Local Authority Housing

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)

I welcome the Minister to the House. My issue relates to housing estates built by the council, particularly Ardbhearna estate in Kenmare, which was built outside the town yet does not have adequate footpaths or lighting from the estate to the town. At this time of year at night or in the evening when secondary school children are returning from school there is no footpath or public lighting. If a council builds a housing estate where there will be young families, is there a legislative onus on it to put in place infrastructure such as public lighting and footpaths to ensure people can go to and from the town safely?

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O’Sullivan (Limerick City, Labour)

I share Senator Daly’s concern that any social housing estate would be located at a remove from local services and facilities without making provision for safe and convenient access to it by walking or cycling as well as by car. I note that the estate concerned is at the edge of Kenmare. My Department has provided a range of best practice guidance documents and manuals to local authorities to assist and guide them in the selection of sites for housing developments, the design and layout of such developments and important issues such as sustainability, safety, security, accessibility and vehicular and pedestrian circulation. Last year, along with my colleague the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Varadkar, I jointly launched the design manual for urban roads and streets. This manual provides detailed guidance on the design and layout of streets, roads, footpaths and cycle facilities. The use of the manual is now mandatory for all roads and streets within the 60 km/h speed limit zone. The manual states that the creation of vibrant and attractive places requires pedestrian activity which, in turn, requires walkable street networks that can be easily navigated and are well connected.

My Department’s best practice guidelines, Quality Housing for Sustainable Developments, focuses on key planning and design issues aimed at creating places that are safe and which can facilitate pedestrians and cyclists while minimising, as far as possible, the need for the use of private cars. Design and layout should provide safe and convenient access to all dwellings within the development and to adjacent facilities and services. The guidelines promote the idea of the walkable neighbourhood, where the ordinary needs of households can be met within walking distance, consistent with national policies on sustainability and the promotion of walking and cycling. The development of peripheral lands at some remove from services and facilities would not immediately appear consistent with that ambition.

In compiling their statutory development plans, local authorities are obliged to take on board general Government policy and to specifically implement all relevant guidelines. The Department’s guidelines on development plans, Development Plans Guidelines for Planning Authorities, state that in order to maximise the utility of existing and future infrastructure provision and promote the achievement of sustainability, a logical, sequential approach should be taken to the zoning of land for development. This would allow zoning and any subsequent housing developments to extend outwards from the centre of an urban area, with undeveloped lands closest to the core and public transport routes being given preference. This would avoid any “leapfrogging” to more peripheral areas.

Regarding a footpath surrounding an estate, there is no legal requirement for this. The design and layout of individual housing developments will address access issues and must take account of the requirements set out in the Design Manual for Urban Roads and Streets. It is a matter for the relevant planning authority to ensure compliance with these requirements and that adequate provision is made for pedestrians, consistent with policy to promote pedestrian movement and reduce demand on car use. The motion was a general one and Senator Daly has indicated a particular estate about which he is concerned and we can follow up on that.

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)

I thank the Minister for the reply. I will follow this up with the Minister because there are more than 50 children in the estate and there are no public lighting or footpaths. It is on the main Ring of Kerry Road from Kenmare to Killarney and it beggars belief that a footpath does not extend from a public housing estate into a town. Child safety is probably the most important issue when one builds a new housing estate knowing there will be families. Yet this housing estate has not provided for the most basic element of child safety and security by ensuring the estate is linked properly to the town.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O’Sullivan (Limerick City, Labour)

I presume Senator Daly has been in touch with the local authority about this but if we can assist in any way in the Department we will do so.

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