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Councillors furious over Belmullet housing-estate refusal


Councillors furious over Belmullet housing estate refusal

Edwin McGreal

Councillors in Belmullet are furious that a 19-house estate close to the town was refused planning permission recently - despite the fact that planning permission for the same development had been granted six years ago.
The developers of the estate at Attycunnane, Belmullet had received planning permission under the terms of the old County Development Plan. However, when the economic downturn, kicked in, they held off on the construction of the estate and reapplied on August 30 of this year, in the expectation that demand will soon be there for houses in such an estate.
However, last Tuesday’s meeting of the Belmullet Electoral Area committee heard that the new application, identical to the 2007 one, was refused because it is contrary to the current County Development Plan 2008-2014.
It was refused on the grounds of being on a ‘strategically important road’ - the main road to Bangor Erris, outside the speed limits in Belmullet - a criteria in the current development plan; on the grounds of the lack of footpaths and public lighting in the area; and on the grounds of distance from the town.
Cllr Rose Conway Walsh said she could not understand how this estate had planning permission 12 months ago but has now been refused. She added it was an even stronger application than in 2007, as the local sewerage scheme would now incorporate this estate and visibility was not a difficulty either and argued there was a need for accommodation in the area.
“There has been a lot of investment into this site … This refusal is absolutely wrong and disgraceful,” she said.
Councillors argued that the development would bring much needed construction employment and would provide houses to keep people in the area.
Cllr Gerry Coyle said it is ludicrous to think that if the estate was built to wall level and left as a ‘ghost’ estate, the planning permission would still be valid, and he added that he would hold up the 2014-2020 Development Plan if a development such as this was precluded.
He also argued that an industrial estate is located on the far side of this site, saying the refusal is ‘stupid’.
Cllr Conway Walsh said the best solution was to withdraw the application and make sure the draft development plan allows developments such as this one.
Cllrs Michael Holmes and Micheál McNamara concurred with their colleagues.
Mayo County Council Planner Brendan Munnelly said the current policy in the County Development Plan was for development to be restricted inside the speed limits.
Mayo County Council Director of Services Martin Keating said that while county development plans are subject to national guidelines and policy directions, it was Mayo County Councillors themselves who ratified the current one which restricted developments to inside the town speed limits.
He said there was ample land in Belmullet zoned for housing. Cllr Gerry Coyle said that was of little use if those property owners had no intention of releasing the land for development, while Cllr Rose Conway Walsh said the council was not learning the lessons of the past.
“Zoned land is what caused so much of the economic crisis with land being held back in Dublin, pushing up the property prices. This needs to be properly thought out,” she said.