THE number of planning applications received by Cork County Council in the first three months of this year is down more than half on the boom years of 2006 and 2007.
Figures released yesterday by Ireland’s largest local authority show that just 350 applications were received in January, 478 in February and 451 in March.
The county council received a record total of 12,814 applications in 2006 and the following year the figure fell marginally to 12,632.
The average number of applications per month in 2006 was 1,067 compared with just 426 this year.
If that continues to be the trend the county council will get just 5,142 planning applications for 2009, which is also dramatically down on last year’s figure of 8,687.
Downturns in planning applications may reflect the economic slump, but they also have significant financial implications for Cork County Council.
The local authority receives millions of euro each year from development contributions — charges levied on builders which the council uses to fund vital infrastructure projects such as water, sewerage and road schemes.
Joe O’Brien, chairman of the Cork branch of the Construction Industry Federation (CIF), said it came as no surprise to hear that planning applications were dramatically down.
"It’s an indication of how badly private house building is going at the moment," Mr O’Brien said.
The CIF has also noticed that larger projects, featuring 100, 200 or 300 homes, had become rarities compared with 2006 and 2007.
"That’s understandable because houses just aren’t selling at the moment. In 2006 we built 90,000 houses nationally, whereas demand is usually between 45,000 and 50,000 houses. There is no way that could have continued," Mr O’Brien said.
He said builders had hoped for a more orderly drop-off, but the world recession had made it a more dramatic decline.
"People working in the private sector won’t purchase because they are worried about their jobs," the CIF branch chairman said.
However, he believes that 2010 will be a better year.
"I don’t think house prices will drop any further. 2009 will be the year it will bottom out and things will start to improve," Mr O’Brien said.