Galway housing refusal seen as warning to ‘fast-track’ developers

By Gordon Deegan

An Bord Pleanála has fired a warning shot across the bows of developers availing of new fast-track planning laws aimed at easing the housing crisis.

The ‘warning’ comes via the appeals board — under its new Strategic Housing Development regime — which refused planning permission to a Galway developer for 113 new homes at Bearna outside Galway City because the density of the development was not high enough.

The board’s refusal to grant planning permission is the third decision it has made on strategic housing developments, and the second refusal out of the three decisions to date.

In its decision, made under the new laws introduced last summer, the appeals board refused permission to Burkeway Homes Ltd as the proposed development “would not be developed at a sufficiently high density to provide for an acceptable efficiency in serviceable land usage, given the proximity of the site to the built-up area of Bearna and Galway City”.

An Bord Pleanála said that the low density of the proposed development at Trusky East, Bearna, would be contrary to ministerial guidelines which indicate that net densities of less than 30 homes per hectare should be generally discouraged in the interests of land efficiency. The density of the development was 18 units per hectare.

The appeals board stated that in addition, the proposed development does not have an adequate mix of dwelling types, being predominantly semi-detached and detached housing.

The company had billed the development as “one of the best housing developments the West of Ireland has ever seen” and ideal for family living.

A number of locals objected to the development, including some who were concerned at the excessive scale and density of the development.

A spokesman for Burkeway Homes said yesterday that it is reviewing the An Bord Pleanála decision and intends to lodge revised plans for the site as soon as possible.

The spokesman said that the revised plans “will incorporate the learnings from the An Bord Pleanála decision”.

In the new fast-track regime, instead of applications having to go through council level and then on to An Bord Pleanála — a process that can on occasion take more than a year — developers can now bypass local authorities if their plans are for more than 100 homes and 200 student-bed spaces.

Currently, An Bord Pleanála is dealing with 13 planning applications that involve the construction of 4,280 houses, apartments, and student accommodation.

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