THE DEPARTMENT of the Environment has warned Clare County Council that is it likely to miss out on Government infrastructural investment unless it reverses rezoning decisions for the greater Ennis area.
The department has also told the council that its rezoning of land for housing may result in possible legal action from the European Commission. The intervention by the department follows the council rezoning land to cater for a population growth from 30,000 to 100,000 when the department says the likely increase is only 6,500.
In adopting the Greater Ennis Development Plan last December, councillors snubbed Minister for the Environment John Gormley by ignoring his recommendations to reverse rezonings of large tracts of land. Instead of tightening restrictions on one-off housing, councillors loosened the rules.
Now, in a letter to the council from the Minister’s private secretary, Eddie Kiernan, seen by The Irish Times, he has told the council it has rezoned land to cater for population growth from almost 30,000 to over 100,000. Mr Kiernan said the department believes the rezonings are “unsustainable” and that the expected population growth over the period of the plan is only 6,500.
He said: “In such circumstances and without any clear phasing of lands for development, the plan provides for an ad-hoc and development-led approach to planning, making the efficient and orderly provision of physical and social infrastructure more difficult to achieve.” He added: “In the current economic climate, departments and agencies must consider how they should prioritise their resources to deliver best value for money.
“However, without a development plan that is coherent and consistent with regional and national policies and indeed with growth forecasts set down in the county development plan and housing strategy, the Ennis and environs plan as adopted fails to provide the necessary framework underpinning the value for money for infrastructural investment.
Mr Kiernan said department officials will arrange a meeting with the council on the matters raised. The issue is also likely to be discussed by the council at its February meeting.