A design image of what part of the proposed development will look like.

Local councillors’ views on426-home project to be sought

A local councillor has hit out at the lack of briefing to public representatives about a 400-strong housing development earmarked for the Coosan/Cornamagh/Clonbrusk area, saying the first he knew about it was when he read about the development in the Westmeath Independent recently.

At the July 20 meeting of Westmeath County Council, Cllr John Dolan (Fine Gael) asked CEO Pat Gallagher for a comment on the lack of consultation or briefing with councillors prior to the application for such a large project being lodged directly with An Bord Pleanála.

The Athlone-Moate Municipal District will hold a special meeting this Thursday, July 30, where they will be informed of details of the housing application and their views will be recorded.

Proposals for the 426 homes to be known as Dún an Rí were submitted to the planning appeals board by Castlestar (Athlone) Ltd on July 8 last as part of the Strategic Housing Development (SHD) process, a new fast-track planning process which allows large projects to go directly to the planning board bypassing the local authority for a decision in 16 weeks.

Westmeath County Council CEO Pat Gallagher responded to Cllr Dolan at the July 20 council meeting by saying that it is a private application and councillors would not be advised of all of those.

Pre-application meeting updates between the developers and council have been included in the monthly management reports circulated prior to each council meeting, he added.

When a SHD application is lodged with An Bord Pleanála it is then referred to the local authority, and there is an opportunity at this point to discuss it with the members of the district. That will inform the council submission in relation to the project, Mr Gallagher continued.

Cllr Dolan said that as the first major SHD application for Athlone and as a matter of courtesy, they should have been informed of it by the council who have been in consultation with the developers since the pre-application stage.

“We're going to give our view officially at the public meeting on Thursday. That will be put into the managerial report to go into An Bord Pleanála (on behalf of Westmeath County Council),” he told the Westmeath Independent on Monday.

Castlestar (Athlone) Ltd is seeking approval to press ahead with 426 A-rated homes as part of what's billed as a “high-quality residential scheme” made up of 237 housing units and 189 apartments, a creche, a large central parkland area with a children’s playground on a greenfield site fronting onto the Coosan Road, across the road from the current Glen estate, and stretching into the townlands of Coosan, Clonbrusk, and Cornamagh on 15 hectares of land.

While he is not opposed to housing being built given the local need, Cllr Dolan said he has concerns about several aspects of this project.

“I'm totally opposed to a pedestrian entrance/emergency access going into Church Hills as are the residents. There is no reason to do that,” he pointed out, adding that the density proposed also contravenes the council's own guidelines.

No submissions have been received as of yet in relation to the Coosan housing project plans, according to a spokesperson for An Bord Pleanála on Monday.

The final deadline for submissions to be lodged with the board is August 11, with the decision listed as October 27.