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Mixed reaction after refusal of Port Road development

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By Sean Moriarty

Residents living in the Port Road area believe that An Bórd Pleanála’s decision to refuse planning permission for a large scale development in the area is a “smokescreen” and is “an easy avenue for the developer to appeal”.

Portal Asset Holdings want to build 228 residential units consisting of 76 houses and 152 apartments, crèche and all associated site works between Port Road and St Margaret’s Road.

The project has not been widely welcomed by residents or elected members of Killarney Municipal District despite a chronic housing shortage in the town.

Last week, An Bórd Pleanála refused planning permission for the development as it felt that construction works would interfere with a colony of Lesser Horseshoe Bats in the area.  

However, a survey conducted by the Killarney Advertiser found that the majority of Killarney people are in favour of the development and that the needs of the people should take precedence over the well-being of bats.

OBJECTIONS

Residents of the Millwood area made 50 different complaints to An Bórd Pleanála after previously raising concerns in April of this year when the planning application was first lodged.

Some issues included a folly stream that will drain directly from the new development into the Lakes of Killarney, additional traffic congestion in an already heavily congested area, poor flood risk assessment and concerns over tampering with the highly invasive Japanese knotweed.

They say their concerns were completely overlooked and that the decision to refuse planning will be easily overturned in an appeal.

“This [the bats] is a smoke screen, the reason for refusal is very weak and provides an easy avenue for the developer to appeal. They will only have to argue one reason to push through the development as opposed to addressing the inaccuracies in the application and fundamental issues that are long-standing in Killarney like traffic on Port Road and protecting the National Park,” said a statement by Millwood Residents Association issued to the Killarney Advertiser.

“As residents, there are other valid factors that should be addressed or dealt with in more detail in the 109 page inspector’s report. They merely gave tokenism to the concerns of the people who live adjacent to the site and the community at large who know the area, a better onsite assessment should be undertaken and engagement with the park people.”

HOUSING SHORTAGE

The lack of available housing is a huge issue in Killarney, two years ago the town was declared a Rent Pressure Zone and earlier this year Kerry County Council clamped down on operators of short term rental properties aimed at tourists in an effort to free up units for residents and workers.

“I am totally at a loss to understand the thinking behind this latest outrageous decision by An Bord Pleanála. We are in the middle of a massive housing crisis. Killarney is a Rent Pressure Zone and Kerry as a whole is crying out for more housing,” Kerry County Councillor Michael Cahill told the Killarney Advertiser.

“I have warned before that An Bórd Pleanála is not fit for purpose and I am now calling on the Minister for Justice and the Minister for Housing to disband An Bórd Pleanála immediately and review this decision on behalf of the people of Kerry and ensure fair play for all. This housing crisis will never be solved if we are to be ruled by people who do not understand the needs of their fellow human beings.”

Before the issue was referred to An Bórd Pleanála residents of the Port Road area were opposed to the development. They believe that a project of this size is not suitable for many reasons. They say that the development is oversized and out of character with the area, that the proposed pedestrian access to Millwood Estate would create a security risk for existing residents, that the already congested Port Road will face further congestion from new traffic, and a number of single-storey dwellings in Millwood will be faced with large two storey dwellings overlooking them, leading to a loss of privacy.

The development also caused anger at the May meeting of the Killarney Municipal District meeting.
At that time Kerry County Council recommended that planning permission be granted for the controversial development on Port Road despite widespread objections from elected councillors.

Senior planner Damien Ginty gave a presentation on various issues and concerns connected with the application at the May meeting.

The 30-page report outlined the pros and cons on why the development should or should not go ahead.

“The proposed development provides a mix of housing sizes and types to facilitate a wide demographic of housing need, but in particular provides an increased number of small units which typifies housing demand in Killarney and the surrounding area,” stated the report. “It is recommended that permission be granted for the proposed development.”

Mr Ginty’s report was met with anger from all seven elected councillors. They were unanimous in their calls that such a large development should not go ahead in the area.
And while they all admitted that Killarney urgently needs more houses they felt that there were too many local issues to allow this particular development go ahead in its current format.

SURVEY

As a follow up the Killarney Advertiser surveyed readers and asked: “Do you agree with An Bórd Pleanála refusing planning permission for 228 units off Park Road?”

A total of 75.41 percent of respondents disagreed with the decision while the remaining 24.51 percent backed the decision.

Last week’s news story attracted a lot of attention on the Killarney Advertiser’s social media channels.

“I have a relatively new build in Glenflesk, the bats come out at night, swoop and dive around the house, having a field day. No doubt with the insects drawn by the light, they don’t bother me, I don’t bother them, we coexist just fine,” said one commentator. “You’d hardly know the bats are there. They’ll have to go back to the drawing board, the proposed development should have been vastly reduced in size because of infrastructural reasons anyway.”

Another reader said: “Solving the housing crisis should be the number one priority for our county and country - not giving in to green fanaticism. This is a crazy decision.” A third added:
"Maybe the size was out of scale and a solution could have been found. But let’s not hear crocodile tears from anyone involved in this decision re ‘the housing crisis’.”

A SECOND DEVELOPMENT

Meanwhile, in August a separate developer was granted planning permission for a three-story apartment block and 10 houses on a site adjacent to Portal Asset Holdings’ site and that the latter developer has objected to the second development as they feel it is too close to their proposed development on their land.

“This is the pot calling the kettle black,” said one Millwood resident.

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Walk this way…to Killarney parkrun

By Michelle Crean Killarney’s parkrun has added another element to their ever popular Saturday morning event – suitable for people of all abilities. While most participating up until now enjoyed […]

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By Michelle Crean

Killarney’s parkrun has added another element to their ever popular Saturday morning event – suitable for people of all abilities.

While most participating up until now enjoyed a morning run, the local group is now promoting walking for the month of October every Saturday morning at 9.30am in the grounds of Killarney House.

“parkrun is not just for runners, it’s for walkers and people of all abilities, it doesn’t matter how long it takes,” Philip Gammell, Event Director Killarney House parkrun, said.

“We always have one or more volunteer Tailwalkers, who must ensure that everyone else is safely finished before completing the course themselves.”

He added that parkrun global are promoting this for the month of October but the idea is that if walkers start doing it regularly, they will keep coming back after that too.

As well as getting exercise, it’s also great fun and a social occasion, as you get to know lots of people who you’d otherwise never meet.”

You must register for the event but and once done you can walk or run at any parkrun event anywhere in the world.

“Best of all, after parkrun we go for tea/coffee and a scone in The International Hotel. Come and join us next Saturday and bring a friend!

Registration is free on www.parkrun.ie.

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Budget 2023 is just plastering over the cracks

By Michael O’Connor The Irish Budget has never been something I have paid too much attention to. My day-to-day focus is predominantly on stock market moves, so it never bears […]

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By Michael O’Connor

The Irish Budget has never been something I have paid too much attention to.

My day-to-day focus is predominantly on stock market moves, so it never bears too much relevance, but Budget 2023 certainly caught my attention.

It was set against a backdrop of surging energy prices, inflationary pressures, and a red-hot housing crisis. As one of the few European countries with a budget surplus to dip into, expectations were high.

On the surface, the Budget didn’t disappoint. The €11 billion package had a little something for everyone. The massive package of once-off measures will go a long way toward supporting households and businesses this year.

But when you dig a little deeper, many of the measures are simply providing a short-term sugar rush, with little substance once the initial high wears off.

I get it; financial relief is crucial but adding more money into the economy so people can afford to function in a broken system is not a long-term solution.

Tax cuts have been proclaimed as ‘counter inflation’ measures but are more likely to fan the flames of inflation than eliminate the problem.

Inflation is created when too much money is chasing too few goods. With this in mind, inflation is tackled by reducing the amount of money in the economy or increasing the supply of goods within that economy. Tax cuts do the opposite.

By increasing the amount of money in the system through tax cuts, the government has seemed to double down on the viewpoint that money is both the cause and solution to all of life’s problems.

Fuel to the fire

Sure, these tax cuts will help to curry favour from a political perspective, but from an economic standpoint, you are simply adding fuel to the fire.

Instead of addressing the systemic problems causing the Cost of Living Crisis, they have simply freed up more money so you can tolerate the intolerable price hikes a little longer.

Take housing, for example.

Paschal Donohoe described housing as the “central issue facing the country”.

Undoubtedly there are some positives from a housing perspective in the Budget, but as the “central issue facing the country”, it falls short.

A band-aid solution

The ‘Rent Tax Credit’, in particular, highlights the band-aid solution being applied here.

Renters will be entitled to a rental credit of €500 per year from 2022 onwards. On the surface, this is much-needed relief for renters, but in reality, it simply exacerbates the problem.

Without getting too into the weeds, in economics, you have something called the paradox of aggregation. If everyone gets the benefit, then nobody gets to feel the effects of that benefit because nobody is better off from a relative standpoint.

If you won the lotto in the morning, you would be unquestionably better off. However, if we all won the lotto in the morning, we would all be richer on an absolute level, but you would no longer be better off relative to your peers. Prices would simply increase to account for the higher levels of wealth in the system.

The same logic applies to the ‘Rent Tax Credit’. Everyone gets it, so nobody benefits. It simply just provides another gear for landlords. You can now ‘afford’ to pay higher rents, allowing landlords to raise rents even further. This is not relief but a mechanism to support higher rental prices in the future masked as support for those caught in the rental crisis.

Rent control, short-term letting restrictions, widespread public housing initiatives, subsidies to incentive construction development, and removal of the endless planning regulations. These are solutions that alleviate the supply side of the problem over the long term.

Instead, the government continues to throw more money at the problem so we can ‘justify’ higher and higher prices.

Housing supply

In fact, in a bizarre move, they have now placed a 10% levy on concrete blocks. Environmental concerns aside, at a point where every possible step needs to be taken to incentivise construction development to increase the housing supply in the system, levies are being applied to increase the cost of building even further.

Maybe I’m being overly cynical here. Compared to the UK budget, the Irish offering is a heroic feat of financial prowess, but another short-term response to the newest crisis at our doorstep is not enough.

Long-term allocation of capital and resources to solve the complete supply/demand mismatch in the housing market, nationalisation of energy, and extensive healthcare reform are areas where the bulk of the budgetary surplus needs to be allocated.

Short-sighted

Constantly repeating or extending ‘temporary measures’ is far too short-sighted. We have already seen an economic contraction in Q1 2022. These contractions may continue as we stare down the barrel of a recession in Europe. The budget surplus won’t always be there.

When it is, we must prioritise long-term investments focused on solving systemic issues. Plastering over the cracks and hoping that the foundations stay intact until the next political party takes the wheel just isn’t enough.

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