DRAFT government guidelines on so-called ghost estates have no relevance in individual planning applications, a planning inspector has stated as An Bord Pleanala upheld a decision by Limerick County Council to grant permission to 20 houses off Lower Main Street in Rathkeale.
The Council’s decision to grant permission in October led to appeals to An Bord Pleanala from Rathkeale Community Council, solicitor Michael Noonan and local businessman Tadgh O’Connor. Noonan’s Solicitors is at one side of the site entrance with the former Rathkeale House Hotel site at the opposite end.
In its submission the Community Council said there was already an oversupply of housing in the town, pointing a survey it had conducted showing 44 per cent of residential properties in Rathkeale were currently vacant, derelict or under construction.
But the applicant - Rory Rogers, with an address at Francis Street, Dublin - viewed the appeals as “frivolous and vexatious”. Contracts to sell 17 of the houses to members of travelling community had been entered into and Mr Rogers said the objections were rooted in “tensions” between the settled and travelling communities.
Rathkeale Community Council - which last year wrote to John Gormley over what it said was the County Council’s failure to adequately enforce planning laws - has said its planning submissions are motivated by the sustainable development of Rathkeale and the need to protect its commercial heart.
Concerns expressed by the Community Council about vacant units in other locations were also “irrelevant” to the site in question, Mr Rogers said.
Apart from concern about an oversupply of housing, the Community Council and the others who appealed cited concerns over parking, traffic, zoning, compliance with the town plan, heritage and other matters.
Mr Rogers considered all of these to be “frivolous and vexatious”.
“The matters raised are in themselves relatively minor in nature when placed against the actual motivations for appealing this application and which reflects a general tension in the town between the settled and travelling communities. The appellants may be aware that contracts have been put in place with members of the travelling community to purchase 17 of the proposed residential units in this case,” Mr Rogers stated.
Planning inspector Ruairi Somers inspected the site in January and commented that it was a small estate that was consistent with the residential density guidelines. “The contention by the applicant that the subject site is a preferable, proper and sustainable location for new residential development and located on suitably zoned lands has validity in my opinion.”