— Council CEO and planning officials voice objections to motions
— Issues of funding and delays in planning of schools raised by objectors.
Councillors in the Fingal County Council area of Dublin voted against a development plan proposal to provide safe walking and cycling routes to new schools at the same time the schools are being planned.
In cycling-friendly countries such as the Netherlands (pictured above and below), it is standard practice that safe routes are built before or alongside the construction of schools. It is Irish national policy to have such routes, but that’s often not the practice in reality.
Those who voted the proposal down included all councillors present from the larger political parties. Overall the councillors opposing the motion included five from Fine Gael (another was absent), five from Fianna Fáil, and two from Labour. A number of independents and a Renua councillor also voted against the measure.
Councillors from the Green Party, Anti-Austerity Alliance, Sinn Fein, Social Democrats and a number of independents supported the motion, but it did not gain enough overall tallies with a roll-call vote ending in 16 for and 19 against the measure.
The proposed motion said: “In tandem with identifying and procuring new school sites, plan safe walking and cycling routes to school from the residential areas to be served by the school. Where land must be acquired to provide these routes, work with landowners and relevant parties to acquire or arrange for the necessary land.”
At a meeting of the council, Cllr David Healy (Green Party), who proposed the motion, said: “The only question is: Are we going to be serious about providing safe routes to schools or not? Because at the moment we have a spectacular failure [in providing routes].”
He said residents have requested safe routes to schools and were asking how their teenagers are going to get to proposed schools outside urban areas. Cllr Healy said that the manager’s reply was ‘don’t put anything on the development plan maps’ and ‘wait until there is a planning application for a school’.
It was indicated that the motion, if adopted, would delay the process of building schools. Mayor of Fingal, councillor Darragh Butler (Fianna Fáil), said: “It could delay the school. If you had a landowner who would not play ball and it was not possable to acquire the land for the route, what happens to the school? I might be reading it wrong, but that would be my reading of it.”
Cllr Kieran Dennison (Fine Gael) said: “I am concerned about the necessity of acquiring land [for a route] in tandem with the school site; we know when the council has to acquire land compulsorily how long that can take if there is resistance from the landowner. I fully understand Cllr Healy’s motive, and if he wants to amend it, but could not support if it’s like this.”
But Cllr Healy said that it would more likely delay schools if the planning routes were left to the pre-planning stage. He wants routes to be planned when school sites are selected.
One senior executive planner, Matthew McAleese, suggested amending the motion to make it less restrictive. But even after it was amended, AnnMarie Farrelly, director of planning and strategic infrastructure with the council, spoke against the motion. She raised the issue of funding and said the proposal would still be “problematic”.
Cllr Healy said it’s national policy to provide routes to schools and that the approach taken with walking and cycling access to schools within the development plan was “vague generalities” and ‘we don’t know where we’re going to get the money’.
Under the heading of “Safe Cycling Routes”, the National Cycle Policy states: “We will provide safe cycling routes to all primary and secondary schools and third level colleges by 2020. An audit will be carried out of every school / routes leading to the school from residential areas.” It says the responsibility for this is with local authorities (ie councils) and the Department of Transport.
Paul Reid, chief executive of the council, said: “You just quoted government policy, but nowhere in there does it talk about pre-conditions being the acquisition of land and I think that’s the constraint that you’re putting on us that is too much.”
Another motion in relation to routes between residential areas and a school site in Kinsealy, north Co Dublin, is expected to be voted on tomorrow (Tuesday) or Wednesday. Cllr Healy is suggesting routes to Portmarnock, Balgriffin, and the area south of Swords. The Kinsealy site is currently host to the Malahide/Portmarnock Educate Together National School and is planned to also be the location of a new secondary school.
WATCH: Development plan meeting discussing access to schools
MORE: Cycling to school on BicycleDutch
How can Councillors vote |NO to safe routes to school!? We are talking about future generations here, and improving mobility options. Shame on Laboue, Fine Gael & Fianna Fail councillors!
The problem is that our councillors are fat, unfit, car drivers who have no interest in promoting a safe cycle culture. They should go to Holland to see how it works. Shame on them!
I despair when I hear about this ignorance. Claire Byrne Live TV programme last night dealt with fizzy drinks in context of obesity. Children have a human right not to grow up in an obesogenic local environment where they cannot walk or cycle safely to local schools.
Shame on the main political parties that these Cllrs were drawn from, as Colm Ryder states.
There was a circular sent from the Department of Environment stating that county development plans were required to reflect the National Cycle Policy Framework. Who is enforcing this?
Sinn Fein is a larger party than Labour.
This is really incredible. What is the mandate of the council seriously? I despair for this country :(
The Cllrs who opposed the motion are going against stated government policy to make Ireland healthy. It’s not just the NCPF (2009). Government Ministers Launch “A Healthy Weight for Ireland: Obesity Policy and Action Plan 2016-2025″ on 22 September last.
The government calls a specific need to ensure:
a “whole of school” approaches to healthy lifestyles with the Department Education and Skills and
Development of guidelines in relation to the built environment
Nothing should be done locally to thwart this process..
What is striking to me is the recurring ‘path of least resistance’ taken by councillors. The prevailing attitude is: ‘we’ll hit speed bumps, so let’s not try to do the right thing’. I don’t know if it’s more so motivated by fear of not being reelected, ignorance, or sheer laziness. It’s probably a combination of all 3. Several of the councillors ‘excuses’ to avoid doing it were shallow cop-outs.