THE planning system in Cork county could lead to the decimation of rural villages and towns in West Cork, as families cannot get permission for one-off houses and farmers cannot get planning on their own land, a Council meeting was told.
At the meeting held earlier this week, councillors spent over two hours relaying their frustration with the county’s planning process and the inconsistencies that both they and their constituents have experienced while seeking planning permission.
In a joint motion by both Cllr Gerard Murphy (FG) and Cllr Patrick Gerard Murphy (FF) they said this was an urgent request to address serious problems within the planning system.
Cllr Gerard Murphy (FG) said people in his area cannot understand how windfarms can get planning permission, yet they can’t get planning for one-off houses.
Cllr Patrick Gerard Murphy (FF) said this was ‘a serious, serious problem’ and that the policy laid down by planners is quite subjective.
‘Not a day goes by that we’re not exasperated by refusals on tenuous grounds and it’s not fit for purpose and we need a cross party committee to look at it,’ said Cllr Murphy. ‘There’s a customer service element too, as the public feel it is not a customer-focussed facility and doesn’t take human interest into it.’
He added that he hoped the chief executive has got a flavour of what’s going on out there and the frustration from both councillors and people.
Cllr John O’Sullivan (FG) said it’s the interpretation of the County Development Plan that’s the issue and he said he knew of 11 couples in Ardfield who have failed to get planning permission to build houses in the area, despite spending a lot of money on the process.
Cllr Des O’Grady (SF) said his party would support the motion calling for an overhaul of the system and said that ‘no one wants to go back to the days of the brown envelope and the Galway tent.’
Cllr Christopher O’Sullivan (FF) said he knew of so many instances of people returning home from abroad who can’t get planning permission and they become so frustrated by the process that they give up.
‘If we get this right there’s an opportunity to address rural decline and accommodate those wanting to come home and build. There are incredibly talented architects in West Cork and so often their designs have to be scrapped because they cannot get planning permission,’ said Cllr O’Sullivan.
Cllr Mary Hegarty (FG) said that it’s a shock to some people when they get refused planning permission as they have invested huge amounts of money on the process.
Cllr Kevin Murphy (FG) said that ‘it’s the most frustrating system of all time’ and said the amount of trauma that people have gone through while seeking planning permissions is ‘totally inappropriate and totally unacceptable’.
‘The real issue to me is the cost of re-applying for planning and in some cases if you re-apply a third time it can cost up to €20,000. That’s not good enough and we should be helping people who are starting out raising a family and building a home,’ said Cllr Murphy.
Cllr James O’Donovan (FG) said he knew of agents and engineers in his area who were thinking of giving up as they said that it’s impossible to communicate with planners.
Cllr Danny Collins (Ind) said that there’s an ageing population in West Cork and that young families want to come back into their own areas to build houses and they are being refused.
‘There are lots of houses owned by foreigners and they get planning but why can’t locals get it?’ asked Cllr Collins.
Cllr Alan Coleman (Ind) said the amount of effort is inordinate to get planning over the line and called for action by making changes to the new County Development Plan.
Council officials agreed that the Planning Department will discuss the issue of rural housing at their next housing special purpose committee.