Blanket refusals under ‘locals-only’ housing rules set to change

Revisions are to be made shortly to highly restrictive ‘locals-only’ housing rules which will stop planning authorities from issuing blanket refusals to non-rural applicants.

In some counties, such as Kerry, scene of some of the country’s most extreme locals-only planning guidelines, the county council has refused planning on the grounds an applicant is not a native of an area.

Policies such as a blood relation to a landowner or strictly local need may also have to change.

A report is due shortly on the findings of a specialist group set up in May 2017 to examine the 2013 ‘Flemish decree’ ruling by the European Court of Justice ruling.

“The objective is to ensure that rural housing policies and objectives contained in local authority development plans comply with the relevant provisions of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,” says the Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government.

The working group had a meeting on November 22 and another meeting is scheduled this week with a view to concluding, as soon as possible, outstanding work on revising guidelines.

The Flemish decree, overturned in 2013, restricted housing to Flemish speakers only to help preserve their language and culture.

A number of local authorities operate policies where once-off housing in a rural area is usually granted only to close family members of a landowner. Even highly protected areas of special conservation are considered if the applicant is related to a farmer or landowner.

Likely new rules may bring an entire halt to housing in highly protected areas and will almost certainly prevent a local authority from issuing blanket refusals simply because an applicant is not a ‘local’.

Fianna Fáil councillor John Francis Flynn said Kerry’s laws are “too restrictive and favour only those who are lucky enough to own land”.

Mr Flynn, who lives on the Glenbeigh side of Killorglin, said were he to apply for permission to build a house on the opposite side of town, he would be refused.

“You’re a local in Upper Tullig, but you are not a local three miles away,” he said.

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