THE risk that some lands owned by council could drop substantially in value, because of new national planning policies, has been flagged by a member of the West Clare Municipal District.
Councillor Cillian Murphy told a meeting of the district committee that huge opportunity presented by the pandemic to bring people back to rural Clare could be lost if lands have to be zoned under the terms of the National Planning Framework (NPF), which will shape the forthcoming county development plan.
The Fianna Fáil member asked the authority for details of all lands owned by the local authority and details of their zoning, whether residential, industrial or residential. “The impetus for this,” he explained, “is that we need to look at what lands the council owns in the context of the NPF. There is a huge drive from government to deliver affordable housing and a huge opportunity because of the pandemic, for people to live and work in rural Ireland.”
The Loop Head resident outlined how the NPF, which was released along in 2018, as part of the Ireland 2040 strategy, relates to an era before such opportunities existed. “Under the NPF, the goal was to have people live close to where they worked,” he noted. “The pandemic has brought about remote working and that has flipped that guiding principle on its head. We know now that people don’t need to live close to a physical building and there’s a huge opportunity there for rural Ireland.”
Councillor Murphy thanked Senior Executive Officer (SEO) Carmel Greene for her written response to his request for information and said they had had a productive conversation on the issue. “My reason for looking for these details is that there may well be lands the council owns which are suitable for the development of affordable homes,” he said. “But, we must be aware of the potential consequences of Appendix Three of the NPF.”
Concerns about the stipulation that lands which will not be serviced under the lifetime of the relevant local development plan, will have to be de-zoned, have previously been raised by Councillor Murphy at the full local authority meeting. “We must ascertain the impact of the NPF on council property,” he told his West Clare colleagues. “If we own lands in danger of de-zoning, that will seriously impact on their value.”
In a written response to the motion, Ms Greene said that term “land” could be applied to council-owned property including “housing property, land for development, roads, road verges and footpaths, open space such as beaches, burial grounds, corporate buildings, fire stations, libraries, etc”.
She said that currently 5,000 individual pieces of property are in the ownership of the council. “These may all be at various stages of occupation or development, at planning or construction stage, leased to Community Groups, grazing agreements, licences, undergoing refurbishment etc,” her written response outlined.
“In the last two years, the Council established a Property Management Unit with a focus on undertaking an assessment of the properties in our ownership and this work is ongoing,” the response stated. “It is a multi-year project to carry out this assessment on each piece of property and to determine options for its economic use, be it for housing, commercial, social or physical development.”
Ms Green described Councillor Murphy’s motion as “timely,” and said she would provide the listing sought of the larger landholdings and buildings within a few weeks.
“We are working in conjunction with the Land Development Agency (LDA), the Property Registration Authority and the LGMA,” the response said. “The LDA have recently complied a register on their website www.lda.ie, with all state property registered in the Property Registration Authority including the zoning of that property.”