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Councillors clash with planning regulator


MATTER OF PRINCIPLE Cllr Michael Kilcoyne.

Councillors claim they will not amend County Development Plan on rural planning

Anton McNulty

AN Independent councillor fears that councillors are on a collision course with the Office of the Planning Regulator if there are attempts to amend the new Mayo County Development Plan.
Mayo County Council ratified the Mayo County Development Plan 2022-2028 at the end of June but the Office of the Planning Regulator has informed the council that the development plan has ‘not been made in a manner consistent with recommendations of the office’.
The regulator outlined a number of issues regarding zoning of rural towns and the building of one-off rural houses along national roads as a matter of concern.
“As a result of the failure to implement the recommendations above, the Development Plan made by Mayo County Council fails to set out an overall strategy for the proper planning and sustainable development of the area concerned, contrary to the requirements of the Act,” the regulator wrote.
The opinions and recommendations of the Office of the Planning Regulator were forwarded the Minister for Local Government and Planning, Peter Burke, TD, and to members of Mayo County Council on Thursday.
Fianna Fáil councillor Al McDonnell told The Mayo News that the issue of allowing planning along local roads linked to national roads is a redline issue for the councillors and not one they will back down from.

Redline issue
“We have changed it [County Development Plan] to confine planning refusal to direct access to national roads and the planning regulator appears to have an issue. As far as I am concerned, and my colleagues are concerned, removing this will impose serious restrictions and possibly prohibition on development on all roads leading to national roads. It will take out a large area of the county from any sort of development residential or otherwise.
“There are seven or eight national roads in the county, the longest of which is the N59 which goes from Leenane through Westport and on to Newport and Mulranny and through Crossmolina and Ballina. If you look at the number of access roads onto that national road, I’m sure it is an extraordinary number. That is a redline issue for us and we will be opposing it in the strongest manner. The councillors are 100 percent united on that,” Cllr McDonnell said.
Independent councillor Michael Kilcoyne added that the Independent councillors will also be opposing any attempts by the Office of the Planning regulator to amend the County Development Plan.
“We will have to meet and consider what the regulator is saying but we are not happy at all with what he is saying. Where it will end up we don’t know … I think there will be a battle over this.
Major implications
“Some of us will not accept what he is saying because it will cause major implications for young people who cannot get a house and want to build on their family farm and cannot get planning permission.
“This is a fundamental matter of principle and we have our mandates from the people who elected us. I expect the support of TDs whether it is forthcoming or not is another thing.”
Cllr McDonnell, who is the longest serving councillor in Mayo County Council, said that there has always been an anti-rural bias among unelected officials in State planning bodies. He said that the council will not be discouraged by ‘sinister elements’ who want to ‘destroy rural Ireland’.
“They always have issues with our responsible attitude to rural survival and rural development. They had issues with us in 2008 and 2014 and we challenged them with a sizeable degree of success. They know we are a responsible council who are determined not to allow the death and total destruction of rural Ireland. They know that and we are prepared to stick to our principles,” he said.