Thursday 14 May 2009

Meetings to gather evidence of bizarre planning

CAMPAIGNERS fighting for new planning laws in west Cork have arranged two public meetings to collect case studies of bizarre planning decisions for review by the county manager.

Anyone from the region who has faced planning hurdles or who feels they have been treated unfairly by the planning process was urged last night to attend the meetings.

The first takes place in the Cametringane Hotel in Castletownbere at 9pm on Friday. The second takes place at 9pm next Tuesday in the Harbour View Hotel in Schull.

The Bantry electoral area’s five sitting councillors, as well as candidates for the June 5 local elections, have been invited to attend.

The meetings have been organised by a group which led a major protest at County Hall in April over the planned designation of vast areas of west Cork as Special Scenic Landscape.

The Special Scenic Landscape committee led 300 protesters in a rally outside council headquarters to vent their anger at planning guidelines, which they say are destroying rural communities.

The campaigners, mainly from the peninsula areas of Beara, Mizen and Sheep’s Head, took over the council’s chamber.

Committee secretary Finbarr Harrington said people in the region face restrictive planning guidelines. The Special Scenic Landscape designation would have made "a bad situation many times worse", said Mr Harrington.

He cited one case of a man in his 40s, who lives on the family farm with his elderly mother and wheelchair-bound father, but who has been unable to get planning permission over the last three years for a small wheelchair accessible bungalow on a site on the farm.

"This is a genuine case if ever there was one but the planners have done everything in their power to block it," said Mr Harrington.

In another case, Mr Harrington said a couple, who returned from the US to Urhan five years ago to raise their children, still haven’t been able to get planning permission for a house on the family farm.

One of the reasons for refusal, Mr Harrington said, was because the site is outside the village nuclei of Urhan.

"But there is no village of Urhan," he said.

Following the April protest, county manager Martin Riordan said he would review 100 cases.

Mr Harrington urged anyone who thinks their planning case should be reviewed to come to the public meetings.

"We accept that guidelines have to be there but they have to be transparent," he said.

"We don’t want uncontrolled planning.

"The system must be open, transparent, fair and equal to everyone."

Irish Examiner

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