Local Senator Ged Nash has claimed that delays in revising Ireland’s ‘local needs’ rural housing policy is causing uncertainty and anxiety for families across Louth.
He said that the government was due to make changes to the 2005 policy last year, arising from a judgment of the European Court of Justice and pressure from the European Commission, but they have so far failed to do so.
“The uncertainty surrounding what the future local needs policy to be operated by local authorities will be is causing confusion and delays for families who are considering lodging planning applications on sites in certain parts of the County.
“The Minister for Housing was supposed to change the guidance last year, but he missed the target. I raised this in the Seanad this week only to be told that the changes are imminent but no firm date can be given.
“As far back as 2007, the European Commission issued an infringement notice against Ireland where a view was expressed by Europe that Ireland’s local needs criteria for one-off rural houses are excessively restrictive and may be in breach of the Treaties.
“The Flemish Decree handed down by the European Court of Justice in 2013 appears to clarify that position even further.
“In May 2017, and to avoid the escalation of the 2007 infringement case from the Commission, Minister Murphy’s Department set up a Working Group to revise those guidelines and engaged with the Commission.
“The Department said in a circular in May of last year that the guidance would be updated in, ‘the second half of 2017’. There is still no sign of it.
“I have always been a strong supporter of the need to have robust frameworks within which our rural housing policy should operate on the grounds of sustainability, efficient use of services, good quality design and place-making. And while we need to avoid a free-for-all in terms of rural housing development, clarity is needed now on what the new policy will permit.
“The delay in publishing the revised guidelines and the NPF is causing real problems for families and in the middle of an unprecedented housing crisis too.
“People with deposits on sites in Co. Louth are wondering if they can stop renting and if they will be allowed to build in villages they have made their home and from where they might be running businesses and so on.
“They need to know and they need to know now.”