Friday 19 December 2008

Planning changes may ‘depopulate’ west Cork

PROTESTS are to be held next week by west Cork residents angered by planning changes they believe could lead to further population falls in parts of west Cork.

The proposed designation of coastal areas around Castletownbere, Bantry and Schull as one of seven scenic landscape areas in the county, is to be voted on by members of Cork County Council when they meet on Monday. The changes, which were first proposed in August, are among a number of amendments to Cork County Development Plan put forward by planning officials.

Michael O’Sullivan, Cork chairman of the Irish Rural Dwellers’ Association and chair of Beara Chamber of Commerce, said the move could mean children of families around the Beara, Mizen Head and Sheep’s Head communities being unable to get permission for houses in the future.

“But it’s about much more than planning,” said Mr O’Sullivan. “This could depopulate rural west Cork when we’re supposed to be trying to get people moving in rather than frightening them away.

“The planners are trying to get all the people living in towns and villages instead of rural communities.”

He said up to 200 people could travel to Monday’s meeting at Cork County Hall to show their opposition to the changes.

Cork County Council said the draft amendments have been out for public consultation since August and are still being discussed, with any decision to be made by council members.

Six other scenic landscape areas are proposed along the Blackwater and Lee rivers, Cork and Kinsale harbours, Gougane Barra and the Clonakilty estuary.

Council documents circulated to members propose facilitation of tourism and recreation, and a sustainable approach to new development, including housing, which respects the existing character, pattern and tradition of the areas.

Cllr Noel Harrington, mayor of County Cork and a Beara peninsula representative for Fine Gael, has previously voiced his support for the designation.

He said in September that it will make it easier for people looking to build one-off housing to secure planning permission, as long as their sites are deemed suitable.

However, Mr O’Sullivan said that such suitability is not defined and will still be open to the interpretation of council planners.

A council spokesperson said any future development would be assessed on the impact it might have on the landscape’s character and the main aim of the development plan amendments are to protect scenic areas.

Councillors are also meeting today to reach decision on whether to agree to other planning designation changes, and it is expected that the new development plan will be adopted at a meeting on January 9.

Irish Examiner

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