John Walsh

Labour Party candidate for Castleknock

How would you help get more housing built in Fingal?

Solving the housing crisis is my No.1 priority. We need to ensure that Fingal Council builds more affordable housing on public land, that local authorities have more power to solve dereliction and that homes are built on land where planning permission is granted. There are 231 inactive sites across Fingal where planning permission has been granted and no work has commenced, with a total of 13,963 homes which have never been built despite planning approval. We have more than enough zoned land and active planning permissions to get us out of the housing crisis, but the Government is not serious about tackling land hoarding or building enough affordable housing on public land.

I am campaigning for:

  • A statutory ‘use it or lose it’ requirement to ensure that building of homes starts or permission is withdrawn after three years so that nobody is allowed to sit on active planning permissions.
  • Greater powers and resources for Fingal Council to build social and affordable housing on public land, without referring to the Department of Housing which has consistently mismanaged and exacerbated the housing crisis.
  • Greater power for the Council to take over derelict homes and bring them back into use.
  • A greater mix of housing in new developments such as Kellystown, including apartments, family homes and appropriate homes for older people to downsize and live in their own area. This should also incorporate a greater mix of tenure, with a greater proportion of social housing, affordable purchase and cost rental accommodation in new developments.
  • Protecting the rights of local residents and communities to participate in the planning process, which are threatened by the current Planning and Development Bill before the Oireachtas.

What would you do to help make sure adequate amenities and services would be added along with any new housing built?

We need to create sustainable communities supported by strong infrastructure. All too often, developer-led planning leads to the development of large-scale housing estates, with no amenities, inadequate infrastructure and low quality of life. Housing has to be delivered in conjunction with essential infrastructure, such as school places, early childhood education and public transport. We have bitter experience of Dublin 15 of the consequences for individuals and families when this doesn’t happen.

As area chairperson for the Dublin area committee in 2020-21, I was instrumental in adopting commitments to essential infrastructure within the new Local Area Plan for Kellystown, the most recent area plan adopted for new housing development in Dublin 15. I secured agreement for the inclusion of objectives committing to new primary and post-primary schools and a new community centre in tandem with development in Kellystown. I have also secured a commitment that a new master plan will be brought forward this year to protect and conserve the Old School House, Clonsilla.

I am a consistent advocate for community led planning and campaigned for the removal of Strategic Housing Development and Co-living statutory regulations which allowed for fast-track applications to An Bord Pleanála, deliberately intended to bypass professional planners, councillors and residents. The new Planning and Development Bill also contains dangerous and ill thought out proposals to restrict the ability of residents’ associations and community groups to challenge bad planning decisions and make it harder for voluntary groups to participate in the planning process. This is not simply undemocratic but very damaging to effective, community led planning of new housing estates.

What are your views are on Dublin Airport’s current operations and its proposed expansion?

Dublin Airport performs an indispensable function for our regional economy and is a key employer in Fingal. But some of the recent plans and actions of the Dublin Airport Authority are unacceptable, not least in seeking to allow more night flights and challenging existing planning conditions to mitigate noise pollution. The DAA has not been a good neighbour to local communities badly affected by aircraft noise, which has well known physical and mental health impacts. The proposed increase in hours and the removal of the 65 cap for night flights would severely compromise the residential amenity of residents living in the flight path of aircraft, especially in St Margaret’s the Ward and Hollystown.

I supported the enforcement action taken by Fingal Council to protect residents in Hollystown, St Margaret’s the Ward and Coolquay from noise pollution and along with my colleague Cllr Mary McCamley wrote to the Council executive, urging the Chief Executive to challenge the stay on the enforcement action granted to the DAA.

What needs to be done to improve public transport in Fingal?

This one is straightforward – more buses, more of the time. The bus service in some parts of Dublin 15 is worse now than it was five or ten years ago. Secondly, electrification of the Maynooth line while meeting community concerns about the environment, traffic congestion and visual impact of new bridges.

We need much greater investment in buses and better community input into decisions on public transport. The local redesign of services for Bus Connects is problematic and has contributed to a deterioration in service on the 37 and 39 routes. Other elements of Bus Connects which are more positive, such as a Core Bus Corridor from Blanchardstown to the city centre, have not yet been implemented. There are far too many ‘ghost buses’, where buses fail to turn up as advertised and this is particularly bad on the 37 and 39 bus routes.

DART+West is a very positive strategic project, but has been delayed many times and is still around six years from operation at best. Also some of the initial plans for the DART+West were badly flawed, involving the destruction of Ashtown stables, massive concrete bridges and promotion of traffic gridlock in Dublin 15 – many of these concerns have not been resolved yet. We should be able to achieve electrification of the rail line while protecting the local environment and respecting local concerns about traffic congestion, visual impact of the bridges and protecting a valuable community resource such as Ashtown stables.

I would support a single Dublin regional transport authority which reports to the four Dublin councils, the current system of decision-making by state agencies has no accountability to local representatives and not enough input from local communities. I have submitted motions to our Area Committee calling on Dublin Bus and the NTA to explain the high incidence of ‘ghost buses’ and to address the serious failures in service for communities in Dublin 15.

What should be done to make it nicer and safer for people to get around the city on foot and by bike?

Better separation of cars, pedestrians and cyclists is crucial and Fingal is making considerable efforts to achieve this in any new cycle paths, but many older roads are not safe for walking or using a bike. I support the 30kph speed limit for estate roads in residential areas and in some cases traffic calming is needed, especially on roads right beside primary schools or those used as ‘rat runs’ through residential estates. I have worked with the traffic engineers and local communities to achieve consensus in favour of traffic calming where significant safety issues have emerged.

Effective use of uncontrolled zebra crossings would be a big help and I successfully proposed a new raised pedestrian crossing at the main roundabout near Coolmine train station, which is currently being implemented. I would like to see more frequent use of such crossings, especially on narrow rural or semi-rural roads with limited or no footpaths, which were never designed for the level of traffic which they received.

What should be done to make the roads safer for all road users?

Firstly, improve the footpaths. The condition of many older footpaths in Blanchardstown, Coolmine and Clonsilla is very poor and sometimes dangerous. I have personally seen multiple trip hazards for anyone but particularly children and older residents. I worked with other Councillors on a cross party basis to secure a higher budget for Operations (including footpaths) in more heavily populated areas such as Dublin two year ago, this has made some difference but more investment is needed to make our footpaths safe and accessible to all. We also need to remove obstacles which impede accessibility for people with disabilities and conduct regular walkability audits to ensure that disabled people or people with mobility difficulties can move around freely and feel safe in their own area.

Also much better planning of cycle paths to ensure that cars, walkers and cyclists are segregated more fully from each other. Progress is being made with new cycle paths and Fingal Council has a commitment to active travel. A new cycle path from Blanchardstown to Castleknock via Farmleigh is badly needed to ensure safe movement on foot or on a bike between Carpenterstown and the Phoenix Park.

How would you help create more natural green spaces and promote biodiversity in Fingal?

Protecting and promoting biodiversity is one of my key priorities as a local representative and community volunteer. As an elected member of the Fingal Biodiversity Forum, I took the lead in ensuring that all 100 objectives in the Fingal Biodiversity Action Plan were funded by the Council, working with other Councillors on a cross party basis to get a strong commitment to promoting biodiversity across Fingal. I have worked with Castleknock and Blanchardstown Tidy Towns to plant trees, including an open orchard directly outside my own estate and to get more pollinator beds planted in our area.

I proposed an ecological corridor to protect biodiversity along the Royal Canal and this was originally added as an objective to the development plan, but was removed by a majority vote of one by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil Councillors.

I successfully made the case for park benches to be installed on estate green spaces in Dublin 15 for the first time, with the first pilot project taking place in Castleknock with the support of Castleknock Tidy Towns. This encourages passive recreation and makes green spaces more accessible for older residents.

How would you help get more parks and sports facilities built in Fingal?

As a member of the Fingal Strategic Policy Committee on Community, I was successful in securing an annual fund of €400,000 for essential building works for non Fingal community centres which perform a crucial role across Dublin 15. This funding is extremely important to nonprofit community centres which offer vital community spaces and services and did so for a long time without any support from the State. I lobbied the executive of Fingal Council for completion of the Sports Hub in Porterstown Park and was delighted when it opened in 2023, providing invaluable facilities for a range of sporting codes and clubs. I have also been instrumental in several successful funding applications for my local community centre in Laurel Lodge.