‘Shoe box’ housing not in pipeline for Ardaun

An artist's impression of Ardaun Urban Village Centre.

Increased housing density in the planned new town of Ardaun is not a charter for ‘shoe box’ housing, the City Council’s Chief Executive has insisted.

Brendan McGrath rejected a suggestion that increasing the number of units developers could build per hectare would diminish the quality of homes.

On his recommendation, city councillors agreed to increase the density of homes per hectare in the planned new town from 35 in the Draft Local Area Plan to between 35-50.

In effect the cap of 35 was lifted to 50 but the material alteration to the plan, also allows for higher than 50 densities, which will be examined on a case by case basis and with agreement of city planners.

Outlining his reasoning, Mr McGrath said: “The proposed increase in minimum density thresholds encourages the delivery of houses and establishes a critical mass to enable the sustainable rollout if infrastructure such as public transport, water services and schools.”

He said Bus Éireann and Irish Water need a ‘critical mass’ or large population of people in Ardaun in order for it to be viable for them to provide services.

City Councillor Collette Connolly (Ind) strongly resisted the proposed increase in minimum densities.

“It’s backwards we are going making people live in shoeboxes; that’s what we’re doing here,” she fumed.

Cllr Connolly said there are homes in the city that are so small “there isn’t a wall in the sitting room that can accommodate an average family two-and-a-half-seater sofa”. There were no utility rooms or storage space either for bicycles, she said.

She added: “That’s very, very wrong. It is the wrong route to do down. Increasing densities is just pure greed.”

Senior planner Caroline Phelan disagreed, and said that, based on future projections on household composition, 40% of people who will need homes in the city in future are either one-person or two-person households.

Cllr Frank Fahy said 10% of all homes built in Ardaun will be handed over to the City Council for social housing. He said there was a huge number of people on the housing waiting list looking for one and two bed homes. “I think the market will find its niche,” he said.

Cllr Mairead Farrell (SF) asked for clarity. She didn’t want to replace one problem (a housing shortage) with another (houses that were too small).

Mr McGrath reassured the councillors that this was “not about squeezing people into shoe boxes” and said he “wouldn’t dream about putting a proposal like this before you” if it meant units would be too small for modern living.

He said the densities were about creating mass and was about having the capacity to cater for the projected growth of Galway City over the next decades so that it is a “modern and sustainable city”.

The increased densities were agreed following a vote 12-6.