Laois County Council propulation predictions for Portlaoise are not based in 'actual reality' and the expected demand for housing 'makes no sense', according to Laois TD Sean Fleming.
Laois County Council recently published a Portlaoise Draft Local Area Plan 2018-2024 and invited submissions from the public on its contents.
In his submission, Dep Fleming, welcomed the plan and said there were many good features. However, he questioned a key element - population growth and the expected knock-on demand for housing. He claims the council has underestimated the likely growth by thousands.
Dep Fleming said the percentage of the population in Portlaoise town aged under 14 years of age is one of the highest for any town in the entire country. He said nearly 90% of all households in the town are accommodated in houses built since 2001.
The Fianna Fáil TD said these new young families in the town have resulted in a very significant increase in the population in the town in recent years. According to the 2016 census the population of Portlaoise was 22,050.
He said the council's population projection for Portlaoise by 2023 is 25,382 which he claims This leaves a projected increase in population in Portlaoise of 3,332 between now and 2023.
"The natural growth of the population in the town between 2011 and 2016 when practically no new houses were built was approximately 2,000. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that the natural population growth from existing families in the town will increase by at least 3,000 over the lifetime of this plan.
"Page 24 of the document says that 2,128 additional houses are required in Portlaoise town for the population growth between now and 2024. If these new houses are built they will lead to an increase in population of approximately 5,000. When this is added to the natural increase in population in the town we will be far in excess of the projected population as outlined on page 23.
"There is already planning permission for 1,500 new houses in the town and it makes no sense to suggest that the plan can only accommodate 600 additional new houses to be approved for planning in the next seven years," claimed the TD.
Dep Fleming called for a new table inserted showing the population based on the 2016 census and not the 2011 census as is shown in the plan.
"If the Council produces a plan with a projected population in 2023 of 25,382 people, it will be obvious that such a plan will have no basis on actual reality. The new plan for Portlaoise must be based on realistic population projections," he said.
The TD also called for a clear policy and objective in relation to taking existing housing estates in charge.
The TD also called the council to delete and reduce sections of the draft which put Portlaoise on a lower tier to three other midlands towns because they refer to a soon to be redundant strategy.
He said Project Ireland 2040 National Planning Framework is the most recent national document in relation to planning. However, he said that while the old Regional Planning Guidelines for the Midland Region is now at the end of its life and will be replaced in the very near future by a Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy, the old Regional Planning Guidelines listed Athlone, Tullamore and Mullingar as a linked gateway for the Midland Region and Portlaoise was only listed as a Principal Town.
"The passage of time has made this document redundant and while the Regional Planning Guidelines will still exist for a very short period we need to reduce dramatically any reference to these guidelines in the Local Area Plan. Some reference is obviously still required, he said.
He called for section dealing with the guidelines to be reduced substantially and the old map of the Midland region be deleted as it is "not necessary and serves no useful purpose going forward".