‘dublin-centric’ National Planning Framework Lacks Ambition for Rural Ireland

IFA Environment Chairman Thomas Cooney has described the draft National Planning Framework developed by Government as “Dublin-centric and lacking ambition for rural Ireland.”

Thomas Cooney said, “The Government’s aspiration to develop a planning framework out to 2040 in a balanced and coherent way fails rural Ireland, particularly in the addressing following four areas: the decline of rural towns and villages; the need to rebalance development towards the regions; the need for rural housing; and, supporting community based renewable energy development.”

In a submission to Government, IFA has called for measures including the following to be implemented, to drive the potential and ambition for an alternative to Dublin strategy.

To reverse the decline of rural towns and villages

  • New business start-ups should receive incentives, such as exemptions from rates, for an initial time period and relief from capital gains tax, to encourage innovation and enterprise.
  • Double tax relief should be provided on rental expenditure for businesses establishing in rural towns and villages.
  • A condition for a valid planning application for an out-of-town development must include an obligation to demonstrate how all scenarios, including locating in the village or town centre, were first considered.

To rebalance development towards the regions

IFA calls for the swift delivery by Government of the Rural Broadband Scheme, which must ensure that every home, school and business in rural Ireland has access at a universal price to high-speed fibre broadband, no matter where they are located.

The delivery of this measure alone, will reduce the necessity to commute long distances to work and purchase more expensive dwellings in urban locations.

On rural housing

IFA proposes that the Sustainable Rural Housing Guidelines for Planning Authorities must be revised and put on a statutory footing. These Guidelines should provide that local authorities would grant planning permission for farm families who wish to live and work in their local community, and extended family members who have an intrinsic link with their rural area.

To support farm-scale and community based renewable energy production

IFA proposes that:

  • Government must introduce statutory legislation, which places legal set-back distances for renewable projects from sensitive properties, including family homes, schools and villages.
  • A national planning policy must be developed for community energy projects, which facilitates renewable projects that have community participation, farm scale and roof-mounted projects.
  • Similar to other EU Member States, farm scale and roof-top renewable projects should be exempt from planning requirements.

The absence of policy direction on renewable energy planning policy in the draft plan, this must be addressed in the final plan, to provide the necessary assurances and certainty for farmers and the wider rural community.

IFA has expressed concern at the erroneous introduction of the UK concept of Open Countryside into the draft plan. Thomas Cooney said, “While voluntary schemes are developed with bodies such as Comhairle na Tuaithe and others in Ireland, there is no common law ‘right to roam’ across the countryside. Any implied or otherwise rights or entitlements should be removed from the document.”

Concluding, Thomas Cooney said, “Government must review the existing draft plan and achieve the rural-proofing of policy they aspire to and deliver a truly National planning framework for the next two decades which is about more than Dublin.”

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