Tension over plans to reduce land for homes in Limerick during ‘housing crisis’

Jess Casey

Reporter:

Jess Casey

Tensions arose during a private briefing about the Castletroy Local Area Plan

Tensions arose during a private briefing about the Castletroy Local Area Plan

TENSIONS have risen behind closed doors over plans to reduce the amount of land currently available for housing in Castletroy in “the middle of a housing crisis”.

The Castletroy Local Area Plan envisages the population of the area almost doubling by 2040, while at the same time proposing to reduce the total amount of land currently zoned for residential use by 22% by 2025. 

Tensions arose about this stipulation during a private briefing about the draft plan, according to Sinn Fein councillor Séighin Ó’Ceallaigh, who believes the instruction to de-zone land is being led by the central Government. 

“There is no indication as to what (the land) should be used for, just that we’ve been told so far that we need to de-zone land,” Cllr Ó Ceallaigh told the Limerick Leader. 

“We’re in the middle of a housing crisis, when prices are going through the roof particularly in the Castletroy area. 

“Effectively when you reduce the amount of land zoned for housing, you’re just pushing the prices of land up, which will push up the price of homes, which will, of course, then be passed on to the customer.” 

The National Planning Framework: Ireland 2040 Plan has put restrictions on Limerick, by limiting its predicted future growth, he believes. 

“This is the knock-on effect of it, ensuring that it doesn’t grow to its full potential and not allowing it to do so.” 

Mayor of Limerick City and County James Collins told the Limerick Leader he believes the  Regional Planning Framework has been “rammed through the Dáil, and rammed through the local authorities”. 

“It hasn’t been open to debate,” Mayor Collins said. 

There is a great deal of frustration over the proposals to de-zone available land “during a housing crisis”, he added. 

“We need homes for people to live in. We need social, affordable and private accommodation but Government policy is forcing us, not just to stop zoning land, but to dezone.” 

“We have the Minister for Housing criticising local authorities for not providing enough social, affordable housing and private housing, student rentals, everything. 

“But then the much lauded 2040 Plan is actually putting a cap on Limerick City and County. The real effect of that is that it is forcing us to dezone land in Castletroy. They are telling us that we have more land zoned residential then the project population figures predict so we have to cut some back.” 

This instruction also ties in with the future development of the Horizon Mall site, he added. 

“In line with Government policy, planners here proposed that there would be 15% of the Horizon Mall site zoned for residential development.” 

However, the owners have advised for the project to be viable they need in excess of 40% to be zoned for residential use, Mayor Collins explained. 

“In Castletroy, there is nothing to buy and nothing to rent. For the Horizon Mall site to be developed, councillors here will have to defy Government policy.” 

“We will have to say ‘We are in a housing crisis, there isn’t enough accommodation in Castletroy’. We would like to see the Horizon Mall being developed, it can’t continue the way it is, nobody wants to see retail in there,” said Mayor Collins 

“But we’re being hamstrung because of Government policy. It will be very interesting to see on Monday (at a Council meeting of the Metropolitan District) if councillors defy the Housing Minister and go ahead and zone enough land residential as required.” 

The Local Area Plan for Castletroy is the first case of this policy in action, he said, adding that this will be seen across both the city and the county. 

“County councillors are going to be forced to dezone a whole load of land that was zoned for residential uses.”