“What sort of world are you living in?” was Joe Beirne’s reaction to Westport Town Council’s rejection of the proposed variation to the town Development Plan. Despite the Town Manager and his staff’s warning of the consequences of rejecting their recommendations, the councillors ignored their advice – just as they did two years previously when they originally drew up the plan.
Two years after zoning enough land to house a town population projected to treble in five years, the councillors were back again and told to vary the plan. Cathaoirleach of Westport Town Council, Cllr Christy Hyland, said he was baffled as to why they were asked to look at the plan again and asked what happened in the last two years to make the original plan ‘so wrong’.
Senior planner, Ian Douglas explained there were two reasons why local authorities were being asked to change their plans under the 2010 Planning and Development Act. The first, he said, was the revelations of the Mahon Tribunal which showed that land was zoned for ‘no good reason’, while the second was the building boom of the Celtic Tiger years: “Land was zoned that did not match the population demands. The Core Strategy says we need to zone land based on hard evidence and not on gut feelings. We are to zone only enough land to match the population demands,” he explained.
Senior Executive Officer, Martin Keating added that Westport Town Council is not the only local authority that has to change its development plan following the introduction of the new act. He said the difference between now and two years ago was that there was no regulation and there was a requirement to take the population trend of the town into place.
The councillors were told they would need planning reasons for rejecting the variations to the plan and when asked if they had any, Cllr Margaret Adams said they might ‘get one in a day or two’.
Joe Beirne told the councillors they were ignoring regional planning guidelines and it could have consequences for the future. He also pointed out that the new water board which will take over the country’s water services will not fund supply to new buildings deemed outside the proper guidelines.
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