Councillors in Kerry have voted to defy national guidelines on planning by permitting access to housing alongside a number of busy national roadways.
The Department of the Environment warned county councillors on the “seriousness” of what they were undertaking during a debate on the draft of the new county development plan.
Proposals by councillors to ignore the ban on building new housing entrances along four national routes attracted a strong submission from the department.
The routes are the N69 — the main Tarbert-Listowel-Tralee route; the N70 Tralee to Killorglin road; the N72 Killorglin to Rathmore road and the N86 Tralee to Dingle.
The department had advised councillors of National Roads Authority guidelines, drawn up in 2012, relating to safety and traffic flow.
The guidelines allowed exceptions in stretches of national roadway where traffic was under 3,000 cars a day, and they included much of the southern part of the Ring of Kerry, the NRA said.
However, the four national routes earmarked could not be excepted.
Councillors at a special planning meeting in Tralee yesterday decided to ignore the advice.
Cllr Patrick Connor Scarteen said Kerry was different to other counties and while the national guidelines suited places in the Midlands, they were not appropriate for Kerry.
“Kerry is quite unique,” Mr Connor said.
The population was dispersed; the county had a large network of national secondary roads and there was a need to allow locals to build on their own land to retain population.
Cllr Danny Healy-Rae said: “No councillor can swallow that (the department’s advice),” he said.
There was criticism, also, of the NRA with councillors Brendan Cronin and Donal Grady both saying the NRA had a history of ignoring council submissions on other safety issues.
Acting county manager Michael McMahon said while planning on local level would be based on the county development plan, an appeal to an Bord Pleanála could have regard to the national guidelines and permission could be overturned
This was particularly the case where there were conflicting objectives, as in Kerry.
On the one hand, he said, councillors wanted a proper national road network, on the other hand they wanted access onto the national network. He was replying to a question from Cllr Aoife Thornton.
All but one councillor — Sinn Féin’s Pa Daly — voted to allow access onto the national primary and secondary roads.
Mr Daly said safety should be paramount, particularly on the N86 Dingle road.
Meanwhile, in a separate issue, it emerged over half the housing stock in Kerry was made up of “one-offs” in the rural countryside and around 11,700 of the total 72,000 houses in Kerry are unoccupied. The figures exclude holiday homes.
Planners in Kerry are recommending empty houses are occupied before new housing was allowed.
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