Bid to begin dezoning land throughout the county
Taken from the Meath Chronicle 19th May 2010 by Paul Murphy
A drive to slash the amount of land rezoned for housing purposes throughout Meath - where there is up to 60 times more land for residential use than is needed - will begin next Monday when a councillor will call on colleagues to "face up to the fact that the county is over-zoned for housing".
Fine Gael Cllr Regina Doherty, who was elected to Meath County Council last summer, said there was "justified criticism" of councils throughout the country which zoned land "for favours done". She said that vast tracts of land should never have been rezoned from agricultural use in the first place.
There has been widespread criticism of the practice in the past, including by a High Court judge who said a number of years ago that Meath County Council had paid scant attention to the Greater Dublin Area Strategic Planning Guidelines (SPGs) when it rezoned land for an "enormous population increase". Mr Justice John Quirke found the guidelines were barely considered at all in the scramble to satisfy landowners and developers.
In one recent survey, Meath was found to be one of the worst offenders when it came to rezoning. It has sufficient land rezoned for 124,173 homes but only needs 2,023 - 61 times the demand.
Meath was followed by Waterford (40 times), Louth (38), Monaghan (26) and South Tipperary (17). In the first three months of 2010, just over 500 homes were built in the top five counties. They have land zoned for more than 250,000.
Meath County Council has disputed figures on land rezoning published in a national newspaper. However, the newspaper said it had based its survey on statistics supplied by the Department of the Environment, and the Department has said it is supplied with the figures by individual county councils.
Cllr Doherty said yesterday (Tuesday) that, since being elected to Meath County Council last year, she had been involved in just two planning debates and decisons - the Dunboyne/Clonee/Pace Draft Local Area Plan 2009-2015, and a piece of industrial land off the Ballybin Road.
"From what I have seen, Meath is vastly over-zoned. We have an awful lot more land zoned for housing than we have a requirement for houses," she said. At a meeting of the Dunshaughlin Area Committee of Meath County Council earlier this week, Cllr Doherty tabled a motion aimed at dezoning of land.
However, she withdrew her motion because she said it might have legal implications for the council but said that she will be submitting a fresh motion on the subject at next Monday's area meeting.
She said she will present a motion, backed by Cllr Niamh McGowan, that the Dunshaughlin local area councillors recommend to the full council that some or all of the lands zoned residential in Ashbourne, contrary to the recommendation of the county manager after the publication of the draft Local Area Plan, should be rezoned to their pre-draft designation and that the public consultation process to bring effect to this should commence immediately.
The councillor said that she wanted to go into "the why and wherefores" of why land was rezoned for housing when there was no obvious requirement for the amount of housing being projected. She said she had started with Ashbourne but would hope to move on to Dunboyne which, she said, also was "hugely over-zoned".
Cllr Doherty said that when the Dunshaughlin area meeting was held earlier this week, officials had "put every obstacle in my way" in her push to start the dezoning process. She said they had made the point that the council does not yet have a policy on dezoning of land, and that a policy could only be formulated following discussion in the council.
In relation to the rezoning of land in Ashbourne, she said: "It is obvious to anyone why land was rezoned - the land was rezoned for favours done. It should never have been rezoned in the first place. People need to stand up today and say why land that has been rezoned should be retained in that status, and not dezoned. We will all be obliged in September to dezone land when the minister brings in a new law. I have seen that Kerry County Council has moved on this already - they should be proud of themselves for correcting the mistakes that were made."