by Stephen Cadogan
Well done to the plain-talking rural representatives who warn that National Planning Framework Ireland 2040 proposals add up to abandoning people in the countryside.
They have spared members of the public having to wade through a lot of turgid text in order to make submissions on the plan, up to November 10.
Hard though it is to decipher what the proposals mean, Fianna Fáil TD Éamon Ó Cuív says it is clear the plan is for resources to be focused in four or five cities, despite the advantages of rural living such as no congestion, and no heroin on the doorsteps, with the only problem being not enough jobs.
He compares that with travelling to Dublin, where if you don’t get into the city by 7am, you can forget it until 11am, and it takes an hour and a half to get out in the evening.
Despite this, the plan suggests no new houses for many rural areas. Ó Cuív says this can’t be justified by the carbon argument, because we will all have electric cars in 10 or 15 years, nor the wastewater argument, because rural people look after wastewater better than the municipal authorities (the Environmental Protection Agency recently said failure to address wastewater deficiencies causes an unacceptable risk to the environment and public health, and many housing estates built in the past 20 years have private wastewater treatment schemes, which nobody is prepared to take in charge).
Even urban TDs have issued warnings about rural consequences, in Dail debates on the National Planning Framework Ireland 2040.
According to Dún Laoghaire TD Richard Boyd Barrett of the People Before Profit Alliance, bus services and transport infrastructure will be and are already being cut to rural areas, and post offices closing, because they cannot make money.
Rural dwellers can also see Garda stations being closed, credit unions being prevented from functioning as banks, and plans to get rid of rail lines. Meanwhile, broadband speeds in parts of the country are 36 times slower than in parts of Dublin.
Fine Gael TD Michael D’Arcy has said we cannot have people driving into Dublin city (a 60-mile, 100-minute trip, even from Gorey in north Wexford) because Dublin can’t accommodate the cars.
TD after TD has warned that rural Ireland is further threatened by the latest proposals, even after the latest census showed depopulation of up to 4% in towns and villages.
The history of previous national development plans is not encouraging.
Fianna Fáil Cork North West TD Michael Moynihan said planning permission for one-off houses was opposed nearly 20 years ago, but was then granted for huge developments on the outskirts of towns and villages, for which there was no demand, and which became ghost estates.
He said it is becoming almost impossible for young people who work in cities or overseas to return to where they are from and where their family is based, to build a house in rural Ireland, because of one-off house planning restrictions.
If the site is at the outskirts of a village, they could be charged up to €20,000 for connections to water and sewerage, and development contributions.
He said one consequence is grandparents travelling from the country by train to help out their children who moved to Dublin, for example if the children are sick.
Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice says documents being circulated to county managers throughout Ireland, including the National Planning Framework Ireland 2040, say it very clearly: one-off houses will not be built in rural areas.
Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy says the 2040 plan must cater for at least an extra one million people living in the Republic, a population increase of about 20%.
One quarter of the population will be aged over 65.
He said a core principle is to concentrate growth in population centres, requiring more apartments in cities and towns, rather than the current situation of half the daytime population of Ireland’s three largest cities travelling in from outside.