Councillors have claimed it is a “mortal sin” to propose building a one-off house on an elevated site, yet there is no problem with developing massive windfarms on hillsides.
They have also claimed farmers are being consistently refused permission to build on their own land and emigrants who were forced to go abroad to find work can’t get permission when they return to their villages.
The complaints were led by Cllr Gerard Murphy (FG) and Cllr Pat Murphy (FF), both of whom live in rural areas. They called for a complete overhaul of the system.
As a result of more than two hours’ debate on the issue yesterday, council officials have agreed that their planning department will initiate discussions on rural housing at their housing special purposes committee.
“Young families cannot get planning permission in smaller towns and villages and rural areas because of the many excuses used,” said Gerard Murphy, adding that, as a result, rural areas are rapidly ageing, which will have serious consequences.
“Rural populations are declining. Young people are looking at sites with huge wind turbines and yet they can’t get planning permission on elevated sites,” he said.
Pat Murphy said planning officials in different areas view guidelines differently, leading to inconsistencies.
Cllr Joe Carroll (FF) said it was one of the most serious issues that had come before the council and maintained that planners in West Cork are anti-development.
“People are being refused planning in rural areas because they’re commuting to Cork for work,” he said.
Cllr Frank O’Flynn (FF) said what is OK in one part of the county is not in another.
“Our rural areas are rapidly dying. Farmers not being allowed to build on their own land and it’s next to impossible to build a two-storey house,” he said.
Cllr Gearoid Murphy (FF) maintained that, in many cases, people are being denied the right to live and work in the communities they grew up in.
Cllr Michael Creed (FG) said: “We’re gone totally against one-off housing and instead we want to move people into villages and towns.”
Cllr Des O’Grady (SF) said the new County Development Plan, which will come into effect in 2019, must address these problems.
“People who had to seek work abroad can’t get planning permission when they return home. Rural decline is a serious problem in West Cork. I don’t see why [building on] an elevated site has to be a mortal sin,” said Cllr Christopher O’Sullivan (FF).
Cllr Bob Ryan (FF) claimed the policies the council is following “will empty major parts of our county”.
He said: “With my involvement in the GAA, I can see a lot of clubs struggling to put out teams.”
Cllr John O’Sullivan (FG) said he knew of 11 couples in Ardfield, near Clonakilty, who had failed, in the past few years, to get permission to build houses there. “People who can’t get permission have to go into the rental market and that’s adding to the housing crisis.”