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27/09/2021

Laois council cuts house build target by 1,700 after regulator intervenes

Government directives cause local authority to revise targets

Laois council cuts house build target  by 1,700 after regulator intervenes

Houses under construction on Higgs Lane Portlaoise in 2021

The number of new homes that can be built in Laois has been cut back by just over 1,700 following the intervention by a national planning regulator.

The decision was sanctioned by county councillors when they met to discuss submissions made to the latest draft of the 600-page Laois County Development Plan 2021-27.

However, while councillors agreed to decrease, they made amendments to the county plan which added 500 homes to the revised figure.

Laois County Council senior planner Angela McEvoy informed county councillors that the Office of the Planning Regulator had asked the council to review housing targets on foot of new guidance and directive from Government issued in early 2020.

“That reduces the housing requirement in Laois from 2021-27 from 3,998 dwellings from 5,202,” she said at the meeting held on Thursday, September 2.

The new figure equates to 571 houses annually. 

Ms McEvoy said the new figure was not arrived at by reducing the amount of lands zoned but achieved it by reviewing density.

The draft report said the housing allocation over the Plan period is to be calculated by not only relying on the population projection, but also factoring in the two elements of housing supply and unmet demand in the county. 

Cllr James Kelly, Independent, questioned the reason for cutting the number of houses.

“What is the rationale when we have a crisis in the supply of housing,” he asked.

Ms McEvoy said an ESRI report was commissioned by Government in 2020 to report on assumed population growth and targets. She said the council was directed to comply with a Government directive which resulted from this process.

In reply, MsEvoy said that in the next ten years up to 2031, the overall housing demand is expected to be 6,273 units. This equates to 570 housing units per annum over 2021-2031.

In its recommendation to the council, the Office of the Planning Regulator says that counties like Laois should increase housing because recently completed housing levels are significantly lower than targets.

However, the regulator adds that this must be justified in terms of the ability of the planning authority to deliver against these increased targets in a manner that is consistent settlement hierarchy, compact growth and sustainable.

The Office of the Planning Regulator can make recommendations to the line Minister who has the power to veto or order changes to any elements of county development plans.

At the end of their meeting on Thursday, September 2. Ms McEvoy advised councillors that revisions they had made to the draft county development plan meant that the council would be 500 ahead of the new housing limit set by the planning regulator.

The news that fewer houses would be allowed in Laois over the next six years emerged on the day before the Government launched its new housing strategy, Housing for All.

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