Article from the Feb. 2005 issue of the Socialist
newspaper of the Socialist Party, Irish section of the CWI
Fingal rezoning victories
by Councillor Clare Daly and Councillor Ruth Coppinger
FINGAL COUNTY Council spent 85 hours in January/February discussing the County Development Plan 2005-2011. This plan designates the permitted land usages throughout the county. Traditionally, whole swathes of land have been rezoned turning landowners into overnight millionaires with the raising of the Councillors' hands, and creating an orgy of speculation that has reaped massive profits for developers.
This profiteering has been at the expense of hard pressed first time buyers. The failure of successive governments to control the price of building land, massively contributed to the rise in house prices. But residents also pay in the sustained attack on their quality of life, with houses being thrown up without the appropriate infrastructure in place - sitting in gridlock for hours on end, finding no school places for their children and a total dearth of facilities.
The heated discussions that took place over a month reflected the change in the composition of the Council, with an ending of the dominance of the Fianna Fail/Fine Gael/ PD rezoning majority. There is no doubt that it was the community campaigns, many of which were initiated by the Socialist Party, that ensured that a majority of Councillors stuck to their pre-election promises and voted in the interests of the community, rather than the pockets of the developers.
The changes to the plan will go back out on public display from 28 February, for a month, and will have to be ratified by the Councillors in May. With so much money at stake, the developers will not roll over. They are likely to launch a vicious campaign to get these decisions reversed. Communities must remain active and vigilant to ensure the Councillors hold firm.
THE ATTEMPT to rezone vital green belt lands in Greater Blanchardstown for thousands more houses was stopped in Fingal's Development Plan. 50 acres at Kellystown and 140 acres at Barnhill in Clonsilla were proposed by Council management for up to 5,000 more houses.
Clonsilla and the whole of Dublin 15 is choked with traffic, lacks school places, recreational and other facilities. The population has more than doubled in 10 years from 40,000 to over 80,000. It was hugely important to keep the remaining green belt and to call a halt to any further housing until the transport and infrastructure is actually delivered, rather than just promised.
Another rezoning at Tyrellstown proposed by FF and PD Councillors was also stopped, while stretches of green belt between Finglas and Blanchardstown were deferred for later voting.
The Socialist Party played a very active part in these victories. We organised five public meetings, distributed thousands of leaflets and assisted the community to intensely pressurise councillors.
ON THE day Ray Burke headed off to Arbour Hill, every single controversial residential rezoning in Swords was reversed.
Over 250 acres had been proposed for rezoning at three separate locations. This would have resulted in over 5,000 new houses over the course of the plan, without even a rail link to the town! Proposals to rezone all the land at the back of Rivervalley & Ridgewood, and massive development off the Rathbeale Road, almost connecting with Rolestown, were halted when Labour & Green councillors backed the Socialist Party motions that these lands be zoned green belt.
Seagrange Park saved
THE COUNCIL'S efforts to rezone part of Seagrange Park in Baldoyle for residential development, which were approved by the old Council, were brought crushing to a halt.
This was a major issue in the local elections. The local community mobilised the support of many local residents and community groups to develop an alternative strategy for a community centre and playground to be located, in a park that has been badly neglected by Fingal County Council.
Mobile phone masts
AS MORE and more information emerges about the biological effects of mobile phone base stations, important regulations on site and equipment sharing have been put into the development plan, as a result of Socialist Party amendments.
Evidence has been provided even from the state's chief medical officer that a precautionary approach should be adopted when considering mast applications. Children are particularly vulnerable in being exposed to such emissions. It is welcomed that a 200 metre exclusion zone around schools will now be part of the plan. While our motion pushed for 500 metres, which was only narrowly defeated, the result was that the 200 metre exclusion was agreed unanimously. This is a considerable advance upon what existed previously.