Decision due in coming days on 576-home Lissywollen plan
A decision with huge ramifications for the future development of Athlone will be made in the coming days, when An Bord Pleanála announces whether or not it's giving the go-ahead for the proposed 576-unit Lissywollen housing development.
The planning board is due to issue its decision on the Strategic Housing Development application from Alanna Roadbridge Developments by Tuesday next, June 15, at the latest.
The massive project would be home to an estimated 1,567 residents and would be situated on a 17.6-hectare development site alongside the existing Brawney housing estate between the Scoil na gCeithre Maistri Gaelscoil and Garrycastle.
It would consist of 285 houses, along with 291 apartments and duplexes. A total of 174 of the units would be allocated to the council as social housing, while the remaining 402 would be for the private market.
In a report submitted to the planning board in April, Westmeath County Council CEO Pat Gallagher recommended that the development be approved, subject to 30 proposed conditions which he outlined.
His report stated that the council was "satisfied that the proposed development will provide for significant growth and address the housing needs of Athlone".
The report noted that Athlone had been designated as a 'growth centre' for the Midlands and that the regional strategy was for its population to expand to 30,000 by 2031.
Mr Gallagher also indicated in his report that the council's roads section was happy with the "design and layout" of the controversial Lissywollen Avenue access road through the development, which would be built during the first phase of construction and would link the Ballymahon Road roundabout with the Garrycastle roundabout.
One of the conditions recommended in Mr Gallagher's report related to a possible new footbridge over the N6 Dublin-Galway dual carriageway, in conjunction with the Lissywollen Avenue road.
Mr Gallagher stated that the developer should be required "to submit details to the planning authority for the provision of infrastructure required to facilitate a future footbridge over the N6 in tandem with the east-west access route construction under phase one."
Other conditions which were suggested included that the developer should liaise with the council on the provision of bus stops and Toucan crossings - for pedestrians and bicycles - along the new road.
Mr Gallagher also recommended that proposals for estate and street names should be agreed with the council prior to the development getting underway, and that building work should be allowed between the hours of 7am and 7pm, Monday to Saturday.
The chief executive's report said upgrading works at the Athlone Water Treatment Plant were expected to be completed by this September, and Irish Water had confirmed there was "sufficient wastewater treatment capacity" at the plant to cater for the Lissywollen development.
The developer concluded in its planning application that there was adequate capacity in local schools to cater for the families that would be living in the new housing, but Mr Gallagher's report noted that councillors and others had expressed concern about the schools' ability to handle the growth in numbers given that another large-scale strategic housing development, in Coosan, had been approved last year.
Mr Gallagher said it was likely that "further detailed assessment on the capacity of existing schools to accommodate the anticipated demands arising from this development" would be needed.
The Strategic Housing Development application was lodged in late February and during the public consultation stage nine local individuals or community groups made submissions to An Bord Pleanála.
Both the board of management and the parents' association at Scoil na gCeithre Máistrí made submissions, as did residents' groups from Brawney, Clonbrock Court, and Retreat Park.
The public submissions outlined a wide range of concerns around the scale of the proposed development, including apartments overlooking the school, the disruption that would be caused during construction, the density of the new housing, and the potential for anti-social behaviour.
Fears have also been expressed that the Lissywollen Avenue road could become a 'rat run' for motorists between the Ballymahon Road and Garrycastle.