*Limerick TD, Kieran O’Donnell (FG).
CLARE TD, Cathal Crowe (FF) has told a special meeting of Clare County Council that the “door is not shut” on overturning a directive issued by a Junior Minister to dezone lands in the county.
In August, Minister of State at the Department of Local Government and Planning, Kieran O’Donnell (FG) issued a directive to the Council to reinstate nineteen zoning objectives and amend one zoning objective as set out in the Clare County Development Plan 2023-2029 and to also delete a subsection of the plan.
Lands in Kilrush, Killaloe, Liscannor, Mullagh, Broadford, Cooraclare and Ballynacally which had been zoned for residential under the County Development Plan have been dezoned as a result of the O’Donnell directive. It also means houses cannot be built adjacent to the N67, the N68 and N85 and also places the inclusion of Broadford and Cooraclare in the a national wastewater pilot scheme under threat.
Speaking at Monday’s meeting, Deputy Crowe felt there was merit in organising a meeting with the Junior Minister. “I don’t believe the door is shut, we need to go back once more on this”. He felt that the recent announcement to reduce speed limits across the country could offer “a caveat” to allow houses to be built adjacent to the N67, N68 and N85.
Senator Martin Conway (FG) stressed “building houses on these roads in a safe way has to be reversed, I commit myself to working with ye to try and address this problem”. He felt the Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR) “hasn’t worked out to be in any way satisfactory, I’d question a lot of the decisions, ye have been three years preparing the County Development Plan, decisions were not made lightly, the development plan is the single biggest thing done in the term of the Council, I don’t believe it is appropriate to universally alter the decisions taken”.
How the original County Development Plan was amended by the Department represented proof of the “erosion of the powers of elected representatives,” Michael McNamara TD (IND) stated. He felt it was indicative of an “all roads lead to Dublin approach” and warned, “it will have a massive economic impact”.
Deputy McNamara said he was happy to put forward a piece of legislation repealing the powers of the OPR but warned it was “a lottery” for backbenchers to get legislation onto the floor of the Dáil. “We are heading towards a city-state, Ireland will be a city-state effectively, Dublin will be the economic centre and all other areas will supplement it”.
That a special meeting had to be called to discuss the issue was an embarrassment, Violet-Anne Wynne (IND) maintained. “This is a Clare issue and not a party one, I’ve no problem working with one and all to apply as much pressure as is necessary, Kieran O’Donnell can rezone all he likes but the people of Co Clare will not accept that somebody up in Dublin knows better,” she said. It was another “anti-rural” decision, Wynne stated.
A motion from Cllr PJ Kelly (FF) had requested the Oireachtas members come before the Council to discuss the issue. He told them “go in together and say to the Minister ‘deliver or’”. He feared that the directive will “close down West Clare and wipe out the villages”. The Lissycasey representative said only 27 of the 116 Deputies of the previous Dáil were present when the National Planning Framework was voted through.
Negotiations must commence with Department officials to redraft the guidelines and “ask exceptional circumstances be taken into consideration,” Cllr Joe Killeen (FF) said. “115,000 miles where you cannot get planning permission is an exceptional circumstance, it cannot be justified, in my mind it is anti-rural”.
Whitegate’s Cllr Pat Burke (FG) was critical of the amount of TDs who missed the vote when the legislation giving greater powers to the OPR was passed. “Shame on Darragh O’Brien and Kieran O’Donnell who on the August Bank Holiday weekend sent us an email saying we weren’t getting what we had looked for”.
National politicians need to wake up, Cllr Cillian Murphy (FF) remarked. “We’re here because national politicians were asleep at the wheel when this was voting through. Shame on our national politicians for voting this through when they were asleep at the wheel”.