Sean Canney, Independent TD, Galway East, has called on the government to set planning guidelines for people who wish to build homes in rural areas.
At present, the planning guidelines are “very restrictive and young people are being denied the opportunity to build a home”, he claims.
The existing guidelines, the TD added, are in place since 2005 and have proven to be “very restrictive”, with areas under urban influence being most restricted.
“We need to pay attention to having young families living in rural areas to help maintain rural communities, including rural schools and sporting clubs,” he outlined in a statement to www.thatsfarming.com
“It is all well and good for so-called experts in planning to be dictating that we should all live in towns and villages.”
“However, this is not possible as the wastewater treatment plants are not in place, and planning is not obtainable in these centres.”
Moreover, Canney believes economic and social benefits for families of being able to build a home and raise a family close to an ageing population in rural areas need to be also factored into any new guidelines.
“Every citizen should have the right to live where they want, without restrictions, and this needs to be enshrined in law,” he stressed.
“When I questioned the Minister for Housing recently, I received cold comfort from his written reply, which is full of words but no indication of an intention to make it easier to build in rural Ireland,” he claimed.
In response, Minister Darragh O’ Brien, said that the Housing for All Plan is linked to the National Planning Framework, which “fully supports the sustainable development of rural areas and the need to ensure that they continue to be viable places to live, work and invest in”.
The minister outlined that the NPF aims to support the overall rural pattern of development in Ireland and deliver strengthened and diversified rural communities consistent with Our Rural Future, the National Rural Development Policy 2021-2025.
He said that since the publication of the current Sustainable Rural Housing Guidelines in 2005, which continue to have an effect in addition to subsequent clarifications and national policy changes in the NPF, there has been “important changes” to our planning system.
Most notably, the statement added, obligations under European Directives and international agreements relating to the management and protection of the environment and adapting to and mitigating climate change have become more central to the operation of the planning system.
He continued: “Updated rural housing guidelines are currently being prepared by my department.”
“The updated guidelines will expand on the high-level spatial planning policy of the National Planning Framework (NPF), in particular on National Policy Objective (NPO) 19, which relates to rural housing.”
“This objective makes a clear policy distinction between rural areas under urban influence (i.e. areas within the commuter catchment of cities, towns and centres of employment) on the one hand and structurally weaker rural areas where population levels may be low or declining, on the other.”
“NPO 19 is also aligned with the established approach whereby considerations of social (an intrinsic part of the community) or economic (persons working full or part-time) need to be applied by planning authorities in rural areas under urban influence.”
The draft Rural Housing Guidelines, he claims, will set out relevant planning criteria to be applied in local authority development plans for rural housing based on the high-level policy framework set by the NPF.
The guidelines will continue to allow county development plans to provide for housing in the countryside based on the considerations detailed in NPO 19 of the NPF.
Moreover, they will also highlight the need to manage development in certain areas, such as the areas around cities and larger towns and environmentally sensitive areas, to avoid over-development.
The draft guidelines are currently subject to legal review and ministerial approval, following which it is intended that the draft guidelines will be published for a period of public consultation.
In the interim period, he added, NPF objectives, together with the previous 2005 guidelines, enable planning authorities to continue to prepare and adopt development plan policies for one-off housing in rural areas.
“The majority of the 31 local authority development plans have recently been reviewed and are consistent with the NPF.”
“This is reflected in the fact that rural housing continues to be an important component of overall new housing delivery in Ireland.”
“There was strong output in 2022 with 4,743 new dwellings built in rural areas, up 16.6% from 4,069 in 2021,” he concluded.