Residents of Old Dawson’s Demesne met with local TDs, councillors and developers of the new Castle Guard estate in Ardee on Monday as their attempts to close off pedestrian access between the two estates continue.
Hopes to have the gate at the bottom of Old Dawson’s closed off for good could hinge on a new planning application which would see more houses added to Castle Guard – backing onto the area where the pedestrian access is currently slated for.
The locals are now set to invite Louth County Council officials to Old Dawson’s to walk the lane and discuss their concerns further with the developers, six Ardee Municipal District councillors and two members of the residents committee fighting the access route.
Monday’s meeting was attended by 20 residents and local councillors Dolores Minogue, Jim Tenanty, Pearse McGeough and Tom Cunningham, as well as TD’s Declan Breathnach and Fergus O’Dowd and Labour Senator Ged Nash.
Castle Guard developers told those assembled at the meeting that they were happy to try and assist residents in blocking off access to the century-old estate but they are bound by planning conditions to open the walkway upon completion of the project.
Phase One, which comprises of 29 homes, of the build is almost complete and the first residents are expected to be homed there by October. The allocation of social housing in the new estate began last month.
Residents were told at the meeting that the developers were “committed” to building a wall and keeping “it closed for as long as we can.” “Our attitude is to try and work with you as residents and we’re happy to try and front an application and get it removed. We’ll make the strongest possible argument.”
They say that despite 29 homes being occupied soon, they can keep the access path closed until completion of the entire 107 home site, on the basis of health and safety. Whilst Castle Guard occupants can insist they want it open – as per the successful planning application – the developers can keep the route closed until all building work is complete. That could be 18 months away.
In the hour long meeting, the developers said that the council will “categorically” deny any attempt to close the access way within a competition application. They say the alternative is removing the current completion application for the remainder of the development and filing a new one, with the access removed and a higher density of housing. That suggestion came with a caveat. “There’s no guarantees,” the builders said.
Jim Tenanty raised the issue of other such examples of access links between estates and wants other cases investigated to see if Old Dawsons’ Demesne residents can take precedences from previous solutions. Sinn Fein councillor Pearse McGeough suggested, with further residential development in the area likely, the council should work on developing a Masterplan for the area.
That idea was supported by Nash, but he warned that providing the basis for change needed will be a lengthy process. “There’s a formal legal process to extinguish a right of way,” he said. “There isn’t going to be any change until there’s process.”
Declan Breathnach agreed that little can be done without tangible change made to the guidelines, namely the Louth County Development Plan, which he called “the gospel”. “It talks about integration. The final decision was made on that,” he stated. “An amendment to the County Development Plan needs to be made.”
Fergus O’Dowd told the meeting that he felt local representatives must take the fight to the council on the matter and was keen to arrange a further meeting with all of the relevant stakeholders present. “It’s important that all of us elected reps meet and pursue this.”
One local told the meeting that he felt the issue should never have got this far. “Our cul-de-sac is 105 years old. We should be left alone,” he said. “The lane was never intended to be wide, it was built for horse and cart.”
Afterwards, he told ThisIsArdee.ie, “Council officials are making decisions based on a line on a piece of paper. They haven’t walked our lane. They don’t know how it effects people.”
The lane that links Old Dawson’s Demesne to Campbell’s Park and new Dawsons is so narrow in parts that only one car can pass at any one time. There are no foothpaths on the lane nor is there street lighting.
A 107-home project, the access point will allow pedestrian’s from the new estate to and from the town centre – but locals on Old Dawson’s say encouraging increased pedestrian capacity on the lane will put residents and those walking on the lane at risk.
It is expected that the pedestrian usage on the lane will increase by 300% if the current plans go ahead.