At this month’s meeting of Clare County Council, Councillor Ann Norton called for the local authority to allocate more resources into statutory enforcement on planning, waste, illegal camping “and all other areas that are being flouted”.
The councillor stated, “Not a week goes by that councillors aren’t being contacted by people complaining about illegal dumping and encampments. Unfortunately, it is costing the council a serious amount of money.”
Speaking about illegal encampments, she said that, in many cases, “unless there are legal proceedings brought, they won’t move.”
“This is putting a lot of stress on people living in the area and is bringing down the value of houses,” she added.
Councillor Norton pointed out that large gates were recently installed at the Rocky Road in Ennis to help tackle illegal dumping in the area. “This is unacceptable. We have to say no,” she stated.
She asked for details of the cost of the gates and the executive said this would be furnished.
Councillor Gerry Flynn commented that the council is being “reactionary”, rather than proactive, when it comes to housing. He questioned the justification for the “pearly gates” on the Rocky Road.
Councillor Johnny Flynn pointed out that the gates were installed, after funding was approved to deal with illegal dumping. He said the rubbish in the area had been “causing a lot of distress”.
Councillor Clare Colleran Molloy stated that the legislation on illegal encampments is not strong enough, adding that she has sympathy for the council executive. “It appears their hands are tied. They can’t move them on. They are on the housing list and they don’t have the housing,” she said.
She noted that the council are giving “a tacit nod of approval” by not moving them on.
A spokesperson for the council executive stated that they were “doing what we can with the resources we have” but they are “consistently bound by the legislation in place”. He added that the council follows processes “pretty slavishly”.
Liam Conneally, director of social development, in response to the motion, outlined that the council’s planning department has received a total of 104 complaints so far in 2017.
In relation to the enforcement of the planning code, a total of 117 warning letters and 56 enforcement notices have been issued. Legal proceedings have also commenced on three planning files this year.
A dedicated unit is in place and is overseen by an acting senior executive planner and is staffed by one planning enforcement officer and three administrative staff.
“The focus in 2018 is continuing the progressing of the enforcement electronic database and file management system, leading to increased efficiencies in case management,” he said.
Clare County Council has a dedicated Waste Enforcement Unit. The multi-disciplinary waste enforcement team investigates illegal dumping, monitors waste facility permits and certificates and oversees compliance with all relevant regulatory waste legislation.
An additional community warden was recruited in 2017 to assist in the response to illegal dumping and there is now a dedicated resource in each municipal district.
“A recent Environmental Enforcement Performance Assessment Report, produced by the EPA for the years 2014-2016, has rated Clare County Council ‘excellent’ in the delivery of its environmental enforcement role.
“In respect of illegal encampments, the council has carried out an audit of all current illegal encampments.
“The Social Directorate is currently examining its enforcement options and other housing support options in relation to such illegal encampments,” he concluded.
By Jessica Quinn