Council brands new homes plan a ‘missed opportunity’

An architect's impression of the proposed development at Castlegar.

Galway City Council has rejected plans for more than 70 new homes in Castlegar, ruling it would be a “missed opportunity” for the developer to build even more homes.

In August 2018, Cathal O’Connor of Altitude Distribution Ltd in Sligo sought permission to develop the 5.4-acre site on School Road to include 74 homes and 168 parking spaces.

The proposal comprised 60 houses and 14 apartments – 27 three-bed terraced; 22 three-bed semis; 8 two-bed semis; 7 three-bed duplex; 7 two-bed apartments; 2 four-bed semis and a four-bed detached house. There were also 20 bicycle parking spaces proposed.

However, planners at City Hall pointed out that because the land is zoned residential and serviced, the proposal would not meet the requirements of the current City Development Plan.

The Council asked that the plans be revised to increase the density of the development.

Questions were also raised about the overall design and layout of the development.

In a response lodged with the Council in January, the applicants argued that the plans were actually in accordance with Government guidelines for urban housing and due to requirements for a “buffer zone” for the ESB on the site.

A number of the houses were re-orientated so that the face open space within the site and a play area has been introduced.

However, the Council has now ruled that the development would be in conflict with the City Development Plan, would injure the residential amenities of adjacent properties and would generate a traffic hazard.

Planners said the lands are residentially zoned, fully services and “where no particular constraints apply”, adding that poor design led to “missed opportunities for a sustainable level of density, unit mix and permeability”.

The Council said ministerial guidelines for sustainable residential development in urban areas require the provision of high density, high-quality housing, and that if permitted the proposal would contravene the Development Plan and ministerial guidelines.

“[It would] represent an unsustainable density/units per hectare and inefficient use of residentially-zoned services lands within the city boundaries which would be contrary to the sustainable development of the area.

“The design of the proposed buildings, in particular the design of the duplex units, the proposed flat roofs, poor animation of the street frontage, lack of interaction with the public realm, poor design of gables facing to internal roads and the lack of variation in overall building design, is such that it has poor contextual reference to contemporary residential developments within Galway City, rendering the proposal an unsatisfactory solution to the development of this site.

“The proposal contravenes Development Plan standards relating to the prevention of overlooking of adjacent lands with development potential and private open space, and if permitted, would detract and be injurious to the residential amenities of adjacent proposed properties,” the Council’s decision reads.

The decision to refuse permission adds that the proposal would rely on works outside the applicant’s control to safely access/exit the site, particularly the upgrading of the adjacent roadway, and therefore the development would be premature and generate a traffic hazard.

The Castlegar Residents’ Association objected to the application on the grounds it would “present a direct and foreseeable risk to public safety along School Road because of the proposed access arrangements, the consequent increase of vehicular traffic and the absence of appropriate infrastructure or public transport”.

They point out that there are no lane markings on School Road and at a number of locations, the road is not wide enough for two cars to pass and point out there are no footpaths.

Those concerns were echoed individually by a number of other residents, and by Cllr Terry O’Flaherty, who asked planners to take the “very valid concerns” into account.

Objectors said the overall area requires a Local Area Plan, and not piecemeal development and there are no useable bus services along the School Road.

According to the Companies Registration Office, Altitude Distribution Ltd was dissolved in October 2018, meaning it no longer legally exists.