THE controversial ban on one-off houses along the nation's secondary roads is to be scrapped, the Irish Independent has learned.
But new developments, such as fast-food restaurants and giant warehouse-type retail outlets, are to be completely banned from motorway and dual-carriageway interchanges on the main primary network.
Environment Minister John Gormley is proposing to give councils powers to allow one-off developments on main secondary roads under new planning guidelines.
The move is certain to be welcomed by Fianna Fail councillors and deputies who have vehemently opposed the ban -- which has been supported by the Mr Gormley's Green Party.
The ban on fast-food restaurants and warehouse-type outlets from motorway and dual- carriageway interchanges is designed to stop the creation of unnecessary local traffic mixing with cars and trucks moving along the primary national road network.
Currently, there is a cordon sanitaire -- or quarantine line -- on developments on main primary and secondary routes.
The changes give new flexibility for one-off houses and other developments on secondary routes that are not going to be upgraded in the near future by the National Roads Authority (NRA).
The new guidelines are due to be published shortly. They mean that shopping and other commercial developments will not be permitted at key interchanges, such as that at Blundlestown on the new M3, which runs through the Skryne valley in Co Meath.
The NRA routinely objects to one-off houses along main roads because of the dangers involved in cars moving on to and off the roads interacting with fast-moving trucks and cars.
However, the new guidelines giving the green light to housing and other developments will apply only to secondary roads that are not going to be upgraded.
It is expected that normal safety criteria for main secondary roads will apply and will not be affected by the changes.
The ban on one-off houses on the main inter-urban primary routes will remain, due to those same safety concerns.
The planning guidelines will be put out to public consultation, after which they will be finalised.
Local authorities and An Bord Pleanala will then have to take account of the guidelines when deciding on planning applications and any objections to them.
Another feature of the new guidelines is that developments already in place on motorway or dual-carriageway interchanges cannot be altered for other uses.
For instance, a retail shopping premises could not be turned into a fast-food outlet.
Treacy Hogan Environment Correspondent