Councillors ‘unhappy’ at rural planning refusals

FIANNA FÁIL councillors in Kerry yesterday said they had a ‘very constructive’ meeting with new county manager Martin Riordan on controversial planning issues, but stressed they were still not happy with the way people were being treated.

In the course of the two-hour meeting in Tralee, FF councillors listed examples of cases where, they claimed, people should not have been reasonably refused planning.

And they also warned they would again start moving Section 140 motions, which direct the manager to give planning against his better judgement, if the situation does not change.

How to resolve the ongoing planning crisis in Kerry is one of the main challenges facing Mr Riordan, who took up his post a month ago. Building one-off houses in rural areas is the root of the problem.

FF has a six-month moratorium on Section 140s, which is due to expire in December, in order to give Mr Riordan a chance to settle into his brief and to see how he deals with planning.

FF whip Paul O’Donoghue, however, said they were still dissatisfied with the way Kerry people were being dealt with.

“We told Mr Riordan we would prefer not to go back to a situation where Section 140s were being moved, but if matters continue as they are we will completely revise our position after Christmas,” he said.

Cllr O’Donoghue said there were too many refusals and councillors were seeking a level playing pitch for people.

“We’re not talking here about holiday homes, or speculators or investors, but about people who are contributing to their local communities and who wish to reside permanently in their own areas,” he stated.

“We’ve agreed to holiday homes in designated areas and the quid pro quo for that was that people would be facilitated to build in rural areas, but that has not been happening.

“We also recognise the need to protect the beauty spots of Kerry and areas of special amenity. We want planning to be granted within reason, but each councillor can give examples of applications being refused in areas which are not high visual amenities.”

Cllr O’Donoghue said the price of houses and sites in some Kerry towns and villages was exceptionally high and people who wished to buy more affordable sites, a few miles out, should be treated favourably.

Mr Riordan was accompanied at the meeting by Kerry County Engineer Tom Curran and other senior officials.

Cllr O’Donoghue said Mr Riordan carefully noted the councillors’ views and they would meet again within eight weeks to see if their concerns were being addressed.

“We felt it was a very constructive meeting, but the jury is still out until we see how planning is being implemented,” he added.

One FF councillor, Michael Cahill, said the manager and his officials should grant a certain amount of planning applications in the economic interest of an area.

He felt the planners would have to “change tack” to meet the needs of the people.

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