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Board question Plan

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Board question Development Plan

Michael Duffy

A senior inspector at An Bord Pleanála has questioned the validity of the current Mayo County Development Plan, saying that he feels there are ‘conflicting objectives’ in the plan in relation to housing development.
Mr Paul Caprani, one of the most experienced planners in the country, also states that Mayo County Council have failed to implement the Sustainable Rural Housing Guidelines introduced in April of 2005, and thus, they wrongly refused planning permission to Mr John Mulroy, of Barcastle Industrial Estate, Castlebar, for a dwelling house at Elmhall, Belcarra.
And in a second swipe at the Council, another planner with An Bord Pleanála, Mr Brian Banks, has again intimated that the authority made a wrong decision when refusing Mr Adrian Nally permission for a dwelling house at Knockbaun (Fairhill), also in Belcarra.
Mr Banks stated that in the interests of ‘fairness and consistency’ it would be very difficult to distinguish Mr Nally’s proposals from adjacent dwellings which have already been granted permission. Mr Banks also calls into question Mayo County Council’s exact interpretation of the ‘traditional design’ of a rural type dwelling.
When the matter was raised at Monday’s Castlebar Electoral Area meeting, Senior Council Planner Mr John McMyler admitted that the only way to have uniformity in relation to ‘traditional housing design’ was for councillors themselves to adopt a document which specifically describes what housing design is allowed in rural areas.
Cllr Al McDonnell was the person who raised the matter of the Belcarra refusals at Monday’s meeting. He told The Mayo News he was ‘not one bit surprised’ that these decisions have been overturned on appeal as he ‘could not believe they have been refused permission in the first place’.
“I am blue in the face questioning planners’ decisions, especially in the Belcarra area where the recently-constructed sewerage scheme was supposed to allow the village to develop. There are clearly serious questions to be answered. Have other applicants been turned down in the wrong in this area? I think the Council should come out and clarify the situation. If our development plan is contradictory then surely some changes have to be made,” Cllr McDonnell said.
Director of Services for the Castlebar area, Mr Ray Norton and Mr McMyler both disagreed with Cllr McDonnell’s assertion that the applicants refused permission were ‘victimised’ and that the Council had been ‘rapped on the knuckles by Dublin planners’.
Mr Norton said the planners at An Bord Pleanála had backed up decisions made by Mayo County Council planners on hundreds of occasions. In relation to the housing design issue, he said there was often a matter of ‘personal taste’ from particular planners but at the end of the day, someone had to make the final decision.
“I am fully confident that our planners are respecting the landscape of rural lreland but it is within the councillors’ remit to adopt a rural housing design policy in the new County Development Plan, the make-up of which has just got under way,” stated Mr Norton.
When coming to his decision on Mr Mulroy’s application in Belcarra, Mr Caprani from An Bord Pleanála clearly states that he feels the development in question is acceptable, particularly in relation to the issue of housing need.
“Furthermore, the applicant has demonstrated that the requisite infrastructure is available in the form of a group water scheme and public sewerage facilities,” added Mr Caprani. He also revealed that applicant had considered alternative sites but these were located in SACs and he felt he was unlikely to get permission there.
Mr Caprani also disagrees with the Council’s second reason for refusal in Mr Mulroy’s application, stating that he does not feel that landscape of which the site forms part is in any way ‘visually sensitive’. He granted permission for the dwelling, subject to nine conditions and a modification to the external elevation.
In the second Belcarra application, Mr Hall, with an address at 2 Greenview Drive, Glencairn, Dooradoyle Road, Limerick, had already secured outline permission for his development but the Council refused him full permission because they felt the applicant failed to comply with condition 5 of the outline permission as drawings he had submitted indicated the proposed house ‘was not single storey in height and not of traditional design’.
However, planning inspector Mr Banks felt other houses of similar design had already been granted permission in the area and ‘in the interests of fairness and consistency’ the applicant should be granted permission.