RURAL development is being seriously stifled by restrictions on ‘in-fill’ sites, a West Clare councillor has said.
At this week’s local authority meeting, Councillor PJ Kelly described the situation as “a landmine” and he called for all references to in-fill sites to be removed from the forthcoming Clare County Development Plan 2023-2029.
The Fianna Fáil member said that some people were being refused permission to build a home, on the basis that developing their site would create an in-fill site, a situation the Council did not want to see.
“I know of situations where a farmer wants to give land to a son for example,” he outlined. Planning permission is refused because if son got it, there would be an in-fill site beside it.
This situation is not good enough and it’s downright discrimination. If there’s an in-fill site, someone with plenty of money can come in from outside and build. I have no objection to that and Iove to see people coming in.”
Councillor Michael Begley said he could not support the motion, as outlined, because of its “ambiguous” wording. “In-fill sites are vey valuable,” he said, “and they’re not too plentiful. What we have in current plan is valuable. I would ask PJ to re-think the wording of this motion.”
Councillor Gerry Flynn agreed. “Opportunities to build in rural area are limited,” he said. “If there is an in-fill site, that gives hope. I have total respect for PJ and he is a serious authority around planning matters. I make representations for a number of people and they’re told that, ‘It’s not an infill site, go home,’.”
Senior Planner Helen Quin told members that there will be an opportunity to consider the development objectives and policy to be included in new development plan. “I would suggest we do this in July when we have the Chief Executive’s report on submissions,” she said.
Councillor Kelly insisted that the language in the plan be amended immediately.
“I am surprised there is such sympathy with those looking to move from urban areas to in-fill sites in rural areas,” he said. “The problem is that people are being refused on the basis that one-off homes will create infill sites. This is the death knell for rural Ireland and a major, major concern. People with big cheque books looking to move into rural areas and I want to stop that. I am pro-rural and don’t apologise for that.”
Councillor Joe Kileen agreed the issue was one that needs to be discussed. “We need to support those who want to live in country and to support rural communities,” he said.
Chief Executive Pat Dowling said the issue of terminology was best discussed when considering the next draft of the new plan.
Councillor Johnny Flynn noted that Councillor Kelly had uncovered some “intended consequences” of the restrictions around the creation of in-fills. “It would be terrible to see someone deprived of an opportunity to build beside family on the basis of this,” he said.
A clause to qualify development on in-fills was suggested by Councillor Begley. “You could restrict it to those who have a rural background,” he said.
Councillor Alan O’Callaghan agreed with Councillor Kelly. “i know of a situation where a farmer gave sites to two daughters,” he said. “One was ready to build, one wasn’t. The first daughter found it hard to get permission due to creation of in-fill site beside hers.”
Councillor Gerry Flynn asked that the motion be deferred until there wider debate on the County Development Plan. “I cannot support motion in current form, because of its very serious consequences,” he said.
Councillor Pat McMahon said there were few enough opportunities to build in rural Ireland. “It is being denuded,” he said. “Every house in rural Clare is a huge bonus. Would be absolutely daft to remove opportunities.”
Councillor Cillian Murphy agreed that the wording of the motion needed to be qualified. “In-fill sites in towns and villages are hugely beneficial,” he said. “We don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater.”
Mr Dowling said the language used around in-fills was something that was used historically. “We might need to create a new language to reflect the needs of County Clare and reflect what’s happening on the ground and satisfy views on both sides,” he said.
Councillor Kelly agreed to defer the motion.