Councillors voted to make a variation to the Louth County Development Plan 2021-2027 at July's meeting with just three of the members present, Paula Butterly, Bernadette Conlon and Dolores Minogue voting against the measure.
Councillors were given a presentation by Joanna Kelly, Senior Planner at Louth County Council and were told that the housing allocation within the development plan had to be amended to take into account new housing and population projections as well as to align the plan with the Affordable Housing Act 2021 passed in the Dail last year.
The new figures revised down the housing allocation in Louth during the term of the plan from 8278 to 6524 with Ms. Kelly stressing that the council had no control over the figure and that the figures are given by the government.
Broken down by area the new housing allocation for Dundalk was 2447 down from 2606; Drogheda was 2447 down from 3043; Ardee was 584 down to 440.
Similarly, the housing allocation for each area in Louth was revised down with the exception of Carlingford and Termonfeckin which saw increases.
Ms. Kelly stated that:
“It is not envisaged that the revised figures will inhibit population or economic growth in Drogheda or Dundalk or the wider county for that matter.”
Cllr Michelle Hall noted that various bodies had questioned why the numbers for Drogheda had been reduced.
“My concern is that Drogheda has the largest housing crisis in the county where we have the most people on the social housing waiting list, up to 12 years compared to 5 in Ardee and maybe 7 in Dundalk, and by reducing the allocation are we compounding the problem.”
Councillor John Sheridan asked if, given that there was no change to the zoning if the numbers represented a cap on the number of houses that could be built.
Ms. Kelly reponded by saying the figures were not caps but were targets going on to say:
“I can understand why there would be some concern when people see the numbers being reduced, but we're still a long way off realising the figures that we have, even the reduced figures that we have in terms of completions some I'm not concerned in that regard.”
Chief Executive Joan Martin further commented that if the only alternative would have been to leave higher figures in Dundalk and Drogheda which would have meant making all of the reduction in the smaller towns and villages “and given we have 75% of the allocation in Dundalk and Drogheda it really wasn't a feasible option to go down that road and it wouldn't be an option that would be favoured by a lot of councillors either.”
She said that there was currently a huge number of sites open around the county particularly in north Drogheda and the Dundalk area and that she had no concerns about the council working towards the target populations set out in Ireland 2040, and that even achieving the current numbers as they were given the current pressures on the construction sector would be “a big achievement.”
She went on to say that the variation was taking place because “we are required to do it, because we weren't in a position to do it when we were doing the County Development Plan” and that we “made a commitment to carry out the variation within six months and that is what we are doing, but there's no impact on any part of the county in terms of the ability to continue to deliver houses and grant planning permissions in accordance with the development plan, there is no challenge to the county on foot of any of these changes.”
The variation was carried by 20 votes to 3.
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