Wake me up after the recession.

Wake me up after the recession.

It has been disturbing to read, courtesy of ‘Village’ magazine, the results of “a cursory examination of planning and zoning decisions”, in a number of Irish counties. Granting the possibility that this behaviour might not be universal (although the suspicion would have to be otherwise), the next time you read about a conflict between Irish local councils and heritage-minded citizens you might do well, nonetheless, to keep it in mind. Here follows a few brief examples:

In County Meath, location of the ongoing Tara controversy, councillors recently amended a local area plan, against the arguments of the County Manager, to allow a new road to run through an existing housing estate and to open up adjacent land for housing. It was claimed that residents of the estate, in a town which already had a large surplus of zoned land and who had each actually signed a petition against it, were in favour

In the same county two other councillors, an independent and a Green, pushed for the re-zoning of land, close to a major town, “against the advice of planning officials”. The article goes on to state that; “Across County Meath there is concern about the manner in which more than a dozen local area plans for various towns and village settlements are being railroaded through the council.” Who benefited?

In County Dublin, two prominent businessmen, who had paid almost €25million to the Revenue Commissioners after corruption investigations, stand to recoup much of their loss due to ownership of land that is included in Fingal County Council’s housing and commercial expansion plans. Lands were also re-zoned by councillors in County Wicklow, against massive local and planning opposition, after developers promised land for schools and a Garda station. Once the decision was made it was announced that this land would cost the taxpayer €1million per acre.

Several more examples are given, all following the formula of:

(1) Councillors make a re-zoning or planning decision, that goes against local opinion and that of planning experts.

(2) From amidst the intricate weaves of connections and ownerships, a developer, often a prominent supporter of some party, benefits.

Of course, Irish property prices have collapsed and many of these developers are now in serious trouble, yet the state has guaranteed the banks and the cost of any defaults will be ultimately borne by the taxpayer, via NAMA.

As initially stated, it is not advisable to expect individual cases to represent an overall behaviour, but you’d have to wonder. Costly commuter housing estates, being built miles outside Dublin, requiring motorways to cut a few minutes off journey time and that absolutely have to go along certain routes – who owned the land? It’s our landscape and our heritage, our descendant’s landscape and their heritage, that has been finely minced into the trough, with the National Monuments Act to ease the passage down.

Preservation by Record? Oh… that’s ok then.

Connolly, F.(2009) ‘Bad planning hasn’t gone away’ Village Issue 4 (June) 55-57