Problem of one-off houses

A HEFTY price is being paid for relaxed planning regulations, over many decades, which allowed houses almost everywhere in rural areas, particularly in western counties.

Politicians who favoured an easy approach to one-off houses are now confronted by people in the same rural communities who strongly object to plans for windfarms near their homes. The proliferation of one-off houses is also coming in the way of much-needed road projects and tourism developments like greenways being built through the countryside.

The EPA has confirmed greenhouse gas emissions have gone up here by more than 7% in two years. The Government has given a commitment internationally to reduce emissions by 20% by 2020, but there isn’t a hope of reaching that target, as we’re clearly going in the opposite direction.

Government policy encourages renewable energy. However, policy is playing against a metaphorical gale in many areas, including counties Cork and Waterford and, especially, Kerry where there are claims the county already has more than its fair share of turbines.

There are calls from some councillors — often the same politicians who lobbied in favour of one-off rural houses — for a lengthy setback of wind turbines from people’s homes. They seek a distance of 1,000m, or more, but, in reality, such would rule out many windfarms because houses are everywhere.

The draft National Planning Framework (NPF) aims to identify the best way to accommodate 1m more people in Ireland by 2040, as well as catering for the existing ageing population in a world facing increased climate change impact and nature loss.

A key message from the framework is that choices have to be made about where people live. We’re told it is most efficient to service compact settlements of more than 10,000 inhabitants, with a focus on developing towns and villages. Planning authorities have been thinking that way for some time and are now far more reluctant to allow one-off houses.

An Taisce says scattering people across the country causes many problems, such as social isolation, difficulty in finding sites for renewable energy projects, and the loss of an opportunity to develop strong villages and towns.

“We only need to see many small towns failing and main streets half closed to recognise that they lack the population within easy reach that they need to survive. Rather than being a ‘crazy attack’ on rural Ireland, as portrayed in the local press, this is rural Ireland’s only hope for survival,’’ it states.

The decline that has occurred in many towns has been caused in part by the building of one-off houses in the open countryside.

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