A South Fingal Transport Study has been carried out for the Council. (This is in fulfilment of an objective in the County Development Plan which specified the Study would include public consultation; unfortunately the public consultation hasn’t happened.)
The Study contains strong recommendations about prioritising walking, cycling and public transport in the area, and will be discussed at a Planning and Strategic Infrastructure Policy Committee meeting on Monday 28th.
As a member of the Eastern and Midland Regional Assembly, I was involved in drafting the Green Party submission to the consultation on the draft Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy. The submission is quite brief and contains recommendations in the following areas:
- ensuring that effective sustainability indicators are used;
- halting and reversing biodiversity loss in line with the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, including large-scale rewetting of peatlands and restoration of natural ecosystems including wetlands and woodlands across the region, taking account of the major social and economic benefits which could result;
- ensuring the implementation of the Water Framework Directive through the planning system;
- transitioning to the circular economy;
- measuring the greenhouse gas emissions from the plan and ensuring it puts us on a path to a low -carbon economy
- investing in walking and cycling, recognising their public health and environmental benefits
- investing in public transport, in particular rail.
The Council today confirmed the following amendment I proposed to the Draft Development Plan:
“At locations where higher density development is being provided, encourage the development of car-free neighbourhoods, where non-motorised transport is allowed and motorised vehicles have access only for deliveries but must park outside the neighbourhood, creating a much better quality public realm with green infrastructure, public health, economic and community benefits.”
Following public display, the Council has voted, (by a margin of 1 vote!) to confirm the inclusion of the following in the Development Plan:
“Ensure that as soon as possible, but by the end of the lifetime of the Development Plan, the environment in the immediate vicinity of schools is a safe and attractive low speed (30km/h) environment, and drop-off by car within a given distance restricted.”
The text is copied from the National Cycle Policy Framework; it is something which should be happening at all schools nationwide by 2020.
I have submitted the following motions in relation to the Amendments to the County Development Plan. The meetings will be on 14th and 16th February.
(The deletion of the reference to enforcement comes from the fact that the Council has no influence on speed limit enforcement. Unfortunately the Chief Executive is recommending this much weaker version: “Support and promote the implementation of policy in the immediate vicinity of schools to provide for a safe and attractive low speed (30kph) environment.”)
Fingal County Council is currently preparing the County Development Plan to run from 2017 to 2023. The Draft Plan was on public display between February and April 2016 and a report on the over 900 responses received was supplied to Councillors at the end of July.
As Councillors we had until yesterday, 6th September, to draft proposals to amend the Plan based on the public consultation. Those amendments which the Council agrees to will go on public display in November.
I submitted amendments to a wide range of topics in the plan. A copy of my proposed amendments is here. In order to make them easy to navigate I have grouped them into the following topics:
- On Special Amenity Area Order and Dublin Bay Biosphere Reserve
- On cycle pedestrian routes to be added to the map
- On public transport reservation from Clongriffin/Portmarnock – Balgriffin – Belcamp – Clonshaugh to metro reservations south of Dublin Airport
- In relation to the Moyne Road bypass proposal based on discussions at the previous stage of the Development Plan and in response to submissions by the developer of the adjoining residentially zoned land and Portmarnock Community Association
- On the zoning of the industrial estates beside Howth Junction railway station based on issues I raised at the previous stage of the Plan and a submission from a local business.
- On the process for sub-county level plans based on the experience of Fingal councillors and citizens as well as submissions from public authorities including the National Transport Authority
- Based on Fáilte Ireland’s submission
- In relation to the circular economy and sustainable resource use
- In response to the submission by Keep Ireland Open, Fáilte Ireland and others concerned with access to the countryside
- Based on concerns about Fingal’s approach to open space in high density development, an issue raised both by developers and residents
- On the transition to a low carbon climate resilient economy, a legal obligation of the Plan under the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act and raised in a range of submissions
- On adaptation to climate change
- On Ecosystem Services Approach
- Transport motions based on a range of submissions by local road users and public transport users and the NTA
- Motion incorporating text from the Dublin City Development plan in relation to cycle parking as recommended by the submission from the National Transport Authority
- In relation to cycling in response to a wide range of submissions seeking better and safer cycling insfrastructure.
- Based on text in the National Cycling Policy Framework, to which some of the submissions refer.
The main issues in my consultation response were sustainable development, climate change adaptation and mitigation, transport, car-oriented development, cycling, road proposals, aviation, building energy use, and renewable energy. A recurrent theme under many of these headings was the lack of actual assessment in the SEA report.
As Councillors, we will receive a report on all consultations responses in July and based on that feedback can submit amendments to the plan in August for meetings in September. I would welcome any feedback on the issues in my submission or on or any other aspect of the Development Plan.
We had an extensive discussion during the meetings on the draft Development Plan on the new Apartment Standards which have been centrally dictated by Environment Minister Alan Kelly.
The key advice from officials was that whatever Councillors thought of the standards, we were legally obliged to implement them in the plan. (See webcast at at 1h30 to 2h09 and 2h21 to 2h30).
However, there may be a problem with the legal status of those Standards. I have sent the following note to Fingal’s Chief Executive and as a result, the Council is getting legal advice:
My attention has been drawn to a legal question over the Apartments Standards issued by the Minister for the Environment in December and whether they are covered by the amendment to s.28 of the Planning and Development Act. There is a risk that our discussions last month may have been based on an incorrect understanding of the legislation.
The Apartment Standards of 22nd December 2015 refer specifically to s. 28 of the P&D Act 2000 as amended:
“1.10 These guidelines have been issued by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government under Section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 (as amended). Planning authorities and An Bord Pleanála, are required to have regard to the guidelines and to apply any specific planning policy requirements of the guidelines, in carrying out their functions.”
(They then go on to identify various policies as “specific planning policy requirements”.)
The Planning and Development Amendment Act 2015 which amended s.28 (to oblige planning authorities to apply “specific planning policy requirements”) was enacted on 29th December 2015. So the requirements referred to in 1.10 of the guidelines didn’t have the legal significance they claimed at the time when they were adopted.
This raises a series of legal questions, including: Must the guidelines be interpreted under the law as it was at the time when they were published? Alternatively, can the law as it is now be correctly used to retrospectively interpret and indeed make intelligible the guidelines, despite the fact that when they were enacted they actually didn’t mean what they claimed to mean? Given that legislation generally cannot be retrospective, is it possible for it to have retrospective effect in this manner? The answer to these questions may raise constitutional separation of powers issues, such as whether the executive can validly presume what the legislature will do.
Obviously this is a matter of some complexity and I think it is essential that legal advice be sought. This has an uncontestable bearing on the validity of the Development Plan process as I know a number of my colleagues voted for amendments to bring the Draft Plan into line with the guidelines specifically due to the advice that we as a Council are legally required to implement the guidelines and not on the substance of the issue covered in the text being amended.