Impact of the National Planning Framework on the new Clare County Development Plan

I am concerned the lack of ambition being shown by the state will negatively impact on our own ambitions here in Clare to ensure our rural and coastal communities can grow and thrive.

Published on May 21, 2021

Motion Text

“Can I be provided with answers to the following questions relating to the new Clare County Development Plan?

  • a) Will The ‘Methodology for a Tiered Approach to Land Zoning’ as detailed in Appendix 3 of the National Planning Framework (NPF) be implemented for the new County Development Plan.
  • b) Will the implementation of Appendix 3, as written in the NPF, mean lands currently zoned in some of our towns and villages will fall outside the definition of both Tier 1 and Tier 2 and result in them being de-zoned?
  • c) Has the planning directorate in CCC already assessed the county for those lands, currently zoned, that will not be included as Tier 1 and Tier 2 and are likely to be de- zoned?
  • d) If not, when is it planned to undertake this assessment?
  • e) When can we expect the results of this assessment to be furnished to us?”

Thank the DOS for his reply, and for providing us with some public clarity around the potential impact the NPF will have on an as yet unknown number of communities in our rural towns and villages under the new CDP. The NPF tells us there will be a two-tier approach to the zoning of land; Tier 1, ‘serviced zoned land’, land currently zoned for development which already has access to existing services; Tier 2, ‘serviceable zoned land’, land that may not have all services in place but will do so within the lifetime of the CDP.

To comply with this directive, our planning department will have to look at our existing settlements, look at the lands currently zoned for development within them, assess whether they are currently serviced, or will be serviced by 2028, with such things as roads, footpaths, public lighting, mains water, waste water connections, surface water drainage.

Provision of some of these services is under our own control… but critically, Irish Water will have to commit to providing water and wastewater treatment to those towns and villages between now and 2028. If they don’t, these lands should be de-zoned, and in the words of our director of service, ‘it will be a challenge for CCC to facilitate growth in un-serviced towns and villages while complying with the NPF objectives’. I admire the Directors diplomacy, it will not be a ‘challenge’, it will be an impossibility and rolling over and accepting it will demonstrate a staggering lack of ambition by this council for the future sustainability of our rural and coastal communities… we are refusing planning permission weekly on the basis of visual impact or percolation tests in the countryside, the message has been clear for many years, move into our towns and villages, we have been told ad nauseam the sustainability of rural Ireland hinges on regeneration of our existing towns and villages, and yet, rather than instructing, and funding, IW to deliver the basic infrastructure required to ensure those settlements can grow, we are giving them a free pass and de-zoning the land instead. This can only be described as the premeditated and planned depopulation of the countryside.

Covid has been a blight for many reasons, it does however offer a real ray of hope for rural and coastal communities, as the capacity to work from home has been embraced, thousands of people have started to query where their home can be…and of course the answer is anywhere, a fact borne out by a recent survey of estate agents who cite huge increase in demand for rural homes from those who are working ad renting in the cities and no longer need do so.

This seismic shift in work practices is as significant as the industrial revolution; it can be a primary driver for the balanced regional development we have been hearing about for years.
This shift in work practices also brings the relevance of the NPF as written into question… does it now actually support us, or prevent us, in taking advantage of the opportunity remote work provides in delivering future growth for our communities, who deserve to be supported by the state through proper ambitious intervention in the delivery of services that will enable them to thrive in the future…

However, there is a chink of light… and I thank my colleague Cllr Lynch for pointing out the use of language, much of the NPF objectives are non ambiguous, they issue clear instructions as to what will be done… however, in this case, appendix 3 says these lands ‘should’ not be zoned… this ambiguity opens the door to us taking control of this situation.

I am concerned the lack of ambition being shown by the state, or that of a semi state commercial organisation, will negatively impact on our own ambitions here in Clare to ensure our rural and coastal communities can grow and thrive. I know many of my MD colleagues share the same concerns.

So, I for one, will not in the future vote to ratify a CDP that proposes to de-zone land in any town and village in the county. I would hope my fellow councillors would support me in this.

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