The Ireland 2040 National Planning Framework will have a devastating effect on much of County Galway, according to one local councillor, who has gone as far as to call the framework "a direct attempt to depopulate rural Ireland".
Independent councillor for the Athenry/Oranmore Municipal District, Jim Cuddy, has said that if the proposed plan is implemented as envisaged, it will "lead to further isolation and closures of vital services" in rural areas, including schools, small shops, and possibly small GAA clubs.
His concerns arise mostly from Object 18B in the framework, which states that applicants for planning permission in rural area will be required to "demonstrate an economic need to live in a rural area". He also said it was "concerning that no definition of what constitutes economic need" had been outlined in the draft document.
He says the effect of such a clause would "remove people from rural areas and move them into larger towns and cities". As such he has called the proposed framework an attempt to make "forced urbanisation" into State planning policy.
"The National Planning Framework is a continuance of poor planning policy, which has been ongoing since planners began granting permission for large housing estates to be built in areas with no demand, leaving ghost estates in many areas around the country," said Cllr Cuddy. "The National Planning Framework should recognise the way of life for those who live and want to continue living in rural Ireland and put the necessary supports and services in place."
Cllr Cuddy argues that Object 18B "flies in the face" of a European Court of Justice ruling from 2013 which dealt with the free movement of people and capital within the EU, and this EU ruling overrides government legislation and regulations. However he said there was no clear procedure on how the framework would be brought forward once the policy document has been finalised.
"There is very little in the document with regards to rural employment or policies to help rural areas thrive," he said. "With a strong motorway network and the delivery of faster broadband, the Government should focus efforts on regional job creation to support people who want to continue living in rural areas and small villages and towns."