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01 Jul 2022

Laois plan on high rise apartments, rural houses and windfarms may be overruled

Laois plan on high rise apartments, rural houses and windfarms may be overruled

House in rural Ireland. Laois councillors vote for zoning may be overruled by Minister

Attempts by Laois county councillors to allow people to build houses in the countryside, and to ban high rise buildings and limit windfarms may all be in vain.

Councillors have voted this Tuesday January 25 against making recommended changes to the new Laois County Development Plan 2021 - 2027, by the Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR).

They have also gone against the recommendation of Laois County Council, and against national planning guidelines.

Cllr Padraig Fleming proposed to stick to the current Laois zones for rural housing, saying that the new zoning meant people would have to be living in a rural area for 12 years before they would qualify to get planning. 

"It effectively wipes out 80% of new rural houses, forcing people into villages and towns. The effect will be devastating," he said.

All councillors supported his proposal except Cllr Aidan Mullins who said the zoning may prevent "bungalow blight". 

Cllr Fleming also proposed not to take the OPR's recommendation on reducing windfarm setback from houses from 1.5km to 0.5km in the draft plan. 

"Everyone is for renewable energy once it is not affecting people's homes," he said. Councillors unanimously agreed with him.

Laois councillors also had attempted a 1.5km setback in the current development plan in 2017, effectively removing all of Laois from wind zones. Back then it was overruled by a Ministerial Directive, and the council also faced legal action from windfarm companies. 

Portlaoise Cllr Caroline Dwane Stanley led a proposal to again go against the OPR to retain a new ban on any high rise buildings above three stories on greenfield sites in Laois. She said that even three storeys is a compromise.

"We need a reality check. We don't need Ballymun in Portlaoise. We are not living in Dublin, we live in a rural urban constituency. We are very concerned at apartments built already and planned. We are told they are suited for over 50s, they want to pack and stack them. Peole want small back gardens," she said. 

Her proposal was passed by most of the councillors. 

The OPR will now be informed of the decisions and may then ask the Minister for Planning Daragh O'Brien to send a directive to enforce his powers and amend the Laois plan.

Hearing that they may well be overruled anyway, Cllr Ashling Moran described her and her colleagues as "puppets".

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