It's set to be tougher to secure planning for one-off housing in rural Offaly

Securing planning permission for one-off rural housing could become increasingly more difficult in large swathes of Offaly.

Offaly County Council this week published a draft county development plan which proposes to extend the area of the county subject to the controversial local need rural housing policy.

The local need provision effectively restricts planning permission for one-off housing in parts of rural Offaly to those born or living in the area for five years and who have a work or social requirement to live in the rural area.

The existing county development plan already applies the local need provision to large areas of the county.

However, in its draft development plan for 2021-2027, the county council is proposing to significantly increase the area of the county where the local need provision will apply to applicants for planning permission.

Maps included in the draft development plan indicate that the size of the rural area around Birr which has been included in the local need housing policy has been significantly expanded. Similarly, a large area south and south west of Banagher is also now included.

Rural areas around Kilcormac, Mountbolus, Cloghan, Ballyboy and Rahan are also listed as areas where it is proposed the local need policy will now apply.

Rural villages themselves are not included as the council's policy is to promote residential development in villages and Sraids (small rural settlements, of which 21 are identified in the plan).

On the flip side, areas east of Daingean near Mount Lucas, appear to have been excluded from the provision in the new draft development plan.

The areas identified in the draft development plan where the local need provision will apply are based on a study carried out which identified electoral divisions where at least 15% of their workforce commute to a town of population over 10,000 or a town with more than 2,500 jobs.

It’s understood the changes are designed to be consistent with the National Planning Framework and Regional Planning Strategies.

The local need requirement means applicants for planning permission for a single dwelling for permanent occupation must be born within an area of eight kilometres, or be living or have lived in the local rural area for a minimum of five years and to also have a functional economic or social requirement to reside in this particular rural area and must not already own or have owned a house in the open countryside.

The local need requirement means applicants for planning permission for a single dwelling for permanent occupation must, among other criteria, be born within an area of eight kilometres, or be living or have lived in the local rural area for a minimum of five years and to also have a functional economic or social requirement to reside in this particular rural area and must not already own or have owned a house in the open countryside.

In areas not designated as having the local need provision, the draft plan says Offaly County Council will operate a presumption in favour of applications for single houses by anybody who seek a permanent dwelling and will therefore contribute to the social and economic wellbeing of the area, subject to high quality siting and design.

In the draft plan, the council says that 34% of housing units granted in the county have been one-off houses in the open countryside.

It says this has “contributed to spatial and social imbalances and the decline in population of smaller settlements.

“As a result, many key services have closed, in part due to population decline, leaving more marginalised and vulnerable citizens without access to those services. In light of this, there is a need to focus on building up Offaly’s towns and villages.”

“Development sprawl at every settlement level has manifested as scattered development, ‘leapfrogging’ and linear patterns of ribbon development, which has made it costly to align and invest in infrastructure delivery, has hampered an effective response to climate change, compounded issues such as congestion and pollution, increased commuting times and has had an overall negative impact on people’s health and wellbeing,” the draft plan says.

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