County Hall’s Michael Lynch said rural communities had suffered from a lack of “multi-annual, infrastructural and community investment commitments” from successive governments.
Mr Lynch’s comments were in a report provided to county councillors, who had claimed rural areas were dying because young people were being refused planning permission within their own communities.
Councillors further claimed planning permission was too restrictive in rural areas, especially in West and North-West Cork.
In his report, Mr Lynch noted “the lack of investment, and, more specifically, investment in water and sewerage infrastructure, necessary to support sustainable development, has impacted on the vitality and viability of towns, villages, and rural communities”.
He said the local authority was seeking changes and “continues to raise the matter with the appropriate agencies, including during the National Planning Framework”.
However, while councillors acknowledged that the lack of proper investment in rural areas was causing a population exodus, they believed the local authority could also do more to make it easier for young people to secure planning permission.
Cllr Gerard Murphy, who lives in Newmarket, and Cllr Pat Murphy, who lives in Bantry, put together a major submission to council officials.
They are concerned about difficulties in obtaining planning for one-off houses in rural areas, where the applicant has to install their own septic tank and water supply. The councillors highlighted alleged inconsistencies among planners, with some approving permission and others not.
Cllr Gerard Murphy said the issue could relate to the interpretation of the County Development Plan. He said planners should have the discretion to relax regulations in “weaker” rural areas, designated as being under the CLAR scheme, which provides funding for capital projects in depopulated rural areas.
“There needs to be very clear recognition, by the planning authority, that farmers have to live reasonably close to their enterprise, particularly dairy farmers,” he said.
The council’s planning department, meanwhile, has agreed to enter into talks with councillors who sit on the housing strategic policy committee.
As reported in theyesterday, a number of councillors told a County Hall meeting they were aware of farmers who have been refused permission to build on their own land. Cllr John O’Sullivan said farms were becoming larger and there was also a need to ensure farm labour lived nearby. Cllr Deirdre O’Brien said there was also a security need for farmers to live on their farms.
Councillors also claimed emigrants abroad were being refused planning in their home areas, as they have not been resident there for a number of years.