Regulations for the siting and design of rural houses in Co Clare “is going to impose a communist type house for everybody,” Cllr PJ Kelly has claimed.
For the last two successive meetings of Clare County Council, the veteran councillor has put forward the same question asking what determines “the appropriate siting of rural houses”, “the appropriate design of houses” and to reference the contents of the County Development Plan in support of that “which are in line with High Court decision on content and language of County Development Plan.”
Speaking at the January meeting of the local authority, Cllr Kelly admitted he raised the issue “with a sense of regret”. He referred to the years of 2003 and 2004 “where we had two different versions of the county development plan”. Kelly continued, “Tourism is mentioned in this chamber several times and our fore bearers built housing without planning and we got fairly good results”.
In his view, local powers were not to be blamed as they were receiving instructions “from high”, “We’re one step away from saying to people in rural places that they can only build houses in caves in future so that they can’t be seen from the roads”, “We’re doing everything possible to shut down rural Ireland. I think we have to stop hiding behind words, appropriate, inappropriate and define clearly”.
He was advised by Director of Service, Liam Conneally to see the rural housing guidelines to see “what’s considered appropriate and what’s not”. Senior Planner, Brian McCarthy confirmed 280 rural houses “were granted by Clare County Council” in 2018.
As he returned to the February gathering of the local authority, the Fianna Fáil politician brought with him the same question “on necessity”. Regarding the County Development Plan, he commented, “The more I went through it the more contradictions I found, I sympathise with the planners on the front line”.
An official reply from Mr Conneally outlined that “the considerations which determine siting and design of housing are set out in the Clare County Development Plan 2017-2023”. He flagged that regard must also be had to “the guidelines and policies issued by the Minister and the Government”. “Members will be aware of the Clare Rural House Design Guide which again provides advice, guidance and examples of considerations required in the appropriate siting and design for rural houses. The considerations of design and siting formed part of the assessment and granting permission in accordance with the provisions of the Development Plan of over 280 rural houses by Clare County Council Planning Authority in 2018”.
“There have been a number of High Court decisions regarding content and language of Development Plans and it unclear from the Notice of Motion which specific High Court decision is referred to. However for the avoidance of doubt, I am satisfied that the content and language of the Clare County Development Plan 2017-2023 is in compliance with the requirements of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, the relevant Ministerial Guidelines and the precedents set out by Court decisions,” the Director of Service concluded.
Cllr Kelly told the recent meeting, “As we look back at the architecture of the last 50 years, we can look at the houses of the day, they were an expression of the people of the time and what they could afford. Universal design in other words means all houses in Clare will have to look the same. On one hand we say we’re going to protect our heritage and on the other we’re going to impose a communist type house for everybody, this to me is totally unacceptable”.
“What’s appropriate to me may not be appropriate to somebody else, it has no relation to what is being applied today maybe the word misappropriate might be more relevant in modern language. I’m very proud in this country that we have freedom of speech, other countries don’t, part of that expression is in our culture, I never thought I’d see the day, this is a dictatorship, we live in North Munster not North Korea. The CEO should call people aside and tell people to be less adventurous with language and more adventurous with common sense,” the Lissycasey representative declared.
Other councillors were precluded from joining the debate as the item was listed as a question. Council CEO, Pat Dowling in response to Kelly said, “I take it you’re not happy with the reply and I take your advice on board”.