10 years on and no solution has yet been approved to sort Leitrim's planning crisis
10 years ago the implementation of a new code of practice for wastewater treatment systems for one-off houses, effectively called a halt to the construction of houses across much of the county. Now, a decade on, efforts to find a solution to this impasse have progressed but an approved solution is still a number of years away, a meeting of Leitrim County Council has heard.
Cllr Enda Stenson raised the issue at the January council meeting noting the code of practice introduced 10 years ago has “had a hugely detrimental effect on Leitrim”.
The code of practice requires all planning applications to include a soakage test, however soil quality in 87% of Leitrim effectively means that the majority of planning applications have “little or no hope of passing”.
“We have reached the end of a decade since this draconian law was introduced, and promises have been made, by various ministers and government departments since, all to no avail. As a local authority about to embark on a new County Development Plan (CDP), we must take a stand on this issue now,” said Cllr Stenson.
Councillors unanimously backed his call pointing out that the lack of planning for one-off houses is driving families out of Leitrim and irreparably destroying communities.
Director of Services, Joseph Gilhooly said “significant progress has been made in discussions with the department over the last number of months in regard to pursuing with the trial of the zero discharge updated (waste water treatment unit for one off housing).
“In principle it has been agreed that the testing (of this technology) should be pursued as a research initiative in conjunction with the Environmental Protection Authority research programme as a standalone trial system led by Leitrim County Council.”
This will, in effect, streamline the pilot process and hopefully fast-track the approval of the system if it is found to meet all required criteria.
Mr Gilhooly said that the council had been meeting monthly with the Environmental Protection Authority and the department to progress the pilot programme for an alternative wastewater treatment system. However he acknowledged that efforts to organise a meeting with the EPA had been unsuccessful in recent months.
Councillors described the EPA as a “huge stumbling block” with some accusing the EPA of “not being interested in sorting this” problem.
Mr Gilhooly said it will still take a period of two years for those who have joined the pilot scheme to build and then allow the test system to be monitored and evaluated, but he stressed that if the pilot scheme was successful “the process of then moving forward with this new system will be very quick.”
Councillors asked that the council again contact the EPA to secure a meeting. They also agreed to attend a workshop to highlight possible changes for the new CDP and what mechanisms the council can put in place as part of the new plan.