Deputy Eugene Murphy
Fianna Fáil TD for Roscommon/Galway Eugene Murphy has said the EPA rules on water pollution were having a negative impact on planning permissions resulting in wide scale rural depopulation in counties such as Roscommon and Leitrim.
Deputy Murphy was speaking in the Dáil this week on the Local Government Water Pollution Amendment Bill which provides for the granting of discharge licences by a water services authority for the development of single houses. In effect it allows for planning permissions for a single home in rural areas which has failed a water percolation test. Deputy Murphy complimented his Oireachtas colleague Leitrim TD Martin Kenny for moving the Bill.
“So many people who are being turned down for planning permission in rural Ireland are only trying to put down roots on what was the family farm or old homestead. The new local government water pollution amendment bill is a positive piece of legislation which could help reverse a situation which is causing so much depopulation in counties such as Roscommon and Leitrim," said Deputy Murphy.
“In effect it allows for planning permissions for a single home in rural areas which has failed a water percolation test. The permission must forward a viable alternative engineering solution rather than the current blanket ban. This means high environmental standards will be met without recourse to the current blanket ban.
“Rural depopulation is affecting local schools, athletic clubs and GAA clubs. It is having a really bad knock-on effect. A lot of money is spent by couples or individuals who seek planning permission and are turned down. It is a very expensive process. Often, people who are turned down cannot afford to go back and seek planning permission again. That should be taken into account. I would also say to the Minister that these really are not extra houses. It is the next generation that is moving in. The old homestead is there. There may be nobody living in it. It is dilapidated. It is not a house that can be done up. A lot of the people who are refused planning permission are only trying to put down their roots on what was the family farm. Very large areas of the west of Ireland in particular will be left without anybody living in them if this policy is not changed,” said Deputy Murphy.
“I know the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, said in his address to us that some of the provisions contained in the Bill may be unnecessary as local authorities are not currently precluded by law from granting licences for surface discharge. I challenge that statement. It is really down to the interpretation of those laws, and in reality there is very little chance of that applying to single houses. It might be granted for five, six or seven units, but it will not work for a single rural house. Again, I very much compliment Deputy Martin Kenny and I am glad to be able to support this Bill with my party members. I ask the Minister to seriously consider withdrawing the amendment he is proposing.
“This matter cannot be held up. It is a matter of time. We should not be discussing this in 12 or 18 months. In a few short months we should have moved this through the Stages so that the Bill can become law and allow some of those people who have been refused planning permission to reapply, get discharge licences and put down their roots where they want to put them down, in rural Ireland,” concluded Deputy Murphy.