It is going to be a long report tonight from this evenings Bray Municipal District meeting, long but important as there was a lot of discussion on items that will directly impact our community.
As always I will attempt to give a factual view and point out clearly where I am expressing my own opinion. I continue to believe that it is important for all our community to have easy access to information about council meetings, in that way you stay informed and take your own view on different items.
New Social Housing at entrance to Fassaroe, Upper Dargle Rd., Bray.
This item had been flagged previously. Originally a larger number of homes were planned but site challenges and issues around parking have meant that the numbers have been reduced. This is Council owned land and it is the intention of the Council to design and build these homes and manage them directly.
The first image below shows the layout of the 5 x 1 bedroom and 9 x 2 bedroom homes, 14 new homes in total. The second image shows how the development will look from within the existing Fassaroe Estate and from the Upper Dargle Road.
I like other Councillors requested that the homes, once completed by utilised for ‘right sizing’ where those in existing homes in the area are given the opportunity to move to a smaller home, should they wish to, freeing up larger homes for others on the waiting and transfer list. This was not something that could be formally put in place but the officials did agree that this would be the intention at allocation.
Other issues raised including the landscaping of the area, the need for ongoing support for existing community facilities in the area and a query around existing park, which was confirmed as not being impacted by the development. I was delighted to formally propose this development. This was a Part 8 (planning development) which means that the Council can now proceed in getting the designs completed and moving forward to tender for works to be completed. With the Bray District rapidly running out of land to build homes, this development is very welcome.
Raheen Park Trails
The Councillors were given details on a proposed Part 8 at Raheen Park which would create accessible walking trails for community use. Raheen Public Park, on the northern slopes of Bray Head, is a grassland formerly used as a Par 3 Golf Course managed by the former Bray UDC. Bray Head is designated as a Special Amenity Area and as such certain considerations are required to preserve the area.
Civil Works being proposed include;
Develop 1460m of new trail with gradients no steeper than 1 in 15. The trail is to comprise of a 2m wide compacted graded stone base beneath a selected tight hoggin finish with 600mm grss verge both sides.
Construct an access ramp from Raheen Car Park to the new trails at 1 in 15 gradients with landings every 5m.
Improve 220m existing trail.
Develop Woodland Planting in line with a NeighbourWood Scheme under development.
Establish Wildflower Meadows in line with a Conservation Management Plan under development.
Install concrete bases for hartecast phoenix benches, spaced at a minimum distance of 40m along trail.
Install information boards informing about ecology, archaeology, heritage, and geology of the area.
There was no vote taken on this proposal tonight. The proposal will now do to the Bray Head SAAO Committee tomorrow for consideration and will be back before the Councillors for voting in due course.
Items raised tonight included requests to keep the local residents informed on plans, discussions around ongoing maintenance of the area if the proposal was successful and a welcome that consideration of accessibility for all users was considered at these initial stages.
Funding on Grass Cutting 2023
This is a regular item that is raised with Councillors b the community. Grass not being cut, or not being cut frequently enough. We had requested feedback on the grass cutting to date and the process used.
Grass cutting in Bray MD area is unique. No funding is provided by Wicklow County Council to any other District for grass cutting. In Bray MD grass cutting is funded in two ways, works are directly organised by the Municipal District, or in some cases Estates can apply for a grant (equal to the cost the Council would spend) and this grant is used by Local Residents Associations to organise their own grass cutting.
The costs were outlined as follows. The total expected cost for 2023 is €111,334.47, however the allocation given to Bray MD for Housing Estate Grass Cutting (again which no other MD receives) is €55,000 and the sum of €7,948.09 for regional roads grass cutting. As such there is a shortfall on €48,386.38.
So as Councillors there were two choices, reduce the amount of grass cutting being undertaken or look to meet the shortfall in funding. The option of going back to Wicklow County Council was not available, budgets are set in November of the prior year and even if possible it is highly unlikely that we would receive additional funding given the current special arrangement.
Your may recall that a decision was made some time back to increase the parking charges on Bray Seafront from 30c an hour to 50c. These additional funds can only be spent by Bray MD. I supported this proposal at the time and we are now in our second year of receiving additional funds, for this year it is €75,682.
It as agreed at tonight's meeting to allocate the shortfall from these additional monies to ensure that there would be no reduction in service to the community. I would have preferred to have these monies available for other projects in the community and made my view clear at tonight’s meeting, I believe that Wicklow County Council should seek to make these funds available or at least contribute more to address inflation, however as this was not an option at the moment I supported the proposal as did all Councillors.
Every month a report is received on housing in the area. Bray Municipal District does not have its own housing department, however it is the only District with housing staff assigned to Bray from Wicklow County Council.
The report provided updates on the following developments.
Cedar Court – Construction is ongoing with homes due for completion in Q1/Q2 of 2023.
Parnell Road (Central Garage Site) – Tuath an Approved Housing Body who are developing the site have submitted a revised application for CAS (Capital Assistance Scheme which is a type of funding) and this is currently being examined.
Kilbride Lodge – The Council are still awaiting registration of the land so the developments can proceed. There is one dealing pending on Kilbride Lodge. Sutton Villas has now been registered. The Law Department are following up with the PRA to try and expedite matters.
Rehills Land - The Department and NDFA have appointed consultants for the scheme, and they have started looking at the sites. This is where Brays first Affordable Housing Scheme is due, where people ill be able to buy homes at a reduced price.
Southern Cross - A development of 208 houses and apartments, including 20 Part V units, is in the process of being purchased for social housing as a turnkey by Cooperative Housing Ireland. The first units have been delivered. The remaining units should be ready for occupation in the next few weeks.
There was also a lengthy discussion on the impact of the eviction ban, and the impact of it being lifted. I raised the following pints / queries.
The number of people contacting me with NTQ (Notices to Quit) is increasing, although the ban is currently in place, these individuals and families are going to be at risk once lifted.
Those contacting me are only recently on the housing list and many years off being housed.
I am also being contacted by ‘unintentional landlords’. Unintentional landlords make up the bulk of landlords in Ireland, those that bought a home in the boom, could not afford it, moved back in with family and rented out the homes as they were in negative equity. Many never intended on being a landlord. Now trying to manage paying mortgages that are going up and up and paying half the rent they receive in tax. Some are now at risk of losing the homes as they cannot pay the mortgage, others now see their negative equity gone or reduced and want to get out of the situation and sell.
I have been contacted by one individual who has returned from abroad but cannot access her home as it is rented out and is staying with family and friends at present, and wants to move back into her home but cant.
The impact on our current housing staff in Wicklow County Council who will have to deal with those appearing before them and whether or not we are prepared.
Can the Council buy homes where there is a NTQ on the bases of the landlord wanting to sell?
The Council took on board comments from all Councillors. It was confirmed that the Council can buy homes where there is a HAP Tenant in place and the landlord wishes to sell the property. This is good news, and this information needs to get out to tenants and landlords. The Council have a database of those facing a NTQ and are encouraging anyone who is under a NTQ at the moment to contact them so that they are aware of their case.
Roads and Public Realm Report
Every month a report is received on transport issues and public realm. Public realm are projects that are in a public area, many ae funded through grants and include those funding through Local Property tax. The following items were raised.
Hidden Disability Parking – I again raised this request. Commitment has already been given and it is extremely frustrating that to date there has been no action. This Hidden Disability Parking space is needed to support those with a hidden disability in the community who are currently not entitled to get a disabled parking badge, but need accessible parking to support independent living.
Ballywaltrim Lane junction with Hills Garage – I have raised this dangerous junction for a number of years now and called for action to be taken immediately.
Footpath dishing throughout the town was raised, the Engineer is to provide details of issues rased and funding required.
There was a request for additional disabled parking spaces on the seafront.
Safety Audit of junction of Herbert Rd Car Park – the entrance exit to this care park is of huge concern and the Councillors have requested view of the safety audit previously carried out.
EV Charger in Enniskerry – currently not operational. This was funded by LPT.
Skate park proposed on Southern Cross Rd – details requested on where this is out and timeline.
Irish Cancer Society ‘Daffodil Benches’
We were all contacted recently by the Irish Cancer Society about a proposal to work with our Local Men's Shed to bring a Daffodil Bench to the area. Ireland’s first Daffodil Bench was unveiled by the Irish Cancer Society in Skerries, North Co. Dublin last November and their plan now is to role it out across the County.
There was united support for the proposal by Councillors and Officials. I asked that the Bray Tidy Towns Team also be consulted as they are so active in the upkeep of our community. The image below was provided by the Irish Cancer Society and gives an idea of what the finished bench would look like. It is of the bench in Skerries and those involved in bring the project to life.
Old Bray Golf Course Lands
The final item for discussion relates to land at the Old Bray Golf Course. This land is part of a large SHD (Strategic Housing Development) which stretches across by Wicklow and Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council areas.
A complaint was received from a number of concerned groups relating to the condition of the site at present and also the impact on the local environment. The matter had been raised yesterday in Wicklow County Council but there was insufficient time to discuss it fully, so I am glad that the opportunity was given tonight to listen to my fellow Councillors discuss it in detail.
The concern is that works being undertaken are being done in none compliance with the planning granted and that they may be in some way being carried out to prepare for the Bray Transport Bridge which is subject to planning challenges at present. In my opinion, the bridge is currently designed in a way that is total unsuitable for its location and would have a negative impact on the wildlife in the area.
There were very valid points raised by my fellow Councillors on the subject including reference to endangered wildlife on the site, concerns from local community groups and wider concerns about the lack of information being shared. I am really grateful to the Community Groups that have raised these issues and had taken the time to bring these concerns to us all and share their knowledge as they previously did at a zoom event and through correspondence. I took the opportunity to listen and learn from others.
The following is the update that was provided yesterday and this evening by Council Officials
‘The Director of Services, Planning and Development, confirmed that a written enforcement complaint was received by the Planning Authority on the 28th of February last in relation to planning permission granted to Shankill Properties by An Bord Pleanala for a Strategic Housing Development (Ref. ABP 311181 – 21 Granted on the 9th of December, 2021).
Members were advised that the Planning Authority has commenced its investigations to ascertain if an unauthorised development may have been or is being carried out. This investigation is ongoing and a site examination has taken place. The planning authority will complete its investigation and will, as necessary, revert to the complainant with its findings, where necessary it will also contact the Developer of the subject development. As this is a ‘live’ construction site the development activity is monitored regularly by the Planning Authority’s compliance team. This is a matter for the Planning Authority, Wicklow County Council.
By way of information the Director of Services Planning and Development advised at Council meeting yesterday that:-
· The realignment of Schools Road is part of the permitted SHD development, coming within the scope of that relevant permission.
· Some aspects of the complaint related to the storage of construction equipment and materials, as observed by planning officers on site, it indicates there is no non-compliance with conditions attached with the permission of the SHD
· No construction compounds were located within the flood zones A and B as defined by the planning application documents.
· With regard to the public transport bridge over the River Dargle which the complaint centres around, the proposal for the bridge development has not proceeded further through any necessary statutory processes and it is not a matter for planning enforcement officials to investigate further, only to say that any of the works observed indicate it is working within the SHD development area,
· In relation to Irish Water, the realignment of the sewers on the subject site were required to facilitate the SHD which were carried out by an Irish Waters contractor.'
As always if you require any further information on the issues raised please do not hesitate to contact me.