29 Nov 2006

An awful lot of the comment coming back to the Dispatch relates to what’s going on in County Clare. In the past few weeks things have really kicked off in Ennis with, it seems, the entire body of elected members now in all out war with the county manager and personnel from the planning department. There are several issues going on all at once. Firstly, there is general concern about inconsistency in judging applications: some applications are being turned down while others (equally good or equally bad, depending on your point of view) are getting through. This situation has been highlighted by what’s been happening to applications for permission submitted by Rural Resettlement Ireland, the organisation established and headed up by Jim Connolly. RRI is very widely respected for the work it has been doing in since 1990 in relocating families to rural areas in order to keep small communities alive. However, the last eleven applications submitted by RRI to develop small houses in rural areas have run into trouble. Seven have been refused outright: the other four were granted but had so many conditions attached that RRI decided not to pursue them. In fact Rural Resettlement has, essentially, ceased operations which is an absolute shame considering all the marvellous work they’ve done in the past fifteen years. 

As it happens, Jim Connolly is one of the founder members of the Irish Rural Dwellers Association and has been an outspoken critic of the planning system in the past. His own view is that his position within the IRDA as well as his public pronouncements on planning in general has led to his organisation's applications being ‘targeted’ for unfair treatment. On the face of it...

There’s more stuff going on in Clare which is worth reporting on. I’m going out attend the next Council meeting to hear about two planning applications which were granted permission by default because the authority didn’t make a decision within the statutory eight week period. From what I’ve read in the Clare Champion, there are allegations of all sorts of ‘irregular’ activity in these two cases. I’ll have a look at the files and if I find anything worthwhile I’ll report back.

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