CLARITY NEEDED ON EU RURAL HOUSING RULING
CLARITY is required on the European Court of Justice’s ruling on rural housing restrictions as soon as possible to ensure there is a ‘fair, reasonable and practical policy in place’, according to a local Senator.
The issue was raised by Senator Dr James Reilly last week in light of the news that current restrictions on rural housing had been struck down.
Senator Reilly said that while he did not wish to promote a free for all in rural Fingal, he said the situation had created a lot of anxiety among people in the area who had approached him because they were struggling to get permissions.
‘We all know how difficult it is to get finance and if there is a question over the validity of the ongoing permission, the banks will not be too keen to lend.’
Speaking in the Seanad, Senator Reilly said: ‘I understand the court has ruled that under the principle of free movement of people within the European Union, it is no longer valid or acceptable to restrict planning permission in rural areas to locals and to insist that those to whom planning permission to construct houses will be granted should live in these houses for seven to ten years.
‘When I looked at the Fingal development plan map, I counted 26 areas that had been designated as rural clusters. Only locals can apply for planning permission in areas with such a designation.
‘ The 26 designated areas of various sizes, from five to possibly 25 houses, must all be in doubt because of the ruling of the European Court of Justice. Who can obtain planning permission in these areas?
‘We need clarity on the issue as soon as possible. Under the Fingal rural housing policy, planning permission for close family members is restricted to two family members in the case of farm families and to one family member in the case of local dwellers who are not farmers. The ruling of the European Court of Justice has happened and is in place.
‘My understanding is the Government and the local authorities must recognise the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and take the ruling into account.
‘Farm families and families living in rural areas might not be able to raise the finance required to construct family homes in their localities if there is a doubt about the legality of their ability to obtain planning permission, or about the legality of planning permission they have already received.
‘We need clarity and a direction on these issues in order that we will have a fair, reasonable and practical rural housing policy in place that will protect the countryside, while allowing farm families and families living in rural areas to obtain planning permission.
‘ This is very important from the point of view of maintaining rural communities and the extended family. It gives people the capacity to remain in their homes, while being supported by the following generation and supporting them in raising their kids.
In response Environment Minister Simon Coveney said that following engagement between the European Commission and his Department on the 2005 rural housing guidelines since the court ruling, planning authorities were being consulted about making changes to the 2005 guidelines to ensure that rural housing policies and objectives contained in county development plans comply with Article 43 of the treaty on the freedom of movement of citizens.
He said a working group comprising representatives of his Department and planning authorities had been established to review and, where necessary, recommend changes to the 2005 guidelines.
‘On conclusion of the group’s review and consultations with the planning authorities, my Department will engage with the European Commission on proposed changes to the guidelines, with a view to issuing revised guidelines to planning authorities in due course, and which will likely be issued in the form of a circular letter to planning authorities.
‘When finalised, the revised guidelines will be issued under section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, and planning authorities, and where appropriate, An Bord Pleanála, will be required to have regard to the revised guidelines in the performance of their statutory functions under the planning Act. Pending the completion of the working group’s deliberations, which it is intended will be concluded in the latter half of the year, the existing 2005 guidelines remain in place.
Senator Dr James Reilly