. Not only would that assist in creating a desirable balance in terms of urban development, but it would also be an important factor in enabling city centre schools to survive. Currently some of them depended on pupils coming from the suburbs.
Ball inCouncil’s court
Recommending that the guidelines be referred urgently to the relevant Strategic Policy Committee, he said the ball was now in the Council’s court. They needed to take it on the hop and run with it, adjusting the City Development Plan if necessary to enable them implement the guidelines.
Cllr. Ryan agreed, but said apartments should not be the only option – they needed a variety of accommodation, including housing, to generate vibrancy in the city centre.
Cllr. Daniels suggested inviting Environment Minister John Gormley to a Council meeting to clarify issues. ‘We need to know if certain people are embarking on solo runs or if this is government policy’, he said.
Cllr. David Cullinane recommended that Councillors and members of the public be allowed make submissions on the subject, to be considered by the SPC. His SF colleague Joe Kelly wanted the guidelines to be made compulsory, rather than just recommendations.
Cllrs. Davy Walsh and Tom Murphy said the biggest problem within apartment blocks centred round the nuisance of noise and measures were needed to protect residents in that regard.
The guidelines are to be considered at SPC level before coming back to the Council and, from a planning perspective, they will be taken into account henceforth when applications are made for apartment developments.