Dublin City Council should identify new sites for homes for Travellers, and mark them up on zoning maps in the next city development plan, said the national Office of the Planning Regulator in February.
But the council’s chief executive, Owen Keegan, has said the council won’t do that for now.
The city development plan is a blueprint for the city that guides, among other things, what can be built where, and the council is currently making a new one to run from 2022 to 2028.
Mapping out in the plan which lands will be used for Traveller accommodation isn’t a legal requirement, says Keegan in his report on submissions to the draft plan.
A mismatch between timelines of the development plan and the council’s plans for Traveller accommodation – and the onerous laws around amending the development plan – means it makes more sense to, for now, put in a map of existing Traveller accommodation, he said.
Traveller accommodation can be built on any land zoned for homes, and this approach is more flexible, said Keegan.
Shay L’Estrange, coordinator of the Ballyfermot Travellers Action Project, says that Traveller organisations in the city don’t agree with that approach.
That’s how it’s been done in the past and delivery has been poor, he said. “If you don’t set yourself a target you will never achieve it.”
In February 2021, councillors pledged to do more to push for the council to develop new Traveller housing, including a push to find new land for new homes, but little progress has been made.
Not Legally Required
In February, the Office of the Planning Regulator pointed to Section 10(2)(i) of the Planning and Development Act, and said the council has to show where it will provide Traveller accommodation.
The development plan should set out a strategy for developing areas, and what development objectives there are, the law says. Including “the provision of accommodation for Travellers and the use of particular areas for that purpose”.
The planning regulator suggested that the council show the locations where they intend to provide Traveller accommodation on the zoning maps.
But Keegan says that the requirement to map particular areas for Traveller accommodation is not in the law and isn’t mandatory according to the Draft Development Plan Guidelines.
“The Draft Guidelines advocate that zoning policies should be drawn up in a flexible manner to reflect the need to secure additional Traveller accommodation over the lifetime of the Plan,” he says.
Zonings that allow for homes could include Traveller accommodation, he says, including Z1, Z4, Z10, Z12 and Z14. It’ll allow for greater flexibility when opportunities arise, he said.
L’Estrange says Keegan recently attended the Local Traveller Accommodation Consultative Committee (LTACC) – a forum that brings together councillors and council officials with Traveller representatives – and said that if he identified certain sites he would be restricting where Traveller accommodation could be built.
The Traveller representative organisations rejected that idea, says L’Estrange. “If that was the case, you would have had loads of opportunities in the past and you haven’t done it.”
(The current Traveller Accommodation Programme, which runs from 2019 to 2024 hasn’t so farresultedin much Traveller accommodation at new locations focusing instead on regenerating and extending existing schemes.)
Traveller representative groups are pushing for the council to identify new sites for Traveller accommodation and plan to write to the council in the coming weeks asking it to do that, says L’Estrange.
The midterm review for the council’s Traveller Accommodation Programme is due too. Traveller organisations want the council to bring in an independent facilitator for that, L’Estrange says.
“We want real negotiation,” he says. And for the actions agreed to be delivered.
How Many Homes?
At a meeting of the council’s housing committee on 11 May, Labour Councillor Dermot Lacey asked how many Traveller households in the city need homes.
Frank d’Arcy, the council’s director of housing operations, said the council had intended to “develop or bring on stream” around 200 homes under the current TAP.
“We are nowhere near doing that and we are in the middle of 2022,” he said.
That figure includes refurbishments, alongside 47 new houses, 7 new bays for caravans and 14 new temporary bays, according to the Traveller Accommodation Programme.
Lacey asked what the delay was and if councillors could do anything to speed up delivery.
Said d’Arcy: “Covid didn’t help in relation to driving forward projects.”
But other issues included delays with planning and tendering, he said. “We will do a review and come back to the LTACC and the housing committee.”
L’Estrange says that demand for accommodation is strong in his own area in Ballyfermot.
It is common for Travellers to become homeless, he says. “It’s right across the city, in all the areas.”
Travellers are over-represented in homeless hostels and some families are sleeping in cars, he says.
The chair of the LTACC has suggested that the council could change the way it delivers housing to include some accommodation for Travellers each time it develops a new housing scheme, says L’Estrange.