Plan op­poses ru­ral houses, ur­ban apart­ments pre­ferred

Irish Examiner - Farming - - COMMENT - Stephen Cado­gan

Well done to the plain-talk­ing ru­ral rep­re­sen­ta­tives who warn that Na­tional Plan­ning Frame­work Ire­land 2040 pro­pos­als add up to aban­don­ing peo­ple in the coun­try­side. They have spared mem­bers of the pub­lic hav­ing to wade through a lot of turgid text in or­der to make sub­mis­sions on the plan, up to Novem­ber 10. Hard though it is to de­ci­pher what the pro­pos­als mean, Fianna Fáil TD Éa­mon Ó Cuív says it is clear the plan is for re­sources to be fo­cused in four or five cities, de­spite the ad­van­tages of ru­ral liv­ing such as no con­ges­tion, and no heroin on the doorsteps, with the only prob­lem be­ing not enough jobs.

He com­pares that with trav­el­ling to Dublin, where if you don’t get into the city by 7am, you can for­get it un­til 11am, and it takes an hour and a half to get out in the evening. De­spite this, the plan sug­gests no new houses for many ru­ral ar­eas. Ó Cuív says this can’t be jus­ti­fied by the car­bon ar­gu­ment, be­cause we will all have elec­tric cars in 10 or 15 years, nor the wastew­a­ter ar­gu­ment, be­cause ru­ral peo­ple look after wastew­a­ter bet­ter than the mu­nic­i­pal au­thor­i­ties (the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency re­cently said fail­ure to ad­dress wastew­a­ter de­fi­cien­cies causes an un­ac­cept­able risk to the en­vi­ron­ment and pub­lic health, and many hous­ing es­tates built in the past 20 years have pri­vate wastew­a­ter treat­ment schemes, which no­body is pre- pared to take in charge).

E ve n u r b a n T D s h a ve is­sued warn­ings about ru­ral con­se­quences, in Dail de­bates on the Na­tional Plan­ning Frame­work Ire­land 2040. Ac­cord­ing to Dún Laoghaire TD Richard Boyd Bar­rett of the Peo­ple Be­fore Profit Al­liance, bus ser­vices and trans­port in­fra­struc­ture will be and are al­ready be­ing cut to ru­ral ar­eas, and post of­fices clos­ing, be­cause they can­not make money.

Ru­ral dwellers can also see Garda sta­tions be­ing closed, credit unions be­ing pre­vented from func­tion­ing as banks, and plans to get rid of rail lines. Mean­while, broad­band speeds in parts of the coun­try are 36 times slower than in parts of Dublin. Fine Gael TD Michael D’Arcy has said we can­not have peo­ple driv­ing into Dublin city (a 60-mile, 100-minute trip, even from Gorey in north Wex­ford) be­cause Dublin can’t ac­com­mo­date the cars. TD after TD has warned that ru­ral Ire­land is fur­ther threat­ened by the lat­est pro­pos­als, even after the lat­est cen­sus showed de­pop­u­la­tion of up to 4% in towns and vil­lages.

T h e h i s t o r y o f p r ev i o u s na­tional de­vel­op­ment plans is not en­cour­ag­ing. Fianna Fáil Cork North West TD Michael Moyni­han said plan­ning per­mis­sion for one-off houses was op­posed nearly 20 years ago, but was then granted for huge de­vel­op­ments on the out­skirts of towns and vil­lages, for which there was no de­mand, and which be­came ghost es­tates. He said it is be­com­ing al­most im­pos­si­ble for young peo­ple who work in cities or over­seas to re­turn to where they are from and where their fam­ily is based, to build a house in ru­ral Ire­land, be­cause of one-off house plan­ning re­stric­tions.

If the site is at the out­skirts of a vil­lage, they could be charged up to €20,000 for con­nec­tions to wa­ter and sew­er­age, and de­vel­op­ment con­tri­bu­tions.

He said one con­se­quence is grand­par­ents trav­el­ling from the coun­try by train to help out their chil­dren who moved to Dublin, for ex­am­ple if the chil­dren are sick. In­de­pen­dent TD Michael Fitz­mau­rice says doc­u­ments be­ing cir­cu­lated to county man­agers through­out Ire­land, in­clud­ing the Na­tional Plan­ning Frame­work Ire­land 2040, say it very clearly: one­off houses will not be built in ru­ral ar­eas.

Hous­ing Min­is­ter Eoghan Mur­phy says the 2040 plan must cater for at least an ex­tra one mil­lion peo­ple liv­ing in the Repub­lic, a pop­u­la­tion in­crease of about 20%. One quar­ter of the pop­u­la­tion will be aged over 65. He said a core prin­ci­ple is to con­cen­trate growth in pop­u­la­tion cen­tres, re­quir­ing more apart­ments in cities and towns, rather than the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion of half the day­time pop­u­la­tion of Ire­land’s three largest cities trav­el­ling in from out­side.

“TD after TD warned that ru­ral Ire­land is fur­ther threat­ened, even after towns and vil­lages suf­fered de­pop­u­la­tion of up to 4%, for ex­am­ple in Co Kerry, ac­cord­ing to the re­cent cen­sus

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