Council hears that the Wee County is running out of ‘suitable sites’ to build a house in the country

The Argus

There has been a huge increase in the number of planning applications to build ‘a house in the country’ councillors heard at their monthly meeting.

Around 30% more applications to build homes in rural areas are being made to the local authority, it emerged, with a warning that as a small county, Louth is running out of ‘suitable sites’

In some cases, there are applications from six or seven members of the same family to build houses in the same field.

The meeting heard that there were concerns that the new County Development Plan would lead to changes in the ability to build a house beside family in the country.

Cllr. Paula Butterly said that rural communities were going to be ‘greatly impacted’ by the introduction of the new County Development plan.

She asked what the backlog was for applicants seeking planning, and if that number were to be compared to a pre- Covid period, if this was greater or less than it is now.

“My worry is that even though we might not necessarily have been impacted by COVID, but there are a lot of delays, particularly with planning meetings, and getting further information. The whole process for the applicant has been affected by COVID.”

She added that councillors had been told at the meeting that they were not in a position to delay the adoption of the plan, but there were people who, in normal times, would have been granted permission under their ‘Local Needs planning’ to build their own house in the countryside.

"Let’s not forget that this is probably going to be the most important decision a family will ever make, building their own home, that now because of delays, are probably going to be denied or refused planning permission, and this is likely to have a big impact on rural communities in Louth.”

Chief Executive Joan Martin said she would be ‘hugely surprised’ to hear of any backlog in the planning office, as there were large numbers of applications being dealt with, particularly for one off houses, every week.

She said that anyone who applies now to build a one off house, it is unlikely to be dealt with under the current County Development Plan, as there was not enough time remaining under the plan for a decision to be made.

She added that there was a ‘high number of refusals’ at the moment, which was evident from the lists of planning decisions.

The Chief Executive added that in some cases there were applications coming in from ‘an entire family’ and the quality of the applications was “very poor” and there had been no pre -planning done.”

‘The situation is that the number of planning applications for one off houses is very, very high.”

The meeting heard that there was an average 30% increase in the number of applications of this type, with planning officials highlighting that “there are fields where there are six and seven applications from the same family to build houses.”

Councillors were told that ‘Louth is a small county, and we are starting to run out of suitable sites. Urban development is a huge issue and it is being exacerbated by the number of applications that are coming through the system.”

But members heard that as the local authority gets closer to the introduction of a new County Development Plan ‘no one will be disenfranchised’ if they do meet a genuine local need for planning and are able to qualify under the old plan.