06 March 2006

Call for shake-up in planning appeals


The Council for the West has called for a shake up in the planning laws of the country so that objections raised by people outside the region and decisions taken by bodies like An Bord Pleanala in Dublin are not  skewed against rural communities fighting for survival.


Commenting on Bord Pleanala's decision to allow an appeal by An Taisce against a housing development in Rossinver village in Co Leitrim, Council for the West chairman  Sean Hannick  said there seemed to be something fundamentally wrong  when outside bodies, no matter how well intentioned, could usurp the will of local communities and local planners so regularly.


 He said there might very well be merits in An Bord Pleanla's decision. It had turned down an application for a 39 house development, one retail unit and proprietary effluent treatment plant at Conray Townland in the north Leitrim village of Rossinver. An Bord Pleanala refused the application "by reason of its scale, layout and design and would be out of character with the established pattern of development in Rossinver and would seriously injure the visual amenities of the area."


 But, argued Mr Hannick, surely a village that had already lost its shop, post office and pub deserved a more understanding planning process.


"To turn down a project without having a mechanism, for teasing it out before it went to appeal  sounds a little antiquated in an emerging Ireland, and especially when it concerns investment in an area which needs a boost.


"The planned scheme would have provided a sewerage scheme not alone for the new houses but for the whole village, so here we have the nucleus of a development that could turn things in the right direction," said Mr Hannick. 


"If there are technical problems, which of course there can be with any development, surely the Department of the Environment can come up with sensible ways and means of handling those concerns. An outside will should not necessarily prevail in any argument in relation to local development. It must be clear that any procedure that risks  pitting views of people living in, say Dublin, against the views of people living in Leitrim, on a purely Leitrim development issue,  is flawed and confrontational.


"Let's get better ways of doing these things if we don't want to encourage what John Healy once called 'a two-dimension Ireland'," said Mr Hannick.