KERRY County Council has been slated in a damning report on planning policies and practices in Ireland, issued by national heritage body An Taisce.
However, the review's findings have been roundly dismissed by Kerry County Council who say the report is "skewed" and fails to take account of many local factors.
A review of Ireland's planning system released by An Tasice this week states that, when it comes to planning matters, Kerry County Council has the fourth worst record of the country's 34 city and county councils.
Kerry County Council received an F-grade and a score of just 60 out of a maximum 272 from An Taisce, who graded councils based on eight criteria including levels of overzoning and vacant housing, the number of overturned planning decisions and planning enforcement policies.
An Taisce said Kerry is one of the most over zoned counties in Ireland and has a huge volume of vacant housing. The heritage body was also highly critical of Kerry County Council's planning enforcement policies.
The review highlights that, on average, Kerry County Council has taken legal action in just three three per cent of cases where a developer has failed to comply with a planning enforcement notice.
The review also states that Kerry has the fourth highest level of over-zoning in the country with approximately 1,900 hectares of land zoned for residential housing. That's enough to provide housing for 155,610 people - 10,000 more people than actually live in Kerry.
Kerry County Council has responded to the An Taisce report by issueing a statement, which, while accepting some of the findings, claims much of the review is skewed and contains many unfair comparisons. "It is accepted that during the Celtic Tiger years, there was significant over-zoning of land in Kerry. This is being addressed in the current review of Local Area Plans, which has already seen large tracts of land de-zoned," said the statement.
This process of de-zoning some 4,000 acres of land will wipe over €1 billion off the peak values of the potential building sites that remain scattered around the county.
The statement adds that in the years covered by the report, from 2000 to 2011 there were "significant pressures" on the planning department of Kerry County Council due to the number of planning applications submitted in that time.
"Attempting to compare local authorities with one another in relation to planning in no way takes into account the difference in size, terrain, geography, urban or rural setting and population density," the council argues.
Kerry County Council said that some of the categories used by An Taisce for the report are skewed by particular local issues. For example, a large number of applications for telecommunications masts were refused because of the 1km rule in the Kerry County Development Plan but these are routinely overturned by An Bord Pleanala.
"Additionally, Kerry, with a strong tourist industry, would have a larger number of holiday homes than non-tourist counties, many of which would be classed as vacant during the last census," the council said.