“This is a clash of ideals, people who want to see rural Ireland closed down and those who want to see it prosper,” was how Fianna Fáil councillor Al McDonnell described the challenge to the recently adopted Mayo County Council Development Plan (2014-2020 ) by the Department of Environment and Local Government. The Development Plan sets out a number of guidelines for planning and development in the county for the next six years, including the contentious issue of rural housing. It is the second time that the Department of Environment and Local Government has challenged the plan adopted by the members of Mayo County Council. In late 2008 a delegation from Mayo County Council travelled to Dublin and met the Oireachtas Committee on Environment when a similar issue arose, they put their case forward and were ultimately successful in getting the development plan they wanted passed. “We were right the last time and they were wrong,” was how Fine Gael councillor Gerry Coyle responded to a letter received by the councillors telling them to change the adopted plan.
In June this year the council received a letter from the Department of Environment and Local Government stating the decision of the council to pass the plan directly contravenes national and European law.
Following the communication from Department of Environment and Local Government, Mayo County Council obtained legal advice from an expert, and the council executive decided to set in motion a variation process to bring the plan back in line. However the elected members of the council said they would look to stop this variation and would discuss the matter in great detail when the council sits again in September.