New Laois planning rules on rural houses cause councillors concern

Lynda Kiernan

Reporter:

Lynda Kiernan

New Laois planning rules on rural houses cause councillors concern

House in rural Ireland

New criteria on building a home in rural Laois could knock out up to 90% of applications, a Laois councillor has said.

Updated planning guidelines for houses in rural Laois are to be introduced in 2021.

The Laois County Development Plan 2021-2027 is now being finalised, with the draft plan shown to councillors last week. 

Some are not happy with the new rules on rural housing.

Cllr Padraig Fleming says a rule on longer sightlines at entrances will mean “getting rid of 80 or 90% of rural housing”.

New houses must have a clear sightline of approaching traffic, ranging from 60 metres to 120 metres on each side of their house entrance.

“Whoever is building a house would have to have a massive site. You say you don’t want to cut hedgerows but they can be thinned back,” he said.

A second rule is that in ‘structurally weak’ areas,  the applicant must never have owned a house in the open countryside previously. 

Cllr Fleming is concerned for a person who may not live locally but is left an old farmhouse in a will and then wants to build.

“They would have to wait five years before applying, and so might not have a home for seven years,” he said.

Cllr Paschal McEvoy said problems could arise with asking neighbouring landowners to cut back their hedges for sightlines but said that “people born and reared in the countryside” have to be able to live there. 

Senior Planner Angela McEvoy said the sightlines are necessary for road safety.

“It is not always possible to achieve in the area of the site. This is so when people are getting in and out they do so safely, it can depend on neighbours,” she said. 

The new draft development plan has three rural housing designations in the county; areas under strong urban influence or stronger rural areas, structurally weak areas and a new area for places of environmental sensitivity such as the Slieve Bloom Mountains and near the Barrow and Nore rivers. 

“In sensitive areas again it's about demonstrating a local need to live in those areas. There is additional complexities if you are living in close proximity to an SAC or SPA,” Ms McEvoy said, referring to environmentally protected areas that may require assessments. 

Areas that are marked as being under strong urban influence or rural areas can be built on only by a select few.

These include members of a farming family or of a local rural community or who are working on the land. 

“There’s a list of criteria you must meet in order to comply with either of those categories,” the planner said.

“Then there’s climate action measures that have to be considered when building in the open countryside, in terms of heating and powering,” she said.