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Update Wicklow County Council Meetings 7th & 21st March 2022


Two Wicklow County Council meetings were held this month. The second was required as some items took up a substantial amount of time on the 7th and further clarity on legal advice was required.


A further meeting will be held in March on the 28th of March to deal with the County Development Plan.


The following outlines the main items covered at these meetings.


Meeting 7th March 2022


Blessington Greenway – A Section 140 Motion had been submitted to Wicklow County Council.

A Section 140 motion, is a motion submitted under the Local Government Act 2001, as amended by

the Local Government Reform Act 2012 which directs the Local Authority to carry our certain

actions.


In this case the Section 140 was calling on the Chief Executive to withdraw the proposal to An Bord

Pleanala for the Blessington Greenway.


An update on the Blessington Greenway had been provided in the February Chief Executive Report.

It stated that Wicklow County Council had originally obtained a Part 8 planning permission to

construct a Greenway around the lakes of Blessington. The scope of works for the project was

changed during the process of route identification. These project changes triggered the need to

review the environmental reports undertaken to date, which has led to the project requiring a NIS

and a planning submission to ABP.


The new planning documents were going through the final reviews, and it was planned to lodge in

January 2022. The scheme runs though ESB lands, and a licence Agreement will be in place for the

scheme and lands needed. The closing date for entering submissions to the Development was the

4th March 2022.


A number of issues had been identified which were causing some concerns locally, these related

mainly to a number of bridges in the area which to ensure safety for pedestrians, cyclist, and vehicle

use, would now require traffic lights.


There was a lengthy discussion and although a legal opinion on the Section 140 motion on this

matter was provided, further legal clarity was sought. As such after approximately a 2 hour

discussion the matter was deferred, and an additional meeting was scheduled.


Meeting 21st March 2022


A second meeting of Wicklow County Council was held on Monday the 21st of March 2022.


Blessington Greenway & Section 140 Motion

In advance of this meeting legal opinion from three individuals was issued to all Councillors, which included the opinions and a summary note from the County Law Agent which detailed as follows,

‘In summary two Senior Counsel and the Law Agent concur that a resolution under this S140 motion

is void. The CE cannot lawfully be directed to withdraw this application. The Council is under a

mandatory obligation to lodge the S177 application and there is a current process that allows for all

observations and objections from the public consultation to be lodged with the Board who are the

competent authority to decide on this application. The Board cannot confer the lawful authority to

the council for the withdrawal of the application. The risks to the Council members and the CE are

clearly set out in the Clarification advice attached’.


A further lengthy discussion took place and a vote was taken. Given that legal advice outlined that taking a vote on such matters was void and given the number of people who have engaged in the planning process to date I abstained from voting. The results of the vote were 5 against, 15 abstain, 5 for and 7 not present. The motion was therefore not passed.


Housing at Burgage More, Blessington, Co. Wicklow


The second item on the agenda related to a proposed development of social housing in Blessington. There was a lengthy debate on this item also with differing views on the design and retention of a boundary ditch.

There was a call for the ditch to be retained and the officials outlined the impact this may have on the plan. As clarity on the impact of any changes was required a vote was not taken pending further clarity.


Housing Re-Lets


Housing Re-lets is the term used to describe work which must be carried out to re-let social housing.

I sit on the Housing Strategic Policy Committee Meeting, also known as the Housing SPC. There are SPC’s set up for many different areas of policy in the Council.


The Housing SPC looks at housing policy issues and changes coming from government, it is made up of community and sector representatives, councillors, and officials.


At a recent meeting the cost and time associated with re-lets were raised. The Council advised that it was their intention to offer some properties without doing full re-let work. The property would be obviously checked to ensure it was structurally sound, electrics and plumbing was in order and any main fixtures, but it would not be painting the property from top to bottom or carrying out any other cosmetic work.


So Why Do This?


The costs associated with a lot of cosmetic work is significant, and it is often wasted as new tenants paint over everything when they move in. In addition to property can often be left for a long time vacant as contractors are appointed and become available, resulting in a property sitting there while there are individuals and families in real need. I am often contacted by people wanting to know why a hose is boarded and asking if they can take the house and they will cover any decoration.


How will it be managed?


Homes of this nature will be offered under ‘Choice Based Letting’

‘Choice Based Letting’ is where an available property will be advertised. Anyone who has been approved on the Councils Social Housing List can apply. The property will then be allocated based on the scheme of letting priorities to the most appropriate of those who have applied.

This system has been used in Wicklow previously and is commonplace in other local authorities.


Some of the issues raised at the meeting were as follows –

  • Will the property be insulated or have upgrades carried out to it – the answer is no. When the local authority does upgrades & insulation it is generally done of an estate or road basis to make best use of the funding available by having the contractor in one area. It would not normally be carried out for re-lets.

  • Will it result in substandard house – the answer is no. All houses will be checked to ensure that are of a certain standard. The work required may be as minimum as painting and individuals will be making a choice on that.

  • Will people have time to consider an offer – Yes, this has and will continue to be the case. However, in all cases a speedy decision is required as the demand for housing is huge.

Further details will come out on this scheme in time. I am very supportive of it, having worked previous in a number of local authorities using this system is really does reduce the amount and length of time on vacant units.

As always of anyone has any queries on this update or any other issue, please do not hesitate to contact me.


Aoife

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