‘The vision is there will be no more one-off housing in very rural settings in this country’

One-off housing in the countryside is set to become a thing of the past if new planning rules are implemented by local authorities around the country.

The new rules – which come on foot of the ‘Project Ireland 2040: National Planning Framework’ – will encourage more focused settlements in this country where ‘cluster living’ around towns and villages will emerge.

The framework states that rural communities are facing challenges now ranging from urban generated pressures and declining and ageing populations in some locations, to the structure of the economy and lack of access to quality infrastructure and new technologies in others.

Meanwhile, AgriLand understands that throughout this year, and over the next 12 to 18 months, the rules will be inserted into county development plans and that, as a direct result, members of a landowner’s family will no longer be granted planning permission to build a house on the land.

‘Serious ramifications’

Local area representative in Co. Longford, member of the Border, Midland and Western Regional Assembly and suckler farmer, P.J. Reilly, says the move has been in the pipeline for the last few years.

He also warned of the “serious ramifications for the future of rural living and the family farm” as a result.

What all of this means is that planning applications for one-off housing by family members – a son or daughter, for example – on a family farm will be refused by the local authority.

He continued: “It’s all part of the 2020-2040 plan for Ireland that involves ‘cluster planning’ for rural Ireland.

“This means that all developments – including housing, infrastructure, etc – would be centered around towns and villages in rural Ireland but not in the countryside.”

‘Clustering together’

Reilly went on to say that a radius of a certain distance will be established around towns and villages thus allowing for development only inside of that radius.

In many counties that distance has not yet been determined and will only come to light when the next round of county development plans are made public.

“Basically, people who live outside of a certain distance of the village or town hub in their locality will not be granted planning permission to build on their own land,” continued Reilly, who also pointed to the environment and its role in these latest planning developments.

“This is coming down the line because of the emphasis on the environment and the distribution of infrastructure and services to people living in rural Ireland.

“If people are living in these so-called clusters then services like water, sewerage, public transport, etc., can be provided for everyone. It would also mean that people could access amenities that are available to them locally more easily.”

‘Future demands’

Meanwhile, the Co. Longford councillor pointed to the demands on services in the countryside where many residents have individual septic tanks, water supply etc.

“Many people who live in the countryside have their own private wells and septic tanks and in recent years the focus on these septic tanks and their contribution to environmental pollution has been examined,” he continued.

Local authorities have had inspectors out all over the country – for the last 12 months – examining septic tank set-ups, carrying out percolation tests and compiling data as a result.

“And, to be honest with you, it’s not good news for rural dwellers – the attitude is that if housing developments continue in the countryside the issues surrounding septic tanks will be exacerbated.”

All of these changes, says Reilly, will become more specific when the next set of county development plans are released in the various counties.

‘The vision’

In his native Longford the next plan is due in 2020/21 and it is this very offering that will determine where one-off housing will be allowed in the county and where it won’t.

The vision is that there will be no more one-off housing in very rural settings in this country.

He continued: “We would envisage that where the real difficulties with this new regime will arise is when a son, daughter, niece or nephew wants to build a house on family land.

“It is also going to affect the agricultural side of things as well because for people inheriting land in the future the big question is: Will they continue farming that land?

“The pressure that is on the family farm will prove to be a big factor in all off this.

“And, at the moment it appears that the only profit to be made in farming is by being involved in dairying but the reality is that dairy farming doesn’t suit everyone.”