'Farmers are desperate to build on family land' - Proposal to make it easier build on 'poor quality' land
87pc of Leitrim land does not meet EPA standards for one-off housing
Rural planning permissions are being denied because of the stringent approach of the EPA guidelines for rural housing, Sinn Fein's Martin Kenny told the Dail this week.
He was introducing a new bill which would make it easier for people to obtain planning permission in areas where land quality is poor.
Deputy Kenny said the EPA's code of practice which came into effect in 2010 stated that if the soil on a site was too dense and failed the percolation test, the result would be what they call zero emissions or zero discharge.
In other words, no matter how well the treatment system on site treated the effluent, even if it treated it to drinking water standard, a cup of that water is not allowed into a river or stream.
"The effect in places like Leitrim, where almost 90pc of the soil will not pass the percolation test, has meant that, over the past number of years, in many rural parishes where there is no town or alternative, there can be no planning permission.
"People have been denied permission to build a house and to live in their own community, where they grew up, or to send their children to the schools they went to themselves and have their children play for the football club that they played for.
"That is the effect it has had. It has, if one likes, sterilised whole communities and, in large areas of Co. Leitrim and other areas in the west, rural communities are in decline.
"People deserve to be able to live where they choose to live," Deputy Kenny said.
Sligo-Leitrim TD Eamon Scanlon echoed those views saying that in total, 87pc of Leitrim land does not meet EPA standards.
"Families and couples hoping to develop family farms and build on their family land are unable to do so.
"All farmers are desperate to build on their family land and it is important for the proper running of the farm that they are living on the land," Fianna Fail TD said.
Under his proposed bill, local authorities would be allowed to issue a discharge licence for a single house where the effluent is treated to the highest standard possible. "The standard about which we are talking is bathing water standard, Deputy Kenny said.
He said at the moment discharge licences are really only available for very large projects or industrial units.
The Government is looking for the further progress of the bill through the Oireachtas to be deferred to allow for the conclusion of work by the rural water review group which is examining the issue.
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