The proposed housing layout for the Stradbally Road plan in Portlaoise.
A hugely ambitious housing, leisure and sports land development plan in Portlaoise by Laois County Council has been unveiled this week, but councillors have immediately quashed any suggestion of a five storey apartment block.
The 26 acre site off the Stradbally Road, formerly Tyrrell's land, was bought by the local authority for €1.4 million in 2019.
Their masterplan has this week gone on public display to gather opinions on it.
A small section of the land is zoned for housing, nearest the Stradbally road. The plan is to build 87 high density homes in a range of house types there, including a five storey apartment block in the centre facing onto parkland, and a four storey block facing the same height of apartment block at Stradbrook across the Stradbally road.
There would also be 1 and 2 bedroom apartments, 1 and 2 bedroom duplexes, 2 bedroom terraced town houses and limited 3 bed terraced town houses.
However councillors said they do not want any five storey buildings, at the September meeting of Laois County Council.
Cllr Willie Aird said they are not wanted by Portlaoise people.
"How does it not come into your head that people in Portlaoise don't want five storey apartment buildings? I'm telling people it's not my plan. I don't agree. If the public don't agree, do you take it down?" he asked.
Council senior planner Angela McEvoy said the plan can be amended.
"We have to meet maximum density guidelines of 35 units per hectare. Only a certain amount of the land is zoned for residential development. It's not what I particularly want but it's good planning and it's what is needed to get funding. It's not all five storey, there is a four, three and two storey and one five storey and a parkland," she said.
"I'm not going to have people in Dublin making decisions for Portlaoise. People in Portlaoise are telling me they don't want to go up five stories with a buggy. I certainly won't be recommending it. We want traditional values, what is wrong with Marian Avenue? If you get 100% of people looking for a five storey I'll put my hand up and say that's what the people want. I'm on the ground and I'm saying people don't want it," he said.
Cllr Caroline Dwane Stanley agrees.
"I'd like to advise three storeys max," she said.
She adds that she wants a couple of four bedroom houses in the design.
"That doesn’t mean they are for big families, they can be for families with a child or adult who needs a ground floor bedroom," she said.
Councillors decided to include a ban on anything above 5 storeys at their county development plan meeting earlier in September but this could be vetoed by the minister responsible.
The largest and central section of the site (full map below) which includes a surviving section of the glacial esker, is zoned Open Space & Amenity and will become an extension of the People's Park.
To the south side nearest the schools, there would be outdoor sports facilities including a full size soccer pitch for multiple sports, a basketball court and three basketball practice areas, a parkour area. It would also have a viewing pavilion with a café and toilets.
Laois County Council sum up their vision as follows.
“Creation of a new sustainable residential community along with high quality passive open spaces and an active community zone for the benefit and enjoyment of all who live and work in, and visit, Portlaoise. The Masterplan seeks to integrate and connect the new sustainable community with Portlaoise town, the People’s Park, the surrounding residential areas and the existing natural and built environment in a sensitive manner. The Masterplan incorporates a mix of residential units in response to local housing needs and has been designed to ensure that it will be resilient and respectful to relevant economic, social, environmental and climate change considerations.”.
The plans are on show in Portlaoise library and will be placed in Portlaoise parish newsletter. They can be viewed online and submission accepted until October 25 on the www.consultlaois.ie website, click here.
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