Friday, 20 April 2007

Communities fear slow death of country life

HURLING and football clubs in neighbouring rural parishes are being forced to amalgamate in order to survive, it was claimed yesterday.

The disclosure came as national planning policies came under attack.

A conference heard families were being forced to live in urban areas as the population in rural areas continued to declined.

Enforced urbanisation was at the core of planning policies and planning applications for one-off houses in rural areas were being refused in order to swell the populations of towns and cities, it was stated at the Irish Rural Dwellers’ Association (IRDA) annual conference, in Killarney.

One delegate had underlined the difficulties facing organisations such as the GAA.

Speaker after speaker voiced dissatisfaction with planning policies which, it had been claimed, were being fully endorsed by the Government.

Most political parties, it was suggested, saw “enforced urbanisation” as a means of saving money.

IRDA acting secretary Jim Connolly said enforced urbanisation was at the core of planning ideology in Ireland.

Prof Seamus Caulfield said CSO figures, due out next week, would show a drop in those living in dispersed settlement patterns in rural areas where, according to the 2002 statistics, 33% of the population lived.

In some parishes in north Mayo, he said, there had been a 42% decline in the last 20 years, which was a startling statistic in less than one generation.

“If the grouse or snipe or salmon declined by over 40% in half a generation, there would be a crisis declared for that species.

“Why isn’t there a crisis declared for homo sapiens,” Prof Caulfield asked.

He said so-called critical mass, to create cities, was one of the more daft ideas of the National Spatial Strategy (NSS). “The idea that rural people should be urban fodder is a daft idea but also an insult to rural people that they should be used as fodder to build up urban populations,” he said.

Independent Offaly Cllr Johnny Butterfield told the conference that Tullamore, Athlone and Mullingar were designated a gateway under the NSS. In Tullamore, the population was set to grow by thousands, but this could only be achieved at the expense of rural areas by restricting planning in those areas.

“Developers in these towns are licking their lips,” Cllr Butterfield said.

Irish Examiner

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