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A planning application has been granted for a development at St Finian’s Church, Rivervalley parish, Swords, Co Dublin, which is to include the construction of a 58 unit sheltered housing apartment building.

he development, by Dunne Better Build Limited, will consist of the construction of a single storey parish centre extension (167 sqm) to the west of the church building.

It will also see construction of a two-bedroom single-storey detached parish priest accommodation (120 sqm) to the south of the existing church building with three car parking spaces and vehicular access off Pairc Na Foraise Road.

The development will also see construction of a three-storey, 58 unit sheltered housing apartment building (4,641 sqm) and associated uses to the west of the existing church building, comprising 15 one bedroom and 43 two bedroom units.

Also included will be a reception and meeting room, staff WC, storage rooms, refuse storage and service rooms, landscaped courtyard and internal walkways, 38 bicycle spaces, 30 car parking spaces and with vehicular access off River Valley Road.

The development was applied for on December 1 2021, with the final date for third party submissions/observations being January 13 2022.

According to local Swords councillor, Ann Graves (SF), the plans for St Finian’s Church lands have been mired in controversy: “There’s a lot of controversy over it; to be honest, I think if it was clear what is going to be for, originally the planning application was going to be for community living for women, so women over 55 plus, and there’s definitely a need for that. And there’s definitely a need for housing, there’s no doubt about it.

“I put in observations on it and my concerns were that the site would overlook the school, and I don’t think that’s a good thing in any situation. So that would be one of my concerns…”

According to Cllr Graves, there was also a “lack of engagement” on the plans with local residents, whom she says believed the site belonged to the community.

Swords councillor Joe Newman (NP) has taken issue with a newsletter which was circulated to parishioners, informing them that while one local councillor fully supported plans, two Independent councillors had raised objections.

Cllr Newman said: “I was disappointed, to tell you the truth to think that the church would get involved in planning issues.

“Specifically promoting one councillor and mentioning one councillor, who they said is fully supportive of it, and it kind of demeans the other two Independent councillors who are just doing their job representing members of the community.

“First and foremost there was a lot of people that weren’t happy that the church lands up there have been sold on to a developer, albeit it’s supposed to be for sheltered housing, but there’s nothing legally binding there.

“I’m concerned that since there’s no legal binding, that it could end up just as an apartment block and what you’ve got then is a three-storey apartment block in the middle of a residential estate.”

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