An image of a planned development in Rathevan, Portlaoise, Laois.
All seven Portlaoise councillors are opposed to a Government housing scheme that may see 417 new homes approved for the Laois county town by October in a fast tracked decision by An Bord Pleanála.
Two proposed developments would bring hundreds more houses and apartments for the Stradbally road and Dublin road.
However Portlaoise councillors are up in arms that the decision is out of Laois County Council's hands, and want Laois to be exempt from the national scheme.
The Strategic Housing Developments scheme was set up to solve the nationwide housing and student accommodation shortage by fast tracking large estates and apartment blocks.
The only two plans proposed for Laois so far are in Portlaoise.
Boderg Developments who built Graigavern Lodge estate in Ballybrittas, proposes to build 155 home in Foxburrow, Beladd.
Thomas Kelly & Sons Group, builders of Conniberry Estate among others, is seeking permission for 262 units, a creche and a shop in an extension to Rathevan estate, next to Kilminchy housing estate which is the biggest in Laois.
A presentation of their plans was made to the July meeting of the Portlaoise Municipal District by Senior Planner Angela McEvoy.
She noted councillors’ opinions and sent them to An Bord Pleanála along with a submission from Laois County Council.
Public submissions were accepted on both until July 28. The local authority will be sent ABP’s report in mid August and will send back their advice on it, with ABP making its final decisions by mid October. The only way to appeal is a judicial review in court.
Cllr Willie Aird said the process is “the wrong way to deal with” the housing shortage.
“We employ very highly qualified people to ensure a fair process. It’s totally wrong to take this away from local authorities. We have a great system, you can go into county hall and see plans and call on employees and planners to explain them, it’s a brilliant service,” he said.
He said there are enough developments underway.
“There are seven or eight developments now in Portlaoise and another seven or eight for social housing. There are houses being built, people have a huge choice now.” he said.
He asks for a deputation to meet the new Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien and ask for the rule to be “lifted” for Laois.
Cllr John Joe Fennelly said there is no appeal.
“For us as public representatives or the people living in these areas. This should be dealt with by the local authorities. We are well able to make our own decisions,” he said.
Cllr Caroline Dwane Stanley said it was a further erosion of local government and its powers.
“A planner can put in an application for 101 houses and it completely bypasses us. I don’t believe it speeds up the process. It slows it down,” she said.
Cllr Catherine Fitzgerald said the SHD process is a “failure” because most developments approved through it are not built.
“This is developer driven, no one else benefits. It is extremely undemocratic to residents, it's not fair to a homeowner to go for a judicial review. It is already a failure. It could be constitutionally challenged,” she said.
An Bord Pleanála must make a decision by October 13.
See www. rathevanshd.com and www.foxburrowshd.ie