MINISTER FOR the Environment John Gormley is expected to intervene in the drawing of the new Ennis development plan after members of Clare County Council, contrary to national policy, loosened rules for one-off housing.
A special council meeting on the adoption of the draft Ennis and Environs Plan was told that a submission from Mr Gormley's department had made it clear that the development plan was not compatible with national policy or with the National Spatial Strategy.
The council's senior executive planner, John Bradley, also told councillors that their decision to allow exceptions for one-off homes along national routes in the draft plan "is not consistent with national policy and is going against National Roads Authority policy".
Responding to a call by Fianna Fáil councillor Bernard Hanrahan to further loosen restrictions on one-off housing in the countryside, Mr Bradley said: "We can do no more and are likely to be told by the department to remove what is in the plan."
Mr Bradley said that the council had loosened up restrictions on one-off housing rather than tightened them up.
Last year, when members of Monaghan County Council chose to ignore a department directive on what should be in the county development plan, Mr Gormley used special powers to make the department's suggested changes.
Fianna Fáil councillor PJ Kelly said there were "terrible clouds" coming from a submission by the department to Clare County Council.
In its submission on the draft plan, the department said that the controls on the establishment of housing in countryside areas should be reviewed.
The department states that there were a number of terms and phrases, "which if not defined clearly and precisely, would create the potential for significant numbers of new residential houses in the countryside areas".
In a separate submission, the National Roads Authority has told the council to eliminate exceptions that it has included in the draft plan to allow one-off homes on national routes.
The department backed up the roads authority's submission by stating that its exceptions listed for one-off housing on national routes were not in line with national policy.
In the draft plan, the council is proposing to allow the development of one-off homes on national routes for farmers and their sons and daughters working on the land.
However, councillors have rejected the contents of the roads authority's submission, prompting Mr Bradley to sound his warning that the draft plan was contrary to national policy.
The Ennis draft plan is to now on display for a further period and has to be adopted by December 8th.
The Irish Times