AN Erris couple were refused planning permission to build a house on family land near Belmullet because it was considered an ‘obtrusive feature on the landscape’.
Marie Lally and Michael Doherty were refused at the end of July to construct a dwelling house at Knockshambo, Belmullet as it was an ‘extremely visible coastal site’ and would constitute a ‘obtrusive feature on the landscape’.
The application was refused despite representation from Minister Michael Ring, who wrote on three occasions to the planning authority of Mayo County Council and stated he was ‘very anxious that planning would be granted’.
On one occasion he wrote: “On the road where the proposed site is located, there are already two houses, one is owned by a non-Irish national, who has it rented out and the second house is owned by somebody who is not from the area. There is a third house also being built, yet the council want Marie and Michael to choose an alternative location.”
The applicants, who are from the locality, are engaged to be married and also work in the local area. The house was to be built on a site provided by Marie’s father, James Lally.
In giving their reasons for refusing the application, Mayo County Council stated that this was not the only potential site available to them and claimed a ‘site location located set back from the seashore … would present a better solution’.
They stated that the current application did not comply with Volume 2 Section 2.3.4 of the Mayo County Development Plan where ‘areas along the sea, estuaries and lakeshore lines shall be referred to as scenic areas and that scenic views in those areas are protected as much as possible, and only permission for replacement housing, extensions or where a farmer has no other land except in those areas will be allowed’.
The refusal of similar applications has become a contentious issue among councillors, particularly in the West Mayo Municipal District, where there are a number of coastal regions designated as scenic areas.
A special meeting of Mayo County Council was convened last week after councillors complained with the decision to take planning off the agenda to be discussed at municipal district meetings.
Erris-based councillor Gerry Coyle told last week’s meeting that ‘it is no good pretending all is well with planning’. He complained that local people wishing to return home were being denied planning because ‘someone got to enjoy the view in their absence’.
Independent councillor Michael Holmes accepted there were reasons for refusing planning but felt restricting planning in areas of natural beauty is not one.
“An area of natural beauty in rural Ireland is a house with kids running around it, simple as that,” he told the meeting. “One planning permission granted in a small area, whether it be Inver in Belmullet or below in Dooagh in Achill, one planning to a young couple starting off may be the cause of a national school being kept open. In my 15 years in the council I have seen 12 national schools close in the west Mayo area. One or two planning permissions could keep some open. Planning has not been [responsible for] the total demise of rural areas but it has a baring on it.”