An updated guideline document for rural housing is expected to be published by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage (DHLGH) next month (March).

Independent TD Seán Canney has received confirmation from housing minister Dara O’Brien that his department is finalising an updated document with a draft due to be complete by the end of March.

The independent deputy said that the new guidelines are necessary following a successful challenge against the Flemish decree in the European Court of Justice (ECJ) which ruled that the decree was disproportionate and contrary to EU freedoms.

Flemish decree

The Flemish decree relates to a case in 2013, when the ECJ had to consider a law in the Flemish region of Belgium that limited the transfer of property to persons with a “sufficient connection” to the locality.

The court ruled that the Flemish decree breached EU law as it constituted an unjustified restriction on the free movement of people.

“I welcome progress on this planning issue which is having a profound negative effect on people who want to build houses in rural Ireland,” deputy Canney said.

“I wait with interest to see if the new guidelines [being drafted by the DHLGH] reflect the decision of the ECJ and allow people freedom to build homes in rural areas.

In view of the fact that we cannot build housing in settlement centres where sewage treatment is not available, we need to be flexible in our approach to rural housing.

“Young people have the right to build their homes and raise their families in rural areas where they themselves were born; this will ensure that communities remain sustainable and the rural schools can survive,” deputy Canney concluded.