Landowners who have had land zoned for housing under the last County Development Plan or Town Environs plans could see their land dezoned in the very near future. The new Regional Planning Guidelines which came into effect last year have to be signed off and all relevant reports completed by October 18 this year. Senior Planner with Mayo County Council Ian Douglas gave a presentation on the tight time-scale that the council had to work with to ensure that all statutory obligations were complied with by the deadline, at the April meeting of the local authority this week.
However what will be of most interest to people around the county is what Mr Douglas said in relation to the zoning of lands. “ We have to produce evidence in relation to the zoning and it has to be within the national spatial strategy, we have to show evidence as to why we are zoning lands for housing,” he told the meeting.
He went on to say that the population targets are fixed and that in 2022 it is estimated that the population of Mayo will be 150,800, up from 123,839 in 2006 according to the plan. He also said that the big increase in population is to be between the two linked hub towns of Ballina and Castlebar. The increase in both towns by 2016 is 5,757 which would require an additional 2,300 homes, but between unsold houses, zoned lands and planning permission for developments granted that have not been started there is capacity for 5,993 homes in these areas, leaving a surplus capacity of 3,618.
With the council having to provide evidence as to why lands are zoned, some of the lands currently zoned for housing will no longer be zoned as such. “There are three things that we can do with the lands,” Mr Douglas said. “We can dezone them, keep them in strategic reserve or phase out the zoning on the lands over time. At this preliminary stage we are thinking of a combination of all three.”
Mr Douglas did say that he was aware that the Department of Environment were aware that issues may arise in relation to the dezoning. “I know that the department are concerned there could be legal challenges to the dezoning, although the Act says that there will be no compensation for such. But there could be legitimate expectation cases,” he told the members.
Mr Douglas outlined the timeline that the council would be operating in regard to the consultation process. The public display period will be from April 20 to May 14, the manager report will then be produced by June 14, with consideration for the members until July 25. Amendments and environmental assessments will take place from July 29, with the manager’s report and public submissions published on September 26. The members will vote on it on October 10, with the deadline eight days later.