Tuesday 19 June 2007

EU to give ruling on planning guidelines

A European Union ruling on the legitimacy of planning guidelines in 22 counties which favour people connected to the locality is imminent.

The EU has completed an investigation of county development plans on foot of a complaint against Wicklow County Council from a man from outside the county who wanted to purchase a plot of land there.

Speaking on RTÉ radio yesterday, the director of the EU's office in Ireland, Martin Territt, confirmed that an EU citizen had complained about the restrictions in Wicklow.

"We've had a look now over the past couple of months at these type of restrictions and they're not just confined to Co Wicklow, we find them in about 22 of the 26 county development plans and clearly we feel that there's an issue here.

"It will be considered by representatives of the commissioners this week and will go to the College of Commissioners next week on June 27th."

He said that if the commission decided to issue a letter of formal notice on the planning guidelines, the Government would then have two months to respond.

Issues such as freedom of capital movement and the right of establishment would have to be considered, he said, issues that were "at the very core of membership of the European Union".

"The European Court has held these freedoms dear to its heart," Mr Territt added.

However, he said it was "too early to be black and white about what the future might hold" and that the outcome of proceedings would have to be awaited.

The restrictions have also been used to limit the number of new homes which end up as holiday homes and remain vacant for most of the year.

A spokesman for Minister for the Environment John Gormley said yesterday that although the department was aware of the situation with regard to the complaint against Ireland, it was not planned to do anything about it at this time.

The department would await the notice which would issue from the commission before deciding what, if any, action to take.

Tim O'Brien
© 2007 The Irish Times

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