Transformation of Carcur
More than 400 homes, two creches, landscaped walkways and a bird hide feature in a waterfront development proposed by William Neville and sons. Maria Pepper digs into the detail
A full planning application is due to be lodged with an Bord Pleanála this week, seeking permission for a multi-million euro housing development on the old Cement Roadstone Holdings (CRH) site in Carcur in an area also earmarked for the construction of a third bridge over the River Slaney.
Under new legislation, the board will have 16 weeks in which to make a decision on the development, once the application is accepted as valid. If the application succeeds, the development, to be completed in four phases, will transform the Carcur entrance to Wexford for which an action plan was first drawn up 15 years ago.
The developers are William Neville and Sons Ltd who are paying a planning application fee of €79,651.60 for the Strategic Housing Development project on the 34-acre site which includes 413 residential units comprising 175 houses and 238 apartments (including an agreed 41 social houses) two creche facilities, 769 car parking spaces and a retail unit with landscaped green areas, walkways and a bird hide.
Following a preliminary consultation process started in 2017, during which further information and modifications were requested, Nevilles were eventually given the go-ahead by An Bord Pleanála to make a full application after the board ruled there was a reasonable basis for the application to be lodged.
The developers submitted an application a few days before Christmas which was deemed invalid for what are understood to be technical reasons, and another on January 11 which was also listed as invalid.
A revised application is due to be lodged by the company this week with a possible decision date on the development in early May.
As the site is at the mouth of the River Slaney beside the Special Area of Conservation and Wexford Harbour and Slobs Special Protection Area, an Environmental Impact Assessment Report, a Natura Impact Assessment Report, and a Site Specific Flood Risk Assessment were required with the application.
Nevilles have already built an access road to the site and a roundabout under a Part 8 agreement with Wexford County Council while a railway bridge crossing will be constructed before the start of the development, with the Council having agreed to take the finished development and the infrastructure in charge.
According to planning consultant Ian Doyle who prepared a report in response to issues raised by An Bord Pleanála and also coordinated an Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR) in assocation with various specialists, the design of the development has been integrated with the railway crossing. A road safety audit was carried out on the overall scheme.
Land has also been reserved to accommodate another bridge over the River Slaney, of a similar design and scale to the existing Ferrybank Bridge and this will not be affected by the new housing development.
The planned development of the site links with Objective T8 of the Wexford Development Plan and the inner relief road running from Sinnottstown Lane to Clonard, via the rear of Wexford Racecourse to Carcur where the third river crossing is proposed. T8 has been substantially completed up to the rear boundary of the Carcur site.
One of the concerns raised by An Bord Pleanála was in relation to the adjacent former landfill in Carcur which closed down in 1985, including the monitoring of gas emissions and a potential impact on the housing development.
The Environmental Impact Assessment indicates that the closest edge of waste placement in the landfill is 130 metres away from the nearest proposed house in the development which is separated from the dump by the railway line and by tidal marshes on either side of the railway.
A conclusion of the EIAR is that 'This level of separation and the fine and waterlogged nature of the silts in the tidal zone almost certainly prevent gas from the landfill from eaching any dwellings in the proposed development.'
The environmental assessment also states that 'Wexford County Council is monitoring gas levels within the landfill site and as part of the preparation for the current planning application two gas monitoring wells have been installed by the developer within the site adjacent to the landfill to assist in determining whether there is any migration of gases under the railway and the intervening mudflats.'
An initial set of readings indicated the presence of low levels of methane which are almost certainly background levels rather than indicating migration from the landfill site, according to the EIAR.
It is proposed to continue monitoring the gas levels before, during and after construction to ensure that this conclusion is valid and that there is no unforeseen risk.
In the event of confirmation that gas migration is occurring, potential remedial works will include the installation of open textured rock-filled trenches at an agreed location to act as a cut-off trench. The need to prevent disturbance to wildlife habitats was a key conclusion of the Natura Impact Statement which informed the design process at an early stage, according to Mr. Doyle.
During investigations for the NIS and the EIAR, it was discovered that there is significant otter activity on the shoreline of the development site and impact will be avoided by permanent fencing around the boundary, the construction of a new freshwater pond to replace an existing pond that will be affected by the development, and additional hedgerow planting to enhance the vegetation buffer. Sensitive design of the outdoor lighting will aim to avoid excessive illumination of the habitat along the shoreline.
In relation to the shoreline habitats of waterbirds, the NIS concluded that any potential displacemeent or disturbance will be very small and will have no significant impact on any of the waterbird species for which the SPA was designated.
Pedestrian walks are be provided throughout the scheme, to capitalise on views of the river where possible and a bird hide is proposed to exploit the rich wildlife within the estuary.
A Site Specific Flood Risk Assessment recommended that the existing ground levels on the site should be raised to a minimum level of 2.95m OD which is equal to the predicted 1 in 1000 year High End Future Senario tidal flood level in the vicinity of the site.
The assessment concludes that the overal development of the site is not expected to result in an negative impact to the hydrologcial regime of the area and is not expected to adversely impact on adjacent lands or properties.
More information was requested on the impact on houses of noise from the adjoining railway line. The nearest proposed dwellings will be 10 metres from the trackside but in order to mitigate noise in houses along the southern boundary of the site, the boundary wall will be increased to three metres in height.
It is outlined as the intention of William Neville and Sons to create 'an exemplary, high quality residential quarter for Wexford town and to establish landmark buildings which will form a gateway to Wexford once the objective for a third bridge over the River Slaney is realised.'
Based on the number of bed spaces proposed, the development has the potential to increase the population within the town boundary by up to 1005 people.
According to the EIAR, the development will have limited visual impact on the surrounding landscape as due to its riverside location, the site is framed to the rear by a rising landscape and as such its impact on the skyline will be miminal.
The Carcur site was part of a wider development area for which an Action Area Plan was prepared by Murray O Laoire Architects in 2003 in a joint venture between the then owners of the site, Cement Roadstone Holdings Ltd and Wexford County Council and which was adopted into the Town Development Plan at the time.
Many of the site specfic objectives of the current Development Plan owe their origins to the key findings of the Murray O'Laoire plan, including the zoning of the site, the objective for a third bridge crossing and the inner relief road.
CRH paid a significant financial contribution to the Council for works required to upgrade the former dump to a park, as part of the sale of the site to William neville and sons.
A legal agreement was also drawn up between the Council and William Neville and Sons as part of the sale, for the provision of a roads infrastructure and a bridge over the railway line to provide access to all lands involved in the action plan.
According to the applicants, the proposed development represents the next step which is the realisation of the residential element of the Area Action Plan in Zone 4 of the Development Plan.
How the development will look from the other side of the Slaney Estuary at Crosstown has been taken into account in the design and once the third river crossing is completed, the project should become an 'important bookend' for the town in terms a visual urban boundary, according to the developers.
As part of the planning application, the applicants were required to place all information in the public domain in order to invite public opinion. Comprehensive details are available on the website http://carcur.ie.
An Bord Pleanála also requested that copies of the planning application be forwarded to Transport Infrastructure Ireland, Irish Water, National Transport Authority, Inland Fisheries Ireland, Commission for Railway Regulation, the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heritage Council, An Taisce, Wexford County Childcare Committee, Fáilte Ireland and Wexford County Council.