Tuesday 25 September 2007

Freeze on rural housing?

Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Éamon Ó Cuív has called for a freeze on all new housing developments in commuter-belt villages like Barna, Co Galway, until adequate infrastructure is in place.

The Minister made his call on the eve of a crucial Galway County Council debate today on Barna's draft local area plan.

Unless a plan can provide specific infrastructure, such as schools, sporting areas and sewerage facilities, it should be postponed until such time as it has these commitments, Mr Ó Cuív told The Irish Times.

He cites Co Meath as an example where developers must sign up to land transfer directly to schools and sports clubs in advance of any zoning and planning approval for housing.

"Specifics like these, which could be pinned down in a plan within eight weeks, could avoid eight years of heartache by communities which were promised facilities and never got them," said Mr Ó Cuív.

A community group, Pobal Bhearna, has urged Galway county councillors to resist pressure from developers to make alterations to the draft plan.

According to the group, such alterations could pave the way for more intensive sprawl in the former fishing harbour, which lies several miles west of Galway city.

A strategic environmental assessment prepared for Galway County Council by CAAS Environmental Services Ltd shows serious pollution in the Truskey river catchment which drains a "sizeable portion" of Barna lands.

The report finds the most likely cause of the pollution is the use of septic tanks for waste water by over 93 per cent of Barna's population.

Pobal Bhearna has also met Connemara councillors but fears that developers are putting pressure on councillors from other parts of the county to try and influence the final blueprint today.

Lorna Siggins

© 2007 The Irish Times 24.09.07

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