‘Fast-track’ application for 113 new homes in Bearna

A computer-generated image of the Heather Hill development in Bearna.

A developer has lodged plans for a new housing estate in Bearna village, with 113 units, using new ‘fast-track’ planning laws.

The proposal by Burkeway Homes Limited will not go through the ‘usual’ planning process, and has been submitted directly to An Bórd Pleanála.

It is one of the first major housing developments in the country to come under new Strategic Housing Development Regulations 2017.

This legislation was introduced to fast-track the delivery of new housing.

Under the new rules, the developer does not have to lodge the application with Galway County Council, if the plans are for a development of over 100 houses. The developer bypasses the local authority and has the application assessed directly by the planning appeals board.

The advantage to the developer is the decision is truncated – the new law states that An Bórd Pleanála has 16 weeks to make a decision.

Under the new rules, the public has an opportunity to make submissions to the board, and object to the development, but there are no appeals.

A spokesperson for An Bórd Pleanála said Burkeway has submitted its proposal for 113 homes at Truskey East, Bearna.

Public notices, as Gaeilge, were issued this week and the public has five weeks to lodge submissions and/or objections.

The development is planned for a site in the Truskey East, a townland up the Bearna to Moycullen Road or ‘12 Pins Road’.

Burkeway, in its submission, said the development is in keeping with Galway County Council’s Local Area Plan for Bearna, and the zoning of the site, which has a stream through it.

“The central design challenge and opportunity for this site is to create a high-quality housing development, which protects and benefits from the existing stream running through the site. The concept for the design is to create a new greenway amenity space defined by the stream and addressed and enjoyed by the new residences,” it said.

As well as 113 housing units, the development proposes a new playground and public open space. “The proposed scheme has been designed to create sustainable, well orientated and good quality houses . . . The development will continue to contribute positively to the residential amenity of the area with the development of large public amenity space and play areas, allowing the development to contribute to the overall social amenity of the Bearna region,” Burkeway added.

The decision will be made by February.  Whatever the decision of An Bórd Pleanála, it cannot be challenged on the merits of that decision.

If the board decides to refuse permission, the developer can seek a judicial review of that decision – but only on the process of the decision, not the merits of it.

The same is true if it is granted – the public can only object by way of judicial review on grounds that the process to reach that decision was flawed.