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Caution urged on planning changes despite end of ‘local need’

John Mulholland
Laois County Council Chief Executive John Mulholland. Picture: Alf Harvey

The council should hold to its current guidelines according to Laois County Council CEO John Mulholland, despite the ‘local need’ policy being abolished following a European Court of Justice ruling.

Cllr Jerry Lodge had a motion before the council’s monthly meeting asking the council to ‘alter its rural housing guidelines to incorporate the ruling by the European Court of Justice regarding the distinction between locals and non-locals’.

“People who want to settle down and live in Laois should be allowed to. You shouldn’t have to show that your relatives, going back four or five generations, came from the area,” he said.

He said when it comes to their own housing waiting list, they aren’t allowed distinguish between someone who is local and someone who isn’t.

The local authority will soon be upgrading its local development plan, Cllr Willie Aird said.

“I never agreed with it. A planning application should stand on its own.” he said of the policy. He added that a planning application should be judged on issue such as whether another septic tank would overload the system in the area.

The guidelines are still in place until a new county development plan is brought in, Cllr Mary Sweeney said.

“I would recommend we hold our position,” Mr Mulholland said, until national policy and guidelines are issued.

He said a wrong judgement call could leave the council open to a legal challenge.

Cllr Lodge urged that the write to the Minister for the Environment so that they can update their new county development plan.

No restrictions

Planner Donal Kiely said 70 per cent of the land in Laois has no local need restrictions. He said it is only areas in high demand, such as Portlaoise. Portarlington and Carlow, where people have to demonstrate local need.

For the vast majority of cases, planning decisions are made on the physical side of things, director of services Donal Brennan said. Planning refusals would focus on the physical problems with the site, he said.

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A journalist for over 20 years, David has worked for a number of regional titles both as journalist and editor. From Tullamore he also works as a content editor for Independent.ie. His heroes include Shane Lowry, Seamus Darby and Johnny Flaherty