Re: Re: well what about the developments popping up in the shannonside ?

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Council vote to maintain Planning Regulations

LIMERICK County Council members voted overwhelmingly against a controversial proposal to change an aspect of the County Development Plan, that relates to “housing need” .

Cllr Niall Collins put a motion forward last week to amend the Limerick County Council Development Plan by deleting any requirement by planning permission applicants to demonstrate a “housing need”.

However, the motion was defeated by 21 votes against to two votes in favour with two abstentions, after a marathon debate in Limerick County Council lasting nearly two hours, which involved comments from all councillors.

Currently planning officials have the say in deciding how to apply the definition ‘housing need’ because the County Development Plan (CDP) which is the primary reference document when planners are adjudicating on planning applications, does not contain a written working definition of ‘housing need’. Therefore Cllr Collins claimed that “the policy is being applied by the planners based on their interpretation only.”

Applicants must satisfy planners on the housing “need” requirement in order to build in more than 90 per cent of the land area of County Limerick.

This was the second motion to be considered by councillors since the new County Development Plan was adopted in March of this year. The earlier motion was to reduce the “pressure area” and on that occasion both council management and the legal advisor cautioned against such a move. However councillors chose not to accept the advice, on this occasion. Last week the Countyv Counicl’s legal advisor said that it was structurally unsound to change the County Development Plan for this purpose. And the Construction Industry Federation also said that it would challenge it.

Addressing county councillors and council officials in County Hall last week, Cllr Collins said: “In my view the County Development Plan (CDP) is fundamentally flawed. We have created a policy, which is completely undefined within the CDP. Not having a working definition within the plan leaves us public representatives and policy makers at a complete disadvantage. The public must have clear defined policies in order that they know where they stand. In its present form, nobody knows where he or she stands in relation to this policy. Loosely interpreted, the application of the present policy is as follows – if you have a house you don’t then need a house. One can’t trade up or indeed one can’t trade down from their current houses and finally if one has no house there is an automatic presumption of refusal against the applicant. The policy in its present undefined state is anti-people and anti-rural communities and is in direct contradiction of the Sustainable Rural Housing Guidelines and recent Case Law”.

Speaking at the meeting, Limerick County Council’s chief planner, Jimmy Feane, warned that the consequences of removing need will make sites more expensive and will lead to developers buying up sites and hoarding them until they want to sell them.

He also stated that planners are already utilising an internal working document to assess an individuals “housing need”. Mr Feane stated that this document of guidance contains “nothing that hasn’t already been agreed by the councillors”.

“Need is something that would assist a lot more people than it would harm. I am deeply concerned that if need is removed, we will be removing the one item of humanity in a highly regulated system. The County Development Plan is a legal document and it is very difficult to come up with a document that captures every possibility. The ink will not be dry on that definition when a case will come forward that we want to accommodate for housing need and it wont be included,” he said.

Cllr Collins said that the existence of this internal document “came as a huge surprise to all councillors as they had not previously known that such a document had existed”.

“It is now likely that the Planning SPC will get to work on this document in order that it will reflect the reality on the ground in County Limerick and not just the planners interpretation,” he said.

“Should the Council produce a clear definition in time then I will be happy to write this into the CDP, however in the absence of this any reference to ‘need’ should be deleted,” he added.

Cllr Collins also said that he brought up the motion because the public are completely frustrated because of the absence of a clear definition and criteria for “housing need”. And as a public representative, he finds himself unable to advise any potential planning applicants whether their circumstances will satisfy the planners that they have a housing need.

Referring to the internal planning need guideline, Mr Feane said that the most important thing is that the list of “needs” is not exhaustive.

“People apply on their individual circumstances and we take that into account in all cases. Individual merits which are genuine are always taken into account. I have only had two instances of individuals being refused solely on the grounds of need. There have been a number where need was one of the reasons, coupled with percolation problems for example. But I can think of about 13 cases where we would have had to refuse if need was not an issue. For example if the percolation fails marginally or the site distance, we have the right to say that the need of the applicant far outweighs the planning problems. We are becoming a very inflexible system and I know the frustrations out there. But this is the price we have paid for accountability and transparency. Need is the only element left that allows for compassion and humanity,” he said.

Mr Feane also pointed out that there is only a 15 per cent refusal rate in Limerick with 85 per cent granted.

However Cllr Collins said that although we have one of the lowest actual refusal rates statistically, “we all know that this is not the working reality”.

“The real question yet to be asked is what is actual number of refusals combined with the number of applications withdrawn, which are about to be refused. Indeed how many more potential cases have been turned away at preplanning stage and today how many live applications have the Council sought further information asking the applicants to justify their housing need,” he said.

Commenting on allegations that passing the motion would open the door to a “speculators charter,” Cllr Collins said that we did not have this problem under the previous plan. And “no evidence to date has ever been presented to this Council to support this contention”.

“This issue will be discussed in more detail by the Planning Strategic Policy Committee and I have no doubt it will come back to the Council in due course,” concluded Cllr Collins.

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Major redesign of the city’s markets on way
by Marie Hobbins
A TOTAL redesign of the Milk Market is currently underway. The plan is to greatly enhance its physical layout, increase its trading, extend its opening hours and develop additional selling and display features.

Chairman of the Market Trustees, Cllr John Gilligan has confirmed to the Limerick Post that a British based firm of consultants which specialises in all types of markets has been commissioned to investigate and produce a new design plan for the market.

The Milk Market is acknowledged as one of the country’s oldest and most popular outside of the capital.

“This plan should be presented to us within the month, so until then I cannot comment fully but under consideration is a whole new design plan for the inside of the market initially – whether we will make it rain-proof, a design pattern for the stalls, the possibility of extended trading hours and additional opening days, more facilities for the traders and members of the public, an exhibition space, etc,” Cllr Gilligan told the Limerick Post.

Confirming that the British consultants company, Quarterbridge has been commissioned to produce a blueprint for the redesign of the market, Limerick Chamber of Commerce chief executive officer, Maria Kelly said there is no equivalent company in Ireland.

“Quarterbridge has a proven record in this field and they have been given a brief to examine how best to develop further the potential of the market. Initially it is the Milk Market but they may also come back with recommendations for the Potato Market. While the aim was to concentrate on the interior of the Milk Market, they will look at all aspects of both markets including the trading area in the streets adjoining the market and we would also work with Limerick City Council, which has responsibility for the exterior trading area of the Milk Market on implementing any changes approved for this area.

“We left the brief very open – they are the experts and can look at everything to see how to enhance and develop the markets’ potential,” she said

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