BIG READ: Council to draw up plan to re-open access between two estates in Carlow

This is becoming a huge issue

Darren Hassett

Reporter:

Darren Hassett

Email:

news@carlowlive.ie

Carlow Carlow Carlow

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The Council is to draw up a plan to re-open the pedestrian access between two estates in Carlow Town despite residents' concerns about anti-social behaviour. 

Carlow Live has reported how legal advice received by the local authority found they "may have erred" in a members' resolution back in 2014 to temporarily block up pedestrian access between Sandhills housing estate and Brownshill Wood. 

The Council sought the legal advice over the pedestrian access after it was revealed that there is a requirement in the planning permission for Sandhills estate that there be a pedestrian entrance between it and Brownshill Wood.

However, a motion in 2014 by Carlow Town Council - which called for the pedestrian access to be temporarily closed until Brownshill Wood was taken in charge by the local authority - was passed. 

At the December meeting of Carlow Municipal District, members were told by Director of Services, Michael Rainey, that the motion "does not have the power to supersede" the planning permission and the access will have to be re-opened. 

Residents were in the public gallery during the meeting as councillors expressed their anger and frustration over the issue and concerns that removing the wall would see a rise in anti-social behaviour again in the area. 

Mr Rainey said: "The entrance will have to be opened at some stage in accordance with the conditions of the planning."

Cllr John Cassin said the access was closed off over anti-social behaviour and was done so "in good faith". 

Cllr Ken Murnane said that the Council "throwing the law in is really being heavy handed".

The issue caused a heated discussion between local representatives and the Council's executive and Cllr Tom O'Neill said it was the "right decision at the time and it still is the right decision" to have blocked up the access. 

Cllr Fintan Phelan said residents' concerns were "very valid" and called for a "comprehensive plan" before any decisions are made to re-open the access. 

He called for the Council to consult with residents and Gardaí on the matter. 

Mr Rainey said no access between the estates would be a breach of planning and the Council is "not going to hold the public to a standard that we are not going to hold ourselves to". 

He told members that if it was a private individual who had blocked up the access they would be issuing enforcement notices. 

He pledged to come up with a plan to modify the entrance with more lighting and other measures that would deter anti-social behaviour and added the Council are "obliged by law" to enforce the conditions of the planning. 

Mr Rainey said he would bring forward a design for the re-opening of the entrance in the New Year and he committed to members that the access would not be re-opened over the holidays. 

In a letter to councillors, seen by Carlow Live, senior executive officer, Eamonn Brophy, says the legal advice states that the planning permission requires a pedestrian connection between the two estates.

"The Council may have erred in passing the resolution in 2014," the letter says. 

The letter adds: "It further states that had a third party closed the entrance, the Planning Authority most likely would have issued an enforcement notice and that the Council should not carry out works it would not allow a third party to carry out.

"It concludes by advising that the motion of 2014 be revoked.

"It is strongly recommended that the motion be revoked and that the entrance be re-opened."

The matter is further complicated because where the pedestrian access is currently, is not where it should have been per the original planning permission granted. 

Cllr Murnane said at the December meeting that the Council were picking and choosing which aspects of the planning law to adhere to as the access should actually be 15 metres to the east as per the original planning decision. 

However, Mr Rainey said that leaving the access in its current location is not a "material" change to the planning decision but no access between the estates "would be a breach of planning".