DESPITE strong warnings from county manager Martin Riordan and senior planning officials, councillors in Kerry are continuing to rezone an excess amount of land for housing, planners have claimed.
Mr Riordan warned the council could be sued in regard to future planning decisions, as land for hundreds more houses than will be needed has been rezoned around villages in the Tralee/Killarney hub.
He described some cases of rezoning as leapfrogging on a “grand scale”, saying it was his duty to issue a formal warning that the council could be sued by developers if An Bord Pleanála refused planning permission for the rezoned land.
An Taisce claimed some of the rezonings were for the benefit of the landowners and developers rather than the community, while Independent Councillor Brendan Cronin said it was time for planning decisions to be taken out of councillors’ hands.
Senior planning engineer Tom Sheehy pointed out that the rural village of Kilcummin, near Killarney, would become bigger than the town of Dingle if all land in the area zoned for development was built on. He said Kilcummin already had enough land zoned for the equivalent of 532 houses, or 1,600 people.
But councillors decided, on the proposal of South Kerry Independent Alliance Cllr Michael Gleeson, to rezone another parcel of land, near Kilcummin, which could potentially provide housing for 500 people.
Mr Riordan strongly advised against this rezoning.
However, Independent Cllr Michael Healy-Rae said young people could no longer afford to purchase houses in towns like Killarney and Kenmare. Kilcummin was a suitable area for affordable housing, which was badly needed, he maintained.
Mr Sheehy described as outrageous another rezoning near Beaufort, Killarney.
This rezoning, led by Fine Gael Cllr John O’Connor and Fianna Fáil Cllr Colin Miller, involved seven acres at the foot of the MacGillycuddy Reeks. The land is beside a church and school, but does not form part of Beaufort village.
Mr Sheehy showed a five-minute video of the distance between the village and the land, which, he said, was at least half a mile down a narrow road. There were no footpaths and no lighting.
Mr O’Connor said there were other housing developments in the area and the proposal would include a childcare and educational facility and a playground. There was a need for housing in the area alongside a church and school, he felt.
The Tralee/Killarney hub area includes 20 villages surrounding the towns and is a designated development hub under the national spatial strategy.