Councillors getting ready to battle over development plan

Cllr Paul McNamara

Cllr Paul McNamara

The issue of planning permission in rural areas in Mayo is set to come to the fore again over the coming months as the elected councillors work on adopting a new county development plan.

At the July meeting of Mayo County Council which took place this week, the councillors were given a presentation on the pre-draft submissions which have been lodged with the council, by senior planner Alan DeLucia.

Fianna Fail party whip in the council proposed that the councillors hold a workshop and a special meeting to discuss the plan before the end of the month, which was agreed upon by the members.

The major issue raised by elected members after Mr DeLucia's presentation related to rural housing and planning permission, with a number of councillors making passionate calls to ensure the right of people to build and live in rural areas be safeguarded in the plan.

Cllr Patsy O'Brien told the meeting: "There is a fight on hand and it is with you and us together and that is to fight for the survival of rural Ireland and for us to fight together for our rural villages to survive.

"We'll probably have to end up meeting with government departments because national guidelines will try and fight us anyway, but it will be a fight and we will be ready for it."

Achill based Cllr Paul McNamara added: "We must not forget the rural areas, those are the areas that will feed off the towns and feed into them - along the Western seaboard and where I come from in Achill, there is no employment, there is no factories and there won't be - but we have been handed an opportunity that should favour us and make rural Ireland work.

"People will be allowed to work from home, there is no question about that, I know someone who is working in Achill and working for a bank in America - that is a fact.

"People working for companies in Dublin and Galway and have been working from home since last March and that is the future and the future for rural Ireland to be fit to do that

"These people and the generations that want to settle into rural Ireland must know that they will be able to get planning and that is why I believe it is the right of somebody born, bred and reared in these areas, be it beside the sea or on top of Slievemore, that they are able to get planning permission to live in these areas. Common sense must prevail and if we want theses rural areas to go into the future and not to be on the Wild Atlantic Way and remaining wild, we have to let planning go ahead.

"I will not be supporting any county development plan that will not allow planning permission in these areas."

His sentiments were supported by Cllr Gerry Coyle who told the meeting: "The last plans didn't work and I can tell you they didn't work in my villages and they didn't work in Cllr McNamara's villages, because there is nobody left and the ones that want to come back - the ones that were socially extradited from the land - cannot come back and build a house on the land they were chased from.

"Despite them having sent the money home to keep the roofs over our heads, families denied - they can't come back because somebody got to like the view in their absence. You can't come back because people that come for one week in the year have a bigger say than the people who are there 365 days a year - that is not going to go into this plan.

"Is it our plan or is it officialdom in Dublin that dictates what can be put into the plan, because I am sick to the teeth of people that never slept a night in rural Ireland telling us how, where and when we can live.

"The people that live in rural Ireland 365 days a year deserve the view more than someone who comes for one week in the year."

"There is more than farmers living in rural Ireland, there is the shopkeeper's daughter, the school teacher's son or daughter, the vet's son or daughter and of course there is the fisherman's son or daughter who aren't farmers but they live off the coast and make a living. We'll meet the department and we'll sit down with them but we won't give in."

Cllr Michael Kilcoyne added: "It rests with us to take on the Minister - and it does not matter which one it is because they are all the same, they take their directive from the civil service and department. If the Minister wants to disband us as ultimately he can consider doing, if we refuse to adopt a development plan let him do that - but we just can't allow our people to be steamrolled into the ground."

Cllr Al McDonnell issued a stark warning that every councillor 'needs to read every bit of the proposed plan because it will have a serious impact on the county' adding: "Let's not be afraid or assume any Minister will overtake us or overcome us acting in the best interest of this county. Significant changes need to be made to the document in front of us. I am asking every member here to go through this document line by line, because there is some very disturbing inclusions in it and hopefully we can come back and agree with the executive."


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