Community's concerns over plans to rezone land at St Joseph's Road for more houses

Sam Matthews sam.matthews@kilkennypeople.ie @SamAMatthewsKP

Residents of one of Kilkenny’s oldest local authority housing estates have expressed concerns over plans to rezone land to facilitate more houses being built in their neighbourhood.

The Butts is one of the oldest and highest-density local authority estates in Kilkenny. Next Monday, a proposal to rezone a tract of land from 'Community Facilities' to 'Existing Residential' at St Joseph's Road will come before local councillors for a vote.

This change is to support Housing actions under Construction 2020[, Social Housing Strategy 2020] and Rebuilding Ireland – An Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness 2016.

However, a group calling itself the 'Reclaim the Butts Community Group' opposes the plans, and made a submission to the council outlining its objections. The group asserts that the local authority originally effectively 'walled out' the community from its communal area, and observes that the land was previously used by tenants as allotments.

In her response, Chief Executive of Kilkenny County Council Colette Byrne said the land had originally been zoned 'Community Use' to allow for potential development of the Fr McGrath and O' Neill Centres. She said that following discussion between these bodies, the council, and the housing department, it was deemed the lands are not required to meet any future expansion of services.

Ms Byrne also says that while the lands may have been used for allotments in the past, former borough council records indicate they were not part of the original purchase of the land.

Another submission, from Margaret O' Brien, objected to the proposed rezoning on the basis that the scheme would increase the density of social housing in one area. In her response, the chief executive said that the proposed housing development would increase the number of houses, but not the density, which is around 25 houses to the acre.

Local councillor Patrick McKee told the Kilkenny People he has serious concerns over the proposal.

“This area of our city has hit its limit with housing and squashing houses into an existing high density residential area that has significant access difficulties at present will only compound existing problems,” he said.

“We need to build sustainable communities with plenty of green open space, not dump houses into an area that hasn't the space to take them. We all agree that we need houses, but we cannot try to solve one problem while causing another – and that's what is happening here.”

In her amended recommendations, the chief executive sets out a number of updates including retention of previously deleted wording regarding permissible uses, and clarifications on the council’s housing strategy. There is also a note recommending the facilitating of access from phase three of the Central Access Scheme to be provided ‘to amenity lands to the rear of the Fr McGrath Centre as appropriate subject to the necessary consents and procedures applicable at the time.’