Committee Reports::Report No. 02 - Planning the development of one off houses in rural areas::01 November, 2003::Report

Tithe an Oireachtais

An Comhchoiste um Chomhshaol agus

Rialtas Áitiúil

An Dara Tuarascáil

Pleanáil-Tithe aonair a fhorbairt i limistéir thuaithe

Samhain 2003

Houses of the Oireachtas

Joint Committee on Environment and Local Government

Second Report

Planning - The development of one off houses in rural areas

November 2003

1. Background

The Joint Committee on the Environment and Local Government invited representatives of seven organisations to meet with it in order to discuss issues relating to planning in rural areas and more specifically to examine the matter of one-off housing. This meeting was called due to a perceived inconsistency in the adoption of policy in different parts of the country and in view of the impending guidelines on rural housing that will soon be published by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

Prior to the meeting the Joint Committee sought from 28 local authorities their policy on housing in rural areas. 13 local authorities responded.

This report is comprised of a summary of the discussions that took place with the different groups on 6th November, 2003 followed by recommendations from the Joint Committee in relation to future policy. The report was agreed by the Joint Committee at its meeting on 26th November, 2003.

2. Planning Unit, Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government

2.1.Government policy on planning for housing in rural areas is as set out in the National Spatial Strategy, i.e. to facilitate the housing requirements of persons with roots or links in rural areas whilst protecting the quality of the rural environment and supporting quality of life in rural areas.

2.2The soon to be published planning guidelines will aim to achieve the following:-

(i)A consistently applied rural housing policy which is both transparent and responsive to local needs;

(ii)Assist local authorities to formulate development plans;

(iii)Increase public awareness in order that a greater level of consensus is achieved;

(iv)Allow local authorities to continue their proactive role that will ensure development in a sustainable manner; and

(v)Enable local authorities to generate a policy that promotes best practice by raising levels of consistency and certainty.

3. Representatives of An Bord Pleanála

3.14% of decisions by local authorities, relating to one off houses, to grant planning permission are appealed to An Bord Pleanála.

3.2(a)50% of appeals relating to one off houses to An Bord Pleanála are made by unsuccessful applicants — 96% of the planning authority’s decisions are upheld.

(b)45% of appeals are against a local authority’s decision to grant planning permission - 75% of these appeals are upheld.

(c)Overall An Bord Pleanála confirmed 63% of decisions made by planning authorities — however in the cases where permission was refused it was on the basis of a contravention of one or more of:- settlement policy, public health or traffic issues.

3.3Third parties, not involved with a planning decision at local authority level, can become involved in an appeal in circumstances where (a) they own adjoining property, the value of which is adversely affected by the conditions applied in the granting of the planning permission; and (b) it is a prescribed body who were not given notice of the planning application by the local authority.

3.4Reasons must be given by An Bord Pleanála when the recommendation of an Inspector of an Bord Pleanála is overturned. Inspector’s recommendations are overturned in 10% of cases.

3.5There is considerable variation between different planning authorities in the percentage of planning decisions reversed on appeal by An Bord Pleanála.

3.6Consideration should be given to prescribing additional organisations, whom would be likely to hold views contrary to those of An Taisce, in order that greater balance could be given to the appeals process.

4. Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland

4.1The policy of the R.I.A.I. supports reinforcing existing towns and villages as sustainable settlements rather than allowing unsustainable scattered peripheral housing. The aggregate effect of dispersed one-off housing will be to burden our children with unsustainable infrastructure needs and costs.

4.2The R.I.A.I. identified three areas of concern in relation to rural housing, namely, location, design and farming land ownership.

4.3The Planning Act 2000 has further restricted an individual’s right to do as one wished with one’s land.

4.4Unless constrained by the planning system experience shows that the actual physical and geographical pattern of house building will be more influenced by the local pattern of land ownership than by household need.

4.5Planning guidelines need to recognise that houses being needed for people who work in farming either full-time or part-time is rare.

4.6The 2002 Census forms indicated that little consideration was given in relation to information that would be useful for housing strategies.

4.7There is a need for local authorities to have proper plans in place for all villages and towns in their area.

4.8Within the national spatial strategy there is a need for a national policy, which should be communicated clearly, in order to lessen ambiguity and maximise consistency in different local authority areas.

5. Irish Planning Institute

5.1The Irish Planning Institute supports rural housing development to meet the needs of rural communities.

5.2The Irish Planning Institute recognise that a balance is needed between a need for rural development and revitalisation and the need to ensure a sustainable pattern of development and protection of the environment whilst ensuring the maximisation of economic, social and cultural development.

5.3There is a need for the compilation of Government funded research into the development of one-off housing.

5.4Urban generated one off housing has had detrimental effects in environmental, economic, social and cultural terms.

5.5There is a need for clear Government guidelines on the subject.

5.6Inconsistency with the application of planning policies between different planning authorities and even within the one local authority area has led greatly to public frustration.

5.7A policy framework for rural housing must firstly address eligibility for the location of a house in rural areas and secondly whether a particular rural location is suitable to accommodate such a housing need.

5.8Local authorities should devise local area plans to allow for the development of individual designed housing on serviced sites.

5.9Local authority levies should be equal across the urban-rural divide as persons living in rural areas often benefit from the infrastructures in place in urban centres nearby.


6.1FEASTA believe that dispersed rural housing is less unsustainable, economically, than housing in small compact settlements.

6.2FEASTA is concerned that the positive policy recommended by the National Spatial Strategy towards dispersed housing in structurally weak areas may add to their disadvantage whilst a proactive policy to expand existing cross road villages or even the planned development of new villages is more beneficial.

6.3The building on one-off houses has economic advantages, in the short term, for both the seller of the site and the house owner whilst clustered housing, in the long term benefits the whole community.

6.4Restricting development to designated settlements will increase the value of land in those areas but cause a depreciation in land values elsewhere which may result in locals being ‘priced out’ of the market in the former and being prevented from house building in the latter areas.

6.5The full marginal costs of services and infrastructure should be borne by the user and distributed to the local community through the planning authority.

6.6Levies on zoning and planning permission should be administered so as to encourage landowners to release land quickly to meet the needs of the community rather than to maximise individual’s profit.

6.7Income raised by levies should be ring fenced for re-investment within those areas.

6.8FEASTA are in favour of the development of rural villages of up to 200 houses.

7. An Taisce

7.1An Taisce believe that the greater Dublin region has been over developed to the detriment of the west and other parts of the country.

7.2It is important that the quality of life in rural areas is reinforced by the presence of facilities such as post offices and garda stations.

7.3Building should take place in designed zones where the State can provide infrastructure.

7.4An Taisce believes that the development of one off houses in rural areas is unsustainable.

7.5An Taisce recognise that the implementation of the National Spatial Strategy is important for the benefit of rural Ireland.

7.6An Taisce objects to the development of houses in rural areas that involve:-

(a)development of rural areas lacking services

(b)development contrary to proper planning and development;

(c)an excessive concentration of septic tanks as these are prejudicial to public health;

(d)a contravention of the county development plan;

(e)random rural housing leading to demands for uneconomic provision of public services;

(f)endangering public safety by reason of a traffic hazard;

(g)the erosion of the rural character of an area;

(h)the excessive density of development in a rural area of high amenity;

(i)the further encroachment of sporadic development in a particular area; and

(j)a breach of EU directives, a breach of national policy or are contrary to regional and local development plans.

8. Irish Rural Dwellers’ Association

8.1The drive to urbanise Irish society comes from the influence on our planning regime by UK planning philosophies.

8.2Each refusal for a permanent home is both a serious attack on an individual’s constitutional right as well as a personal tragedy.

8.3The increase in the number of houses built in rural Ireland in the last 10 years is greater than the growth in population due to:-

(a)the decrease in the size of households; and

(b)the need to replace houses.

8.4Houses should not be built in areas that:-

(a)Are above a certain altitude; and

(b)Are vacant countryside.

8.5It is preferable that people, other than those working in agriculture, live in rural areas in order that the countryside can remain viable.

8.6Ireland, in comparison to other EU states, has a very low population density.

8.7Rural tax payers are contributing to the national purse and are subsidising the urban infrastructure.

9. Recommendations

9.1The Joint Committee recommends the compilation of more detailed and up to date figures in relation to applications for planning permission for homes in rural areas in all local authority areas.

9.2The Joint Committee recommends the compilation of more detailed and up to date figures in relation to the types of dwellings constructed in rural areas and the primary purpose for such dwellings.

9.3The Joint Committee recommends that the planning guidelines on rural housing , which are due to be published next month, ensure a level of consistency between different local authorities in the operation of their policy relating to one off housing in rural areas.

9.4The Joint Committee recommends that the urban renewal scheme should extend to villages in order to minimise the number of derelict sites.

9.5The Joint Committee recommends the introduction of a rural renewal scheme.

9.6The Joint Committee recommends that local authorities publish local area plans for towns and villages in their area.

9.7The Joint Committee recommends that planning policies should provide positively for those who wish to build their own house on their own site.

9.8The Joint Committee recommends that, where necessary, authorities cater for varying circumstances in different parts of a local authority area in its county development plan.

9.9The Joint committee recommend that there is a need to exercise a policy that allows for people native to a particular rural or urban area to continue to live in that area.

9.10The Joint Committee recommend that development of one off housing should not be prohibited.

9.11The Joint Committee recommend that the availability and development of a community and social infrastructure should be central in the preparation of departmental guidelines.

Membership of the Joint Committee

Seán Power, T.D., Chairman

Jackie Healy — Rea, T.D., Vice — chairman

Bernard Allen, T.D.,

John Cregan, T.D.,

Éamon Gilmore, T.D.,

Noel Grealish, T.D.,

Seán Haughey, T.D.,

Billy Kelleher, T.D.,

Padraic McCormack, T.D.,

John Moloney, T.D.,

Trevor Sargent, T.D.,

Senator James Bannon,

Senator Cyprian Brady,

Senator Michael Brennan,

Senator Michael McCarthy.