The ability of people, with no established links to an area, being able to make planning objections which impede development needs to be called into question, especially after reports have emerged that Apple is reconsidering its €850 million data centre in Athenry.
This is the view of Independent Galway county councillor Jim Cuddy, who is calling on the Minister for Housing and Planning, Eoghan Murphy, "for not being proactive on planning and development issues" and for failing to address the "real issues which impede planning and development".
Last week, Bloomberg reported that Apple was "losing patience" with the delay in granting planning permission for the proposed data centre - a delay which has now run for two and a half years - and is considering shelving the project. The Government has denied that Apple is losing commitment, with Independent Alliance TD Séan Canney saying: "Apple have expressed their concerns in the delays which is understandable but the bottom line is Apple are still committed to the project in Athenry."
Cllr Cuddy alleged that the delay was the result of "questionable objections" and said it was an example of " why people should not be able to lodge objections to planning applications which do not directly affect them". An article in The Irish Times noted: "We shouldn’t blame the handful of individuals who have sought a judicial review of the planning permission in the High Court (the source of much of the delay ). They are simply making use of the system as it stands...but any planning system that facilitates such egregious delays in making final decisions on major investment projects is clearly defective."
The Oranmore based councillor has written to Minister Murphy, outlining three areas of concern he believes are affecting planning across County Galway: people with no links to an area being able to make objections; the inability of people to secure planning in a sustainable manner in the countryside, if they have not grown up in the area; and the need for people to be informed personally, if their land is to be the subject of a change in zoning.
In his letter to the Minister, Cllr Cuddy also outlined his concerns regarding legislation for one-off rural housing, which, he argues, "prevents people building houses which are considered to be urban-generated". He said: "The fact the EU have already deemed Ireland’s planning policy in this area to be in breach of EU legislation, and given the unprecedented housing shortage, you would think the Minister would make it a priority to address this matter."
The Galway County Council unanimously passed a motion calling on the Minister to change legislation regarding urban-generated housing earlier this year, but only an acknowledgment has been received on this vote.
"If this Minister is serious about addressing housing and planning issues," said Cllr Cuddy, "he should be addressing the real issues on the ground. These are the issues which are cropping up again and again across the country and which are holding back planning, housing, development and job creation. I will be continuing to raise these matters with the Minister and Department officials until some real action is taken."