The issue of zoning of lands for housing is set to become a hot topic for discussion amongst elected members and the officials of the four local authorities in Mayo over the coming months. Following on from a presentation on the Core Strategy for the county, which has to come into effect under the Planning and Development Act 2010 to the County Council early last week, it was the turn of the Westport Electoral Area Committee and Castlebar Town Council to get briefed on the matter. One councillor in particular laid the blame at the foot of the councillors themselves for the over zoning of lands.
“No one to blame but ourselves” is what Westport based Councillor Peter Flynn said about the over zoning of land in the Westport area, which is seven times over the required surplus for residential lands.
During an update on the core strategy plan for the town, Cllr Flynn said that we have zoned too much land for residential development which is “frightening”. “We as councillors allowed this to happen” and now “tough decisions” in relation to zoning will have to be made in the next six months. Cllr Flynn said that as the town council are also deciding on the core plan that a joint meeting between the area committee and town council should be scheduled.
Director of services Joe Beirne said that a suggested date would be on May 12, before the next town council meeting. The core plan will go on public display in May where submissions will be accepted.
When the members of Castlebar Town Council were given a presentation at their April meeting, the members questioned the validity of the figures used which showed there was 912 vacant premises in the town. Independent Cllr Michael Kilcoyne told the meeting that, “I can’t see there are 912 vacant houses in the town, I don’t know where they are.”
Council officials confirmed that the figures were taken from the 2006 census the most up to date record that they had. When asked why didn’t they wait until the current census had been completed, they were informed that while preliminary figures would be available later this year the detailed break down would not be out until 2012 and the core strategies had to be implemented by law by October of this year.
Independent Cllr Frank Durcan asked on the council executive to write to new Environment Minister Phil Hogan about the issue because according to Cllr Durcan, Minister Hogan had previously stated that he would be making changes to the new act which was signed into law by his predecessor. The members also asked Town Manager, Mr Seamus Granahan what would happen if the councillors refused to develop and adopt a Core Strategy. Mr Granhan told the members that “I have a legal obligation to follow the law, we have to start by the end of the month, we have no choice and the deadline is very tight. I have to implement the law as it stands it’s my job.”