The Government has directed county managers to loosen restrictions on one-off housing by easing the contentious “locals-only” rule.
The directive to managers to revise county development plans is in response to a ruling by the European Commission that found the locals-only rule discriminatory.
The commission had questioned whether the locals-only rule is compatible with Articles 43 and 56 of the EC Treaty, which guarantee the freedom of establishment of business and the free movement of capital.
The locals-only rule is being used by 23 local authorities to control the spread of one-off housing in the countryside. Those local authorities have been directed by the Department of the Environment and Local Government to permit one-off housing where applicants, who have no connection to the local area, can show they base their businesses at their home.
The department said consideration should be given to those who operate a full-time business from their home and that the applicants outline how their business will contribute to and enhance the rural community.
The commission also raised questions over rules in two counties that insist applicants must speak Irish to secure planning.
In response, the department has told county managers that “policies and practices in relation to promotion and preservation of the Irish language in designated Gaeltacht areas are considered justified and proportionate, and continue to apply as outlined in the 2005 Sustainable Rural Housing Guidelines”.
Many councils attach “occupancy clauses” to planning permissions and the department has ordered that these clauses be streamlined in order to avoid distortions in how the EU internal market operates.
The directive is to result in the revision of development plans for counties Carlow; Clare; Cork; Donegal; Fingal; Galway; Kerry; Kildare; Kilkenny; Mayo; Meath; Monaghan; Laois; Longford; Limerick; Louth; Offaly; Sligo; Tipperary (North and South); Wexford; Westmeath and Wicklow.