Dublin City Council refuses to map sites for Travelers’ Homes in city development plan
Dublin City Council should identify new sites for Travelers’ homes and mark them on zoning maps in the city’s next development plan, the national planning regulator’s office said in February.
But council chief executive Owen Keegan said the council would not at this time.
The City Development Plan is a master plan for the city that guides, among other things, what can be built where, and the council is creating a new one that will run from 2022 to 2028.
Mapping in the plan the land that will be used for guest accommodation is not a legal requirement, Keegan says in his report on draft plan submissions.
A mismatch between development plan timelines and the council’s plans for traveler accommodation – and onerous development plan change laws – means it makes more sense, for now, to put a map of travelers’ existing accommodations, he said.
Traveler accommodation can be built on any land zoned for homes, and this approach is more flexible, Keegan said.
Shay L’Estrange, coordinator of the Ballyfermot Travelers Action Project, says the city’s traveler organizations disagree with this approach.
This is how it has been done in the past and delivery has been poor, he said. “If you don’t set a goal, you will never achieve it.”
In February 2021, councilors pledged to do more to push the council to develop new traveler accommodation, including pushing to find new land for new homes, but little progress has been made.
Not legally required
In February, the Office of the Town Planning Regulator highlighted Section 10(2)(i) of the Planning and Development Act and said the council must show where it would provide accommodation for travellers.
The development plan should set out a strategy for developing areas and development goals, according to the law. Including “the provision of accommodation for Travelers and the use of particular areas for this purpose”.
The planning regulator has suggested the council mark the locations where it intends to provide traveler accommodation on zoning maps.
But Keegan says the requirement to map particular areas for traveler accommodation is not in the law and is not mandatory under the guidelines of the draft development plan.
“The draft guidelines advocate that zoning policies be developed in a flexible manner to reflect the need to secure additional accommodation for travelers over the life of the plan,” he said.
Zonings that allow homes could include traveler accommodations, he says, including Z1, Z4, Z10, Z12 and Z14. This will allow for greater flexibility when opportunities arise, he said.
L’Estrange says Keegan recently participated in the Local Traveler Accommodation Advisory Committee (LTACC) – a forum that brings together councilors and council representatives with traveler representatives – and said that if he identifies certain sites , it would restrict where traveler accommodation could be built.
Representative organizations of Travelers have rejected this idea, says L’Estrange. “If that was the case, you would have had plenty of opportunities in the past and you didn’t.”
(The current traveler accommodation program, which runs from 2019 to 2024, has so far not resulted in much traveler accommodation in new locations, instead focusing on regeneration and expansion existing programs.)
Groups of traveler representatives are pushing for the council to identify new sites for traveler accommodation and plan to write to the council in the coming weeks asking it to do so, L’Estrange says.
The mid-term review of the board’s Traveler Accommodation Program is also planned. Traveler organizations want the council to bring in an independent facilitator for this, says L’Estrange.
“We want a real negotiation,” he said. And for the shares agreed to be delivered.
How many houses?
At a meeting of the council’s housing committee on May 11, Labor councilor Dermot Lacey asked how many traveler households in the town needed accommodation.
Frank d’Arcy, director of housing operations for the council, said the council intended to “develop or commission” around 200 homes under the current TAP.
“We are a long way from doing that and we are in the middle of 2022,” he said.
This figure includes renovations, as well as 47 new homes, 7 new caravan bays and 14 new temporary bays, according to the Traveler Accommodation Scheme.
Lacey asked what the delay was and if the advisers could do anything to expedite delivery.
D’Arcy said, “Covid hasn’t helped move the projects forward.”
But other issues included delays in planning and tenders, he said. “We will do a review and get back to the LTACC and the housing committee.”
L’Estrange says demand for accommodation is strong in its own area in Ballyfermot.
It is common for Travelers to become homeless, he says. “It’s right across town, in every neighborhood.”
Travelers are overrepresented in homeless shelters and some families sleep in cars, he says.
The LTACC president suggested the council could change the way it provides housing to include accommodation for travelers each time it develops a new housing program, L’Estrange says.