(This version 22/10/23 replaces articles 10, 11 & 18/10/23) and will be updated as further information becomes available)
The Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY) and the Office of Public Works have provided more information on the rollout of modular housing for Ukrainian refugee families at Backweston off Tubber Lane and the new Celbridge Link Road under emergency legislation.
What is proposed?
The currently proposal is to build 136 two-bedroom modular homes on the site. We were told at a briefing a few weeks back that the number would potentially be in the region of 100 but possibly up to 140, so this figure appears to be the final decided number of homes. The OPW says this will accommodate approximately 544 people in family units of four.
What disruption will it cause?
There will be some noise and localised traffic and some residents have already commented on this. However unlike the building works over many years in Adamstown SDZ, the housing here is manufactured off-site and transported in, meaning that the disruption levels will be much lower than with normal housing development. It was an early concern that the main traffic for the site would be along the semi-rural Tubber Lane, but construction access and the final site access has now been directed towards the larger Celbridge Link Road.
Did these houses require rezoning or any type of vote by Councillors?
This is agricultural land not zoned for housing and housing is only permitted here under emergency legislation that is scheduled to last for three years. The Government is obliged under EU law to provide accommodation to people under the Temporary Protective Directive (European Council Directive 2001/55EC), in this case those fleeing the conflict in Ukraine. My understanding is that funding is provided under a common EU framework to cover these costs (which Ireland would contribute to).
What will the housing look like?
The photographs here show the layout of the site, the type of units proposed in situ and an example of the houses currently being lifted in.
Pre-fabricated units already on the site before finishing
Indicative layout of site
Architect's impression of what housing will look like
Is the housing good quality?
The DCEDIY says that these Rapid Build homes will be "energy efficient and durable and the sites will be developed in a way that enhances the local area". The site will have roads, footpaths, street lighting, community facilities, including green spaces, fully in line with national guidance. The Department says it will also provide for the management and maintenance of the homes and site.
There's more on the design from this presentation given in June, which although it references Backweston, focuses mainly on the type of housing being rolled out nationally:
Is the housing suitable for long term use?
The OPW says that the housing is so high-quality and well-insulated that it has a lifespan of 60 years. However the fact that all the housing is 2-bed means that it is not necessarily suitable for accommodating growing families long term and is probably best used for emergency accommodation for those in need of housing until they can get permanent housing and potentially could be used as permanent housing in the right location for smaller family units, for couples, or as sheltered housing. It would be a waste not to use it into the future, the question is where.
Who will manage the housing estate?
We were told on 10th October that this development will be managed by Tuath Housing, an Approved Housing Body that manages a number of social housing projects around the country.
What will happen after three years?
The official line is that the "use of Rapid Build Homes to temporarily house people fleeing Ukraine allows the Government to pilot this type of accommodation to determine the best use of the planned units into the future. It will be possible then to see if the units are suitable for social housing, student accommodation or for other uses".
However the reality is that nobody can say as of now. The Government could extend emergency legislation. However without further emergency legislation this housing could not stay in situ once it lapses. The Development Plan would need to be altered by a vote of Councillors to change the zoning of the land to residential, or else the housing would have to be redesignated as social housing. Normally a social housing plan requires a public consultation phase and a vote of Councillors, but from now until 2024 the Government has put in place plans to fast-track social housing without it going to a "Part 8" vote. If I did have a vote I would have serious concerns long term about any type of permanent housing at this site, private or public. Especially with 8-11,000 homes planned in Clonburris and the fact that successive Governments have let the centre of Dublin city disintegrate when it needs revitalisation and a population influx close to the city centre.
There is also the argument about the need to retain a rural buffer between Lucan and Leixlip and Celbridge. But in the context of a housing crisis where we need to get as much housing as possible ASAP there is still the factor that any long term housing needs proper facilities and infrastructure and should be dealt with as part of a Strategic Development Zone-type plan. Adamstown SDZ has been rolled out with amenities alongside. Piecemeal development is not good planning long term.
What are the main issues associated with this site?
There are a number of issues. Firstly the need to ensure that those living in the emergency accommodation have enough amenities on site and are able to access nearby larger retail outlets like Lidl Shackleton through as direct a route as possible, given that this will be a 20-24 minute round trip walking. They need access to school places and healthcare and other community amenities. Some may be provided on-site, but lots won't.
Secondly, local residents living in the immediate area need traffic disruption kept to a minimum and SDCC needs to consider putting additional measures in place.
Lastly - and I've no doubt that the people of Adamstown and the wider Lucan area will give the Ukrainian families a very warm welcome - the State and its agencies need to ensure that residents living in the wider Adamstown area, especially those in the newer estates, are not disadvantaged. By this I mean, with pressure already coming on school places and a shortage of childcare facilities and GP services, that the Minister at the DCEDIY, the Minister for Education and the Minister for Health will all need to ensure that delivery of services to Adamstown is ramped up.
I previously posted in updates in Adamstown that from a school perspective, this could be a "win-win", in that the 32-classroom school already granted permission at Tandy's Lane, but not due to open until 2026, could potentially open earlier as a result of the Ukrainian children that will arrive here from April 2024.
There is already pressure on places with estates like Hallwell, Gandon and more recent developments not being placed in the catchment area of schools geographically adjacent such as Scoil Mhuire. When the Ukrainian children, along with some of the children currently at the emergency homeless accommodation in Finnstown Castle Hotel, are taken into consideration, the population increase should definitely be a "tipping point" to warrant at least one junior infants class opening up on the new site or at a temporary location pending the permanent building being constructed.
Site location and elevation drawings above and below of what the finalised 32-classroom primary school building off Tandy's Lane will look like when completed. Irrespective of the tender process for the new building, the school needs to open asap in a temporary building
A major additional challenge will be childcare places, slow to roll out in Adamstown. As this is largely generated by the private sector, but funded by Government for ECCE and other schemes, there may be a need for a state or agency-run facility on the site itself.
Healthcare and access to GPs will also be crucial. As of now we have discussions ongoing between Quintain and the HSE regarding the use of the landmark building on Adamstown Boulevard, opposite The Crossings, for use as a Primary Care Centre. With challenges facing private GP practices in finding suitable locations in Adamstown SDZ, the opening of the primary care facility, which should have GP and public health nurse services will be crucial. Again, the hope is that the Ukrainian arrivals will help speed up the delivery here and this is something else I continue to chase up.
Proposed location of Primary Health Care Centre
However we need to keep up the pressure. This is why the information briefing session on the 10th of October was useful.
Report on public information briefing on Tuesday, October 10th
An informational event with display boards and OPW/DECDIY staff on hand to answer questions was held in Adamstown Community and Youth Centre on 10th October last . Thanks to SDCC staff for facilitating.
An earlier version of this article mentioned the meeting and urged residents to attend. Approximately 30 people turned up at various stages, with the largest number from Hallwell, the estate closest to the emergency accommodation. Most of those present came between 7:30and 8:30pm when the one-to-one format turned into a larger discussion, with many questions asked and lots of opinions expressed.
An example of the display boards at the meeting
A number of residents conveyed unhappiness at the slow release of information and/or lack of consultation, with one resident saying that he had heard something as far back as March but detailed information was a long time coming.
Another person said: “Today is the first day I heard of it. Transparency and communication were absent here. The point is we welcome people but this is not a good starting point and that’s poor social policy.”
Another comment described the plan as “an experiment and we are participating without consent”.
There were more concerns expressed about “secrecy” but the team said it was not deliberate secrecy.
Residents largely accepted, whether they are happy or not with this proposal, that it is permissible under emergency Government legislation. The discussion then moved on to the facility itself and related community concerns.
Many of the points raised or questions asked are already addressed elsewhere in this article. The main concerns, which I had mentioned to readers to raise on the night in advance of the meeting included school places, childcare places and healthcare.
A resident from Gandon park said precisely this: “We’ve been waiting ages for services. I’m looking for a commitment that it could be brought up with the minister in terms of services, eg education primary health and childcare…” It was agreed to pass these concerns on.
The flyer from the DCEDIY advertising the information briefing said that: "The Department of Education is planning for the extra school places needed and alternative arrangements will be made to bring occupant children to schools close by where the local school is at capacity. The Department of Health along with the HSE are planning for additional health service requirements". I pointed out that I had written to the Minister for Children and the Minister for Education, had raised with the Adamstown SDZ liaison team and with developers, however there has been no indication as of yet what plans if any will be put in place.
At the briefing meeting there was also mention of two additional teachers being sanctioned in nearby schools, but this won't make a dent with the population of Adamstown increasing rapidly. And bussing Ukrainian children to other towns and leaving parents to struggle for primary school places in Adamstown is not a sustainable option either. The Department needs to get its finger out now and fast-track the school already earmarked.
I reiterated these issues strongly during my own contribution and asked the team presenting promised to revert to the relevant Ministers. I stated again that the school earmarked for Tandy’s Lane in 2026 needs to open earlier and also the Primary Health Care facility.
Some of the other interesting questions raised by residents included surface water attenuation and drainage services (connected to new pipes and systems already in situ), parking on-site (spaces provided), public transport access and issues such as how potential antisocial behaviour will be managed.
It was pointed out that with the four-person family units there were unlikely to be too many issues in this respect, but the OPW said that any related matters would be managed by Tuath Housing and communications links would be set up with local elected representatives.
The cleansing of the road by the contractor was also highlighted as was the potential future need for traffic calming adjacent to the entrance, which is likely a future issue for SDCC, presuming the Celbridge Link Road has already been taken in charge.
All in all it was a constructive evening in terms of its aim of information sharing and receiving feedback. The briefing on the 10th gave us all an opportunity to articulate concerns once again in relation to the provision of services to meet the needs of the Ukrainian community as well as the existing community in Adamstown. The onus is now on the various Government agencies to deliver.
Thank you for taking the time to read this far. I will keep people posted as and when any substantial additional information comes to hand.
Below is a copy of the leaflet about the meeting dropped to the houses "within immediate proximity to this development on Tubber Lane and the Hallwell Estate"