House buying rules imposed by Wexford County Council which limit prospective home owners to living outside a 7km radius of urban centres in the county need to be changed as they are killing villages across the county.
This is the view of Cllr John Fleming, along with several councillors, who raised the issue. The meeting heard that proof must be furnished that a housing applicant either lives in an area or has done in the past if they are to have a chance of getting approved for planning. A council spokesperson said guidance is given to people moving to the county for a job, for instance.
Director of Servies Tony Larkin said: 'We will accept reasonable evidence of jobs in parts of the county, but that doesn't mean something written on the back of an envelope. An awful lot of people chance their arm over plans all the time. It's our job to weed out the people with a genuine need from developers looking to build. The number of sites are limited so we want them to be available for people with a local need. These can be people from outside the area who previously lived here.'
Mr Larkin said sites are scarce, especially in north Wexford. 'We know the pressures that come on. We are trying not to be unreasonable while continuing to enforce local need.'
He said councillors can alert him to particular cases but in three out of four cases planners refusals are found to be justified.
'I have seen people downsizing from 1800sq ft houses to 3,000 sq ft houses and I have seen shop assistants apply to build 3,000 sq ft houses on Tara Hill in Gorey.'
Mr Larkin said the county development plan is coming up this summer. 'If you are not happy with it it would be entirely appropriate to change it then.'
Cllr Jim Moore said the council's policy needs to be communicated better to people, pointing out that he knows a fisherman who is having difficulty proving that he is living in an area as he works at sea most of the time.
Cllr Michael Whelan said a major development was recently granted planning permission to a developer who left a housing estate in north Wexford in an 'appalling state'.
'He has been given planning permission to create another one. Now these developers can come back using the same name and build dodgy estates for the future. There is no way Irish Water would take them over.'
Cllr Felming said new families cannot move into villages. 'I know a man in Duncormick who can't build a house in Murrintown. It's totally too restrictive. Our villages are dying and we are choking them. People are being herded into cities like what happened in Cork and Dublin. It's having a hugely negative effect on rural commuities and villages.'
Cllr Mary Farrell said she welcomes that the new county development plan will be reviewed. 'I think the intepretation of it is very misleading.'
She said people are being encouraged to extend their houses, citing the example of one person who was advised not to apply for planning because they already had a house.
'I think we are taking it too far,' she said.