More than 420 apartments could be developed on land owned by Wicklow County Council on Mill Road in Greystones, local councilors have heard.
The elected members of the Municipal District of Greystones received an update on the proposed master plan for the site at their February meeting.
Christine Flood, chief executive of Wicklow County Council, told councilors that consultants Conroy Crowe and Kelly were appointed in 2019 to draw up a master plan for the valuable town center site, which could lead to costs of maintenance for the local authority.
The master plan is intended to provide a vision for the use of the site, Ms Flood said.
James Kelly of Conroy Crowe and Kelly told councilors the land is zoned to allow for town center expansion. The site includes a playground, park-and-ride and municipal offices. Part of the land includes a protected group of trees. The Mill Road lands are considered ideal for residential and open space purposes. The consultants were also asked to consider whether a hotel could be developed on the lands.
1.3ac of the site is to be purchased by the HSE for the new Greystones Primary Car Centre. Ms Flood told advisers that the HSE would develop this part of the site independently, subject to approval to dispose of the site.
Mr. Kelly described four concepts for the Mill Road grounds. In ‘Concept A’, 151 apartments could be developed on the land alongside 5,400 m² of retail space. The playground would remain in place and approximately 450 spaces could be accommodated in a park-and-ride facility.
“Concept B” would include 240 apartments and 10,000 m² of commercial space. The Park & Ride lot would be reduced to 360 parking spaces and the play area would be moved from its current location to the cluster of trees. Additional parking could also be created by adding a second level to the park and ride.
In ‘Concept C’, the full site would be developed to provide 423 apartments building on the existing park-and-ride facility. Municipal offices and the playground would be moved. There would be no change to the amount of retail space available, and the site could also accommodate a 75-bed hotel. The Park & Ride would be moved to another site that could provide up to 1,400 spaces at the Charlesland Golf Course.
Mr Kelly said the site could not accommodate a large outdoor art space and suggested that the La Touche car park could provide an alternative location for this installation.
Sorcha Walsh, lead planner for Wicklow County Council, told councilors the process of developing the new Local Area Plan (LAP) would begin soon. This would focus on identifying infill sites and brownfields which could potentially be used for housing, although not all of this land would be owned by the local authority. The development of the Master Plan for the Mill Road Lands would assist the LAP process.
Cllr Derek Mitchell said the proposals for the site look attractive, however, he does not like that the primary care center is located on these lands. Cllr Mitchell said he would not favor moving a park and ride to a green field site, noting that the South Beach park and ride was full at 7:30 a.m. in pre-Covid times .
He also raised concerns that Irish Rail may wish to use part of the site to store railway carriages after the Dart+ project is completed.
Cllr Mags Green asked for more information on the possible new location of the playground. She also asked if the master plan would be subject to public consultation.
Cllr Jodie Neary said she was concerned about the masterplan process and the need to stop sprawl. She asked whether the County Development Plan (CDP) and LAP would consider restricting development to allow infrastructure in the district to catch up with the pace of development.
Cllr Neary suggested the Mill Road land could be used for social housing as the situation is “worse now than when I was co-opted”.
“There are an incredible number of homeless people,” she said.
Cllr Neary said she would not be in favor of moving the Park & Ride lot. She also raised concerns that new retail units would take existing traders out of business.
Cllr Gerry Walsh said he would not be happy to see the playground moved as a lot of work had been done at this facility. He wondered if the site could accommodate a hotel, alongside residential and commercial units. Cllr Walsh noted that creating a larger park-and-ride can be counter-intuitive, especially with the desire to reduce reliance on cars.
Cllr Tom Fortune said more discussion was needed on the proposals to sort them out and to avoid similar “mistakes” at the Greystones Harbor development.
Referring to Cllr Mitchell’s question on Irish Rail, he said this project would take years to develop.
Cllr Fortune has also raised concerns about the viability of a hotel. He recalled that hotel groups had already been approached, but they did not think the city could keep a local.
Cllr Lourda Scott said she would not support moving the park and ride further from the darts station. If the playing field is moved, it will need to be the same size or larger than it currently is. She also asked if it was possible to set up a hotel on the site.
Ms Flood said the master plan process was not yet complete. Any housing development would provide social housing under the Part 5 process, although the land would not be developed in its entirety to provide social housing.
She agreed the council would discuss its plans with Irish Rail, adding that Mill Road land is a prime location and may not be suitable for train storage.
Alternative sites had been considered for the primary care centre, with the Mill Road site deemed by the HSE to be the most suitable.
Ms Flood pointed out that it is likely that playground equipment will need to be replaced as part of its lifecycle by the time any development takes place on the site.
A study by Wicklow Tourism had identified Greystones as a location where a hotel could be viable due to the media campus.
Ms Walsh told councilors that a master plan is not statutory and is not subject to public consultation. However, new rules under Housing for All would allow councilors to designate certain areas of action.
She said the district has an asset that “doesn’t work hard for you and could work harder for you.”
The land could be used to provide facilities or cash for other projects if sold. The site is suitable for multi-storey buildings, but standard houses are preferred for social housing.
If the land is sold, it could be put on the market under certain conditions. Any proposed development would be subject to the planning process.
Ms Walsh acknowledged that services at Greystones need to “catch up”, but some developments would be permitted under government policy. The new CDP would try to “moderate” the growth rate.
She noted that a growing population may require more retail, and the downtown extension is preferable to an out-of-town mall. She said any design should connect Mill Road to the city centre.
Ms. Walsh said the Charlesland Golf Course is zoned as active open space. It is not connected to Mill Road land. She said councilors could review the zoning of these lands during the PAL process.
Cllr Scott asked for clarification on the green space proposals and welcomed the protection of the group of trees.
Mr Kelly said the group of trees could accommodate the same size playing field as the existing one. Open space would be provided as part of a development.