The following article was written by the SCA Chair, Michael McKenna, for Skerries News and published there in the issue dated 9 August 2019.
Whether it is a mini roundabout, a children’s playground, the plans for a new Drive thru fast food place, a road opening, a landfill opening, water supply problems and odours from the waste water treatment plant, lifts not working at the train station, it is likely that the SCA will be involved in trying to put together a response that reflects what is in the best interests of the town and its people.
And then there is the work done by SCA groups like Skerries Tidy Towns (should we ever stop singing their praises? No, we shouldn’t, especially since I am now an official litter picker under the Adopt a Patch initiative). Or other committees like Age Friendly Skerries (reducing isolation for older residents); Town Twinning (Gallic/Gaelic cultural and social exchange now in its 25th year); Sustainable Skerries (empowering people to be more sustainable since 2008); Skerries Cycling Initiative (fighting for the coastal cycle route and generally encouraging people to get on their bikes) etc. The excellent daily Newsflash keeps us in touch with what’s going on in the area. We have unfortunately lost several groups in recent times: Skerries CoderDojo is dormant, Soundwaves is in abeyance and as the Rás Tailteann couldn’t find a sponsor this year so we had no Rás Stage End Committee in 2019.
Our Community Centre, which first opened in 1982, is an engine room of community activity. Run by Manager Sharon Guinane and her team under the supervision of the Board of Management (all volunteers), the Centre is the physical manifestation of the SCA. Many of the sports and arts groups in the town depend on the SCA and the Community Centre for facilities to operate, and all are in need of additional space.
Apart from the professional manager of the Community Centre and her staff, everything the SCA does happens through voluntary effort. Skerries should be proud of what has been achieved by its volunteers.
However (and there always is a “However,” isn’t there?) the volunteering effort needs to be continuously renewed, and we need to be adapting to changing circumstances to remain “fit for purpose” in meeting the challenges and to continue to make our great town even better.
The Directors of the SCA Board of Management play a crucial role here. Traditionally, most people who became directors of the Association were already members of one or more of the groups/committees under the umbrella of the SCA. This was useful to the board for keeping abreast of what was happening at committee level, but it often meant that committee demands limited the time many directors could apply to dealing with company business per se. With the number of active committees under the SCA now reduced to a handful, there is now some space around the board table, so to speak, and this gives us an opportunity to recruit some new directors who are not connected to SCA committee/groups. They would be in a better position to respond to the issues and challenges that arise from time to time. I’m thinking of things like the Town Park Development Plan, liaising with new communities and residents’ associations, new road layouts, facilities and services for young people, transport and traffic management issues and creating a more inclusive community. Other directors would then be freed up to focus on the company governance “stuff” such as revising our constitution (Articles and Memorandum of Association), GDPR, Finances and Accounts, Insurance, Website and PR, and so on. With 16 director positions (currently 3 vacancies), the work can be spread fairly so that no director is overloaded.
“The Association is representative of all interests. So we want to involve all members of the community in making Skerries a better place –socially, environmentally, culturally, recreationally and so on. Hence identifying local needs and problems is important. Then we have to take initiative to solve them. This may be on our own as a community or in co-operation with the county council or other statutory agencies.” [Jim Quigley, Chairperson SCA in an interview in 1982].
After a year as Chairperson of the SCA, I now want to get a conversation going with the wider community about how best to move forward. I think Jim Quigley’s description in 1982 of the role of the SCA is as valid now as it was then, but what I’m convinced we need to change is the way we go about meeting the challenges.
If you would like to get involved in the conversation email: firstname.lastname@example.org and let me have your thoughts. If you know someone who you think would make a good director, talk to them about nominating them for a director position. SCA board meetings take place in The Old School (which is part of the Skerries Community Centre), once a month, September to July from 8-10 p.m. on a week night evening. Between meetings communications are done mainly via email and telephone. Time commitment in addition to meeting attendance is about two hours per week.
And please do come along to our AGM on 5th September in the Little Theatre, The Old School (starting 8 p.m), and join the debate – or just have a listen. About a week before that you should receive our annual flyer inviting you to the AGM and outlining what has happened over the past year.
It’s our town – let’s help shape its future together!
Michael McKenna has lived in Skerries since 2000. He joined Skerries Cycling Initiative and Skerries Guerrilla Gardeners around 2011. In 2014 he became a director of the SCA and served as company secretary from 2016-2018. He is chairperson since September 2018.
NOTICE is hereby given that the Annual General Meeting of The Skerries Community Association CLG (SCA) will be held in the Little Theatre, Dublin Road, Skerries on Thursday the 5th of September 2019 at 8 pm to transact the Ordinary Business of the Company, that is to say: –
Dated this the 15th of August 2019, by order of the Board, Secretary.
Click the link to open the AGM notice including the nomination form: notice AGM 2019
NB: Please return signed Nomination Form to the Community Centre by 2 September, 2019.
Click on the link below to see the full appeal made by Skerries Community Association regarding the permission for a Drive-thru restaurant in Skerries. The text (without the graphics) is also replicated on this page.
This is the written planning appeal by Skerries Community Association with reference to Fingal County Council’s decision to GRANT permission in the case of application reference F18A/0340, for a Drive-thru restaurant in Skerries, Co. Dublin.
Consistent with the Fingal County Development Plan 2017 – 2023, Skerries Community Association supports the fair and transparent application of planning policies that seek to develop and improve, in a sustainable manner, the social, economic, environmental and cultural assets of the community. We do not believe that these objectives have been met in this case.
Grounds of Appeal:
During the subject planning procedure, Skerries Community Association made constructive written observations in response to the original submission for planning permission in respect of 3 important provisions:
1. The Local Setting and Zoning Objectives 2. The very close proximity to a local school 3. Conflicts with active modes of transport / pedestrian accessibility
Following the Manager’s Order and further submission of “Additional Information” by the applicant, Skerries Community Association became increasingly concerned that these planning provisions were not adequately considered. The Association then submitted further observations
Skerries Community Association: email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org
re-iterating these points as grounds to REFUSE permission. However, the planning authority has since formulated a decision to GRANT permission and, in the view of the Association, did not sufficiently address our observations and the important planning provisions contained therein.
These same grounds for refusing permission are repeated below and Skerries Community Association now appeals to An Bord Pleanála to overturn Fingal County Council’s decision in this case.
1. Zoning Objectives & Local Setting
In the “Additional Information” submission, the applicant affirms and agrees with the Local Authority’s view that “the proposed development is compliant with the ‘LC’ Land use Zoning Objective”. The SCA disagrees strongly. Specifically, a drive-thru restaurant is not compliant with the ‘LC’ zoning objective, including to “minimise the need for use of the private car and encourage pedestrians, cyclists and the use of public transport”.
In the Additional Information, the applicant says the development reinforces the “Skerries Point Shopping Centre retail viability….to serve current and future demand”. All zoned residential lands local to the centre (Barnageeragh Cove and Kellys Bay) are nearing completion and full occupancy. Future local demand growth will be modest. There are vacant units at the existing centre. The applicant seems to claim to support a “Local Centre” objective, while seeking to underpin “viability” of an under-occupied pre-existing local centre by attracting vehicular traffic to a drive-thru restaurant from beyond the local demand zone. This is clearly at odds with the zoning objective, which requires a local centre to be “at a scale to cater for both existing residential development and zoned undeveloped, now or in the future” as well as “encourage pedestrians, cyclists and the use of public transport”. This proposal clearly seeks to expand the capacity of the applicant’s “shopping centre” beyond the local demands and use for which the site is zoned. This is affirmed by the numerous vacant units at the existing centre, despite full occupancy of the local residential zones. Currently vacant units include large units suitable for a ‘walk-in’ restaurant that could “serve current and future demand”, should it exist.
Developing a drive-thru restaurant serves only to displace zone-compliant businesses. It is noted that there is already an appropriately scaled walk-in fast food amenity at Skerries Point that amply meet the needs of the local catchment and that Objective DMS107 outlines among other provisions that development proposals for fast food/takeaway outlets will be strictly controlled and all such proposals are required to address …..the cumulative effect of fast food outlets on the amenities of an area”. Despite the applicant’s decision to call the local centre a “shopping centre”, the local infrastructure cannot support a commercial remit beyond that for which the site is zoned. The proposed development is not zone-compliant and does not represent a “positive and complementary addition to the range of retail services currently being offered” as claimed. It is in fact a considerable threat to the proper functioning of a Local Centre and adjacent residential zones and schools.
Relevant Fingal County Development Plan 2017-2023 Provisions Zoning: Local Centre – The aim is to ensure local centres contain a range of community, recreational and retail facilities, including medical/ dental surgeries and childcare facilities, at a scale to cater for both existing residential development and zoned undeveloped lands, as appropriate, … The development will strengthen local retail provision in accordance with the County Retail Strategy. Development Management Standards & Fast Food/Takeaway Outlets Fast food outlets have the potential to cause disturbance, nuisance and detract from the amenities of an area and as such, proposals for new or extended outlets will be carefully considered. Objective DMS107 – Development proposals for fast food/takeaway outlets will be strictly controlled and all such proposals are required to address the following:
• The cumulative effect of fast food outlets on the amenities of an area.
• The effect of the proposed development on the existing mix of land uses and activities in an area.
• Opening/operational hours of the facility.
• The location of vents and other external services and their impact on adjoining amenities in terms of noise/smell/visual impact. Objective ED54 – Prevent an over-supply or dominance of fast food outlets, takeaways, off licences, and betting offices in…..local centres to ensure that injury is not caused to the amenities of these …. centres through the loss of retail opportunities. Objective SKERRIES 12 – Continue to support the delivery of enhanced recreational, community, social, youth and educational facilities in the area.
2. School Proximity
The applicant’s response to Additional Request No.1 is not satisfactory. It proposes that “responsibility for access to the proposed development should fundamentally lie with parents and guardians”. Indeed, the provisions of the Fingal Development Plan and Objective DMS108 is the mechanism through which the community, including parents, wishes to exercise that responsibility. Planners must also exercise their responsibility in this case. The facility is likely to be operated by a fast food franchise with significant marketing reach, including to children. The additional information details that elevated signs will be in full view of the school/childcare entrances as well as from recreational space used by teenagers in Kelly’s Bay & Barnageeragh Cove. Parents who are trying to protect and properly develop good dietary habits and wellbeing in their children will not appreciate having to compete with such messaging on a daily basis. Objectives such as DMS108 exist precisely to give parents the power to defend themselves against such pressures within their community, through the planning system.
Relevant Fingal County Development Plan 2017-2023 Provisions Objective DMS108 – Give careful consideration to the appropriateness and location of fast food outlets in the vicinity of schools and, where considered appropriate, to restrict the opening of new fast food/takeaway outlets in close proximity to schools so as to protect the health and wellbeing of school-going children.
Image and proposed signage from additional information raises concerns.
3. Sustainable Transport
The Additional Information only highlights how the proposed layout will not only attract more vehicular traffic by design but will frustrate cycle and pedestrian access to other zone- compliant local amenities, schools and childcare in and adjacent to the Local Centre. It is positioned within a particularly sensitive site with respect to facilitating active modes of travel. There is a specific objective to develop a greenway through this zone (see relevant local objectives in the current County Development Plan). Skerries Community Association, through its Skerries Cycling Initiative promotes such developments and is particularly concerned that the proposal will block any future opportunity to facilitate a cycleway parallel to the railway track for a safe and uninterrupted cycle/pathway along Barnageeragh Road to the railway station. The very confined site straddles the margin between the railway line and the road. The additional information indicates no spatial provision to facilitate such sustainable transport to what is a Local Centre. On the contrary, the resulting road layout facilitates vehicular access to the drive-thru, frustrating access to zone-compliant facilities including a directly adjacent child care facility, specifically discouraging “pedestrians, cyclists and the use of public transport”.
Image from additional information showing no spatial provision for a cycle route along the railway line.
Relevant Fingal County Development Plan 2017-2023 Provisions Zoning: Local Centre – The aim is to ensure local centres contain a range of community, recreational and retail facilities, at ……. locations which minimise the need for use of the private car and encourage pedestrians, cyclists and the use of public transport. Objective SKERRIES 10 – Promote and ensure a safe and convenient road, pedestrian and cycle system highlighting accessibility and connectivity both within the town as well as between the town and surrounding towns and villages. Objective MT17 – Improve pedestrian and cycle connectivity to schools and third level colleges and identify and minimise barriers to children walking and cycling to primary and secondary school Objective SKERRIES 11 – Promote and facilitate increased permeability and accessibility for those using active travel modes, prams, wheelchairs, personal scooters and other similar modes. Objective SKERRIES 13 – Promote and facilitate the development of the Balbriggan to Skerries cycling/walking Scheme along the Coast Road within the lifetime of this Development Plan. Objective MT21 – Ensure that as soon as possible, but by the end of the lifetime of the Development Plan the environment in the immediate vicinity of schools is a safe and attractive low speed (30kph) environment, and drop-off by car within a given distance restricted.
Skerries Community Association recommends that An Bord Pleanála refuse permission for this planning application.
_______________________________ Date: ________________________
Michael McKenna, Chairperson
Skerries Community Association
Local residents of Barnageeragh Cove and Hamilton Hill are invited to information sessions this week, organised by Fingal County Council, regarding public parkland and amenities on the site which Winsac had intended for a petrol station/shop/fast food restaurant. The proposal is to relocate the Multi Use Games Amenity there. “Part of the green space behind the petrol station site includes a small historic landfill, closed since 1983 and which contains mainly soils and stone.” (from the County Council letter, dated 5 March 2019).
The draft proposals for this site are going to be on public display on Thursday 7 & Friday 8 March 2019, 3 p.m. to 7.30 p.m., Skerries Point Shopping Centre (former Boyle Sports unit). Invitations are being distributed in the relevant area.
Barnageeragh Cove Residents Association and Skerries Community Association were briefed by Fingal County Council officials on this matter on 4 March 2019.
The meeting began at 20.10 and closed at 21.30.
THIS YEAR the Jim Quigley Volunteer of the Year Award was awarded to Skerries Youth Support Services (SYSS) for all their work over the past three years with the young people in Skerries.
The award was presented by Skerries Community Association (SCA) chairman, Geoff McEvoy, on September 3 and was collected by JP Browne and Dave Beatty on behalf of SYSS.
SYSS, is a youth-focused community organisation that supports the local young people through the challenges many of them face. It provides information and services on positive wellbeing, including mental, physical and sexual health, and personal safety. Central to its purpose is to raise public awareness about mental health and to encourage conversations amongst all generations of the community in an open, honest and trusting way. Through these conversations the remaining stigma around mental ill-health will be addressed, finding its way towards a position of acceptance. Since its launch in 2016, SYSS has produced an information booklet titled: “Myself, My Life” and has circulated over 15,000 copies in Skerries, Balbriggan, Rush and neighbouring towns. The booklets offer information and service contacts relevant to a range of issues often encountered by teenagers and young people, such as depression, sexuality, and bullying. SYSS has also facilitated several talks within Skerries and is currently in the process of establishing a clinical youth support worker for young people.
Photographs courtesy Tidy Towns Facebook Page