Laois Blanket Rezonings

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    • #707634

      This is bonkers. Surely one of the most barmy council decisions of recent years? 😮

      Villages target of rezoning fever

      Analysis: Action will have to be taken to bring Laois county councillors into line with their own regional planning guidelines, writes Frank McDonald, Environment Editor

      Just as the Minister for the Environment, Mr Roche, was extolling the value of regional planning guidelines yesterday in Ennis, Co Clare, Laois county councillors were pushing through a raft of rezoning proposals which flew in the face of rational planning.

      Up for grabs was nearly every village in the county – from Attanagh to Vicarstown – with hundreds of acres of land earmarked for residential development. And all of proposed amendments to the draft county plan were hatched at closed-door committee meetings in recent weeks.

      This time it wasn’t the normally pro-development Fianna Fáil councillors who took the initiative, but their Fine Gael colleagues, supported by Progressive Democrat and Sinn Féin councillors. Fianna Fáil actually opposed what it called “blanket rezonings”.

      The targeted villages read like a roll-call – Arles, Attanagh, Ballacolla, Ballinakill, Ballybrittas, Ballyfin, Ballylynan, Ballyroan, Borris-in-Ossory, Camross, Castletown, Clonaslee, Clough, Durrow, Emo, Errill, Killenard, Rosenallis, Shanahoe, Stradbally and Timahoe.

      Cllr Michael Moloney (FF) said afterwards he feared the rezonings would conjure up a “Rochfortbridge scenario” – a reference to the Co Westmeath village that’s now engulfed by suburban housing, built largely for people commuting to Dublin.

      “Each village in Co Laois should have been taken on a one-by-one basis and plans drawn up in consultation with the local communities,” he said. “It’s just nonsense for the Fine Gael group and others to argue that developers will provide sewerage and other facilities”.

      There is no provision in the Midlands Regional Planning Guidelines, adopted last April, for large-scale residential development around the villages of Co Laois. Its focus is on building up the urban structure of the region in accordance with a “hierarchy” of towns.

      The guidelines give precedence to the “triangular gateway” of Althlone-Mullingar-Tullamore, identified in the Government’s National Spatial Strategy, while not forgetting Longford and Portlaoise. Next in line are the region’s smaller towns; villages are way down the list.

      The “key objective” of the guidelines is to develop a “cohesive settlement strategy” that would “prioritise the linked gateway and principal towns as the primary foci for development”, consolidate the smaller towns and “support” the existing network of villages.

      If development is to start from the bottom of this hierarchy, a situation never envisaged by the guidelines, it is obvious the places that really need to be built up will lose out and the settlement pattern will become even more haphazard. An Taisce, among others, has argued in favour of building up villages as a viable alternative to indiscriminate one-off housing in the countryside. But this would mean preparing detailed local plans, rather than simply zoning land in the way it has been done in Laois.

      The director of the Heritage Council, Mr Michael Starrett, said villages in the Irish landscape were very special and needed careful consideration.

      Blanket zonings “cut across all of the good practice of drawing up village design statements”, as had been done in Co Sligo.

      In his speech yesterday, the Minister said the preparation of regional planning guidelines “demanded an ability to take a broader and longer-term view, something that we have not always been so good at in the past”. Or, he might have added, in the present either.

      Mr Roche has power under the 2000 Planning Act to revoke the village rezonings in Laois if they are confirmed by the county council after the public has had its say on its draft county plan. If the guidelines are to mean anything, he will have to do so.

      © The Irish Times

      29 Laois towns set for expansion

      Twenty-nine villages and towns in Co Laois will expand after councillors voted to accept part of a controversial county development plan. New development boundaries will be set up around the villages and small towns in the county, allowing for the construction of thousands of new houses.

      The issue was thrashed out at a six-hour meeting of the council yesterday, at which councillors voted by 12 votes to nine in favour of this part of the development plan.

      Towns like Portlaoise, Portarlington and Mountmellick are not included in the plan – instead the growth will take place in smaller towns and villages.

      The overall plan will be voted on this Monday, and it will then be published to allow the public air their views. Fianna Fáil councillors opposed the proposals, which were supported by Fine Gael, an independent, a Progressive Democrat and a Sinn Féin.

      Because the meeting went on so long, the debate on the overall plan was adjourned until Monday’s meeting.

      There were claims from Fianna Fáil councillors that the plan could destroy villages in the county.

      They said villages would not be able to cope with the explosion in population, and cited examples in Kildare where small towns and villages have experienced rapid population surges.

      They also argued that the infrastructure to deal with increased traffic would be a problem.

      Fine Gael said the housing development was mooted to allow for balanced development to take place within the county and that developers would be obliged to allot 17.5 per cent of housing to social housing once the land was rezoned.

      Cllr John Bonham, Fine Gael, said the proposals were “far-reaching” and would create a better future for the county.

      “This is a holistic approach to planning. People want to live and be able to afford housing in local areas, go to local schools, support local businesses, this gives them that opportunity.”

      Cllr Gerry Lodge, Fianna Fáil, was adamant the blanket zoning of land in villages would remove the council’s power to control planning, as developers would be able to appeal decisions to An Bord Pleanála. If the land remained unzoned, the council would have more control of development, he said.

      There were claims that some landowners and developers would become millionaires because of the decision.
      © The Irish Times

    • #750073

      The next step in the pale spreading as far as tipperary. oh dear.

    • #750074

      @sw101 wrote:

      The next step in the pale spreading as far as tipperary. oh dear.

      Well said it is so ridiculous that one couldn’t really respond with more than one line.

    • #750075

      Hey Mr Webmaster, any chance of an online poll on this one?

    • #750076

      @sw101 wrote:

      The next step in the pale spreading as far as tipperary. oh dear.

      You won’t believe this (maybe you will) but there are people commuting to Dublin on a daily basis from Thurles, admittly using the rail service.

    • #750077

      i’d believe it alright. i’ve gotten the early cork train a few times and seen the exhausted, haunted faces of the briefcase-wielding brigade.

    • #750078

      If the NSS is to mean anything Dick Roche will have to set this truly awful decision aside.

    • #750079

      @StephenC wrote:

      If the NSS is to mean anything Dick Roche will have to set this truly awful decision aside.

      I think we really saw what the government thinks of the NSS when they announced their decentralisation plans!!

    • #750080

      Laois councillors back development plan – RTE

      07 February 2005 22:00
      The Fine Gael-led County Council in Laois has voted through a controversial Draft County Development Plan at a heated meeting in which most of the Fianna Fáil members staged a walk out.

      Part of the plan involves the zoning of more than 1,000 acres of land around 29 villages and small towns which could pave the way for the construction of thousands of new houses.

      Fianna Fáil Councillors, however, walked out of the meeting after accusing the chairman, Willie Aird, of not giving adequate time to discuss individual cases.

      But one Fianna Fáil Councillor, Michael Moloney, chose to remain in the chamber and is now said to be refusing to recognise the party whip.

      The plan will now go out to public consultation in two weeks’ time and the public will have ten weeks to make their views known.

      The zonings have been criticised by the Heritage Council and experts who contributed to the devising of the National Spatial Strategy.

    • #750081

      @hutton wrote:

      Laois councillors back development plan – RTE

      07 February 2005 22:00
      The Fine Gael-led County Council in Laois has voted through a controversial Draft County Development Plan ]

      surely that should read DAFT County Development Plan – someones making money out of this

    • #750082

      Laois draft development plan approved – © The Irish Times
      Joe Humphreys

      Laois County Council has approved its controversial Draft County Development Plan in the absence of Fianna Fáil councillors who walked out of the chamber in protest.

      Cathaoirleach Mr William Aird (FG) said yesterday it was “up to the people” to say whether they liked the plan, which would be published in a fortnight as part of a public consultation process.

      The local authority is proposing to establish new development boundaries around 29 villages and small towns in the county, allowing for the construction of thousands of news houses.

      Rejecting the criticism of Fianna Fáil councillors, who accused him of curtailing debate at yesterday’s six-hour meeting, Mr Aird said: “I honestly don’t think I was unfair to anyone. I could not have allowed people any more time to speak.”

      But Cllr Gerry Lodge (FF) said members of his party were “denied the opportunity to speak” at the meeting. “We had proposed that there should be local area plans for each of the villages to ensure there was proper and sustainable development in each case, but the chairman wouldn’t listen to us.”

      Mr Lodge said he believed there could be legal problems with the manner in which the draft development plan was adopted given the reduced attendance in the chamber.

      Such claims were dismissed, however, by rival councillors.

      Among the villages included in the plan are Arles, Attanagh, Ballinakill, Ballybrittas, Ballyfin, Borris-in-Ossory, Camross, Castletown, Clonaslee, Durrow, Emo, Errill, Killenard, Rosenallis, Shanahoe, Stradbally and Timahoe.

      Towns such as Portlaoise, Portarlington and Mountmellick are not included in the plan.

      Despite this, Fine Gael says the proposals will facilitate balanced development, enabling the County Council to insist on 17.5 per cent social and affordable housing in all new developments.

      However, Fianna Fáil says the plan will result in “developer- led” construction in areas already under-resourced for public utilities and services.

      In a separate development, local Fianna Fáil TD Mr John Moloney said yesterday he would ask the Minister for the Environment, Mr Roche, to intervene in the planning process if the local authority failed to take on board local objections.

      “If the county council is unwilling to hear the concerns of the local people, I would have a duty to involve the Minister and brief the Minister on the matter,” Mr Moloney told The Irish Times.

      Mr Roche, who has powers under the 2000 Planning Act to revoke rezonings, is understood to be concerned that the draft development plan is in conflict with regional planning guidelines. Such guidelines call for urban development to be centred around a “hierarchy” of towns rather than villages.

      © The Irish Times

    • #750083

      So much for proper planning…. its all about making generating money for the local authority underPart V
      The minister has to be firm and put his foot down, otherwise we might as well bin the NSS now

    • #750084

      Roche to ‘frustrate’ rezoning windfall

      The Minister for the Environment Mr Roche has said he will “frustrate” attempts by local authorities to raise money from large-scale land rezoning.

      Mr Roche was responding to reports in The Irish Times, that rezoning in Co Laois could result in a multi-million euro windfall for the planning authority.

      The potential gains become available when small villages are earmarked for housing beyond that which is required locally.

      In granting planning permission for housing a planning authority has the power to ask for up to 20 per cent of the development, for social and affordable housing under Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000.

      Where the authority does not need so many houses it is empowered to take land or cash instead. In this way the authority’s share of a 600 house development could amount to 55 houses and about €10.5 million in cash.

      In the case of Co Laois, large scale rezoning of up to a dozen villages, could represent a windfall for the council of tens of millions of euro.

      But Mr Roche indicated at the weekend that where he believes local authorities are simply cashing in on the Part V clause, he will “move to frustrate that”.

      Mr Roche said “Part V was intended to solve a housing need and not to simply add revenue”.

      Meanwhile, Offaly County Council is preparing local development plans for the villages of Rhode, Clara, Daingean and Edenderry all of which are expected to come under development pressure for commuter housing. Councillors are due to debate the plans on Tuesday next.

      Tim O’Brien
      © The Irish Times

      Finally we know what the Irish defition is of ‘very dense development’ :p

    • #750085

      Meanwhile, Offaly County Council is preparing local development plans for the villages of Rhode, Clara, Daingean and Edenderry all of which are expected to come under development pressure for commuter housing.

      As it is Edenderry is a commuter town.

    • #750086
      Paul Clerkin

      Second county to rethink on village developments
      The Irish Independent

      Offaly County Council is to become the latest midland local authority to propose allowing development in villages, just two weeks after Laois councillors voted to rezone 1,000 acres in 29 villages. Councillors meet next Monday to discuss a proposal to include development plans for a number of villages in the county in their draft development plan, and there is all-party support for the plan. However, councillors say their proposals are not the same as Laois, and will not destroy the village ethos.

    • #750087

      Ladies & Gentlemen, the polls are now open! Please click below and cast your ballot on the Laois rezonings.

      Many thanks to PC and regards –

      Hutton 🙂

    • #750088

      Did anybody else see the “Big Bite”, presented by David McWilliams, on RTE 1 today? I caught the tail end of it and it looked interesting. It had a fairly good panel of 6 or 7 guests including Treacy Hogan from the Indo, Frank Mc Donald, Judy Osbourne from Wicklow Planning Alliance, and 1 or 2 others from DIT, Feasta, as well as the FG head from Laois Co. Co. All about the Laois Rezonings. Did anyone else see it – or does anybody know whether repeats of the Big Bite are ever aired?



      PROG. 63 THURSDAY 17/02/05

      Topic: Laois Re-Zoning – A look at the controversy surrounding recent planning decisions in rural Ireland.

    • #750089

      The problem with the Laois re-zonings is that it continues a trend which should be discouraged and flies in the face of the NSS. It continues to focus growth predominantly on the Dublin region – driving up housing prices, commuting times, detracting away from leisure – and more importantly – family time, and supporting continued urban sprawl. In addition, it is placing heavier loads on an already struggling infastructure. With pubic transport developing inadequately when it rarely does, the car is the on-goingly promoted source of transport.

      The apparent idea behind the NSS was to displace the level of growth in the Dublin region with a view to allowing the rest of the country take some of the load and by doing so, strengthen the country across more fronts nationally – infastructurally, economically and socially. The rezonings are, quite frankly, stupid – the only persons who stand to benefit are the few developers (and I’m all for good business), but this leads to the detriment of the public and social environment at large. Instead of encouraging growth in established urban centres outside Dublin – like Cork and Galway et al – the incompetent and greedy planners are throwing far too many eggs in one basket. But when the basket carrier trips, he is going to crush more goods than otherwise would have been lost had a few other helpers bore some of the weight. Goodbye Irish countryside.

    • #750090

      @lexington wrote:

      The rezonings are, quite frankly, stupid – the only persons who stand to benefit are the few developers (and I’m all for good business), but this leads to the detriment of the public and social environment at large.

      I almost agree with your analysis, except that very few developers would have seen this coming, I’d say 99% of the land is owned by farmers and pure land speculators. No developer without inside knowledge would have believed such a radical plan would ever secure the necessary backing.

    • #750091

      I suppose what I meant was, when the time comes for housing, shops etc to be made available – developers in the region will surely step in. By that, they will benefit – but I fear the public and Laois will lose out in the long run.

    • #750092

      @hutton wrote:

      This is bonkers. Surely one of the most barmy council decisions of recent years? 😮

      Almost, the barmiest has to be the decision of Offaly representatives to hatch a similar plan claiming that there is a better way of drafting a similar type of mass rezoning with a similar amount of professional (lack of) planning . Should the NSS be renamed the ‘National Site Sale’?

    • #750093

      Roche overturns ‘crazy’ rezonings

      THE Government made a dramatic move yesterday towards tackling the blight of urban sprawl.

      In an unprecedented clampdown, a council was ordered to overturn dozens of rezonings.

      And Environment Minister Dick Roche warned others they would face similar curbs.

      It signals a significant block on the free-for-all planning that has allowed developments to spurt up in inappropriate places where there are hopelessly inadequate road, water, school and shopping services.

      Mr Roche heavily criticised the “irresponsible madness” of Laois County Council in allowing so many houses to be built in such a short space of time.

      He said such haphazard planning would destroy villages and towns and build up social and infrastructural problems for years to come.

      He warned councils if they allowed some of the country’s prettiest villages to be turned into vast housing estates he would intervene again.

      It is the first time the emergency ministerial power, under Section 31 of the Planning and Development Act, has been used to scupper an agreed local authority development plan.

      The council will now have to go back to the drawing board after the Government struck down the widescale rezoning of land for development around 24 Laois villages.

      The action came because of fears that the villages affected by the “irresponsible” rezoning had inadequate infrastructure to cope with a massive increase in population. The move has wiped out potential profits for affected landowners in Laois running into hundreds of millions of euro.

      They stood to make massive windfall profits from the agreed rezonings which have now been revoked by the ministerial order.

      Development land in Laois zoned for housing can fetch up to €400,000 an acre, depending on location, compared with just €15,000-23,000 for agricultural land.

      Mr Roche said yesterday that existing householders and new owners living in these villages faced inadequate water, sewage or school facilities if the plan, which involved dramatically increasing their population, had been permitted.

      It would have created a new generation of long-distance commuters consigned to a desperately poor quality of life, the minister told the Irish Independent yesterday.

      At the moment, there was enough land rezoned in Laois to cater for the entire region for another 15 years and the rezonings were only benefiting “a few landowners”, he said.

      Mr Roche said if Laois councillors – the majority of whom are Fine Gael – were not prepared to do their job properly, he would do it for them.

      “I cannot stand over bad planning. It is the families who live there and those that will move in that will suffer,” he said. “I am sending out a clear message that I am not going to tolerate bad planning. We should have learned the lessons of the past.

      “This is madness and is grossly irresponsible. . . . They were planning to turn some of the prettiest villages in the entire country into vast dormitory ones for commuters and create communities which would have to wait a generation for the necessary infrastructure.”

      The Laois plan would have increased the county’s population from 80,000 to more than 150,000.

      The villages affected are: Arles, Attanagh, Ballacolla, Ballinakill, Ballybrittas, Ballyfin, Ballylynan, Ballyroan, Borris-in-Ossory, Camross, Castletown, Clonaslee, Clough, Coolrain, Cullahill, Emo, Errill, Killeshin, Newtown-Doonane, Rosenallis, Shanahoe, the Swan, Timahoe and Vicarstown.

      The move was slammed by Fine Gael general election candidate Charlie Flanagan, a former TD, who claimed the decision was politically motivated.

      Michael Lalor (FG), cathaoirleach of the council, said most of the rescinded rezonings had not been supported by Fianna Fail councillors and he also believed the minister’s decision was politically motivated.

      “These were zoned with the best of intentions,” he said. “We have never witnessed anything like this and I don’t know what’s at the back of it. All those villages will be developed and we were putting things in order to allow that happen.”
      Treacy Hogan and Paul Melia
      © Irish Independent

    • #750094

      Isn’t it amazing what a few terse headlines can do?!

      E.g. – Dublin Housing Sprawl is Lashed as Worst in Europe (Evening Herald, 4 October 2006)

    • #750095

      too little too late, where was he when wicklow did similar in 04, and what did his predecessor do when meath councillors seemed to spill yellow paint all over their development plan in 01. It’s only because this council is run by FG that roche has got involved… politically motivated ar5e

    • #750096

      Spot on, alonso. I was thinking exactly the same thing.

      As per the above articles, anyone know whether the Offaly council is FG or FF dominated? (Or, for balance, PD, Green or Labour dominated… 🙂 ) That’d be an interesting comparison- too see if Mr Roche throws the book at them too.

      PS Worth highlighting: “I cannot stand over bad planning.” (Dick Roche) I always like a good laugh of a Friday afternoon.

    • #750097

      did anyone take a look at what the Laois councillors proposed. Sure, ther’s a dearth of good masterplans and village plans but there is NO zoning objective in Ireland which enforces such measures before the development.
      They must preceed the zoning in the first place. However, just because Laois Co.Co. enables the building of residential units does not mean a rush of everybody to live there. Villages should, with suitable community input, be able to expand in a controlled and planned way and not be limited in this because they happen to be within an hour’s drive of Dublin. There are more aspirant residents than just Dublin commuters. I think this decision by Roche IS political. He is trying to hold together a spatial strategy that is a sham. Remember, this is the guy who brought in the gombeen’s charter for one-off housing. He is planning’s nemesis

    • #750098

      This is a purely political decision. Laois Co Co is controlled by a rainbow grouping led by Fine Gael. Even the PD guy votes in line with this grouping. It is accepted that too much land was rezoned, bu the County Plan looks reasonable enough. Plenty of controls are included such as provison of services and schools.

      Is this not better than the situation in Meath, Kildare and Wicklow? Proper planning will go no-where in this Country until Roche is removed from his position of ineptness.:mad:
      Bring back Dempsey.

    • #750099
      Barry Hall

      At least it led to something I never thought I’d see – Kieran Cuffe and Dick Roche on radio agreeing with each other.

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