The National Sustainable Development Strategy for Ireland, published by my Department in 1997, states that local authorities should have regard to the concept of sustainability in the elaboration of development plans. The policy provides that, in general, there must be a presumption against urban generated once-off rural housing adjacent to towns. However, there is also recognition of the need for dwellings for certain categories of person whose occupation requires them to be rurally based. However, certain principles should apply to such development including that the site should be suitable for sewage disposal and drainage and have access to a suitable water supply.
Following on from the review of planning legislation and the consolidated Planning Bill which is currently being drafted, my Department will prepare detailed guidelines for planning authorities in relation to the development plans. It is my intention that, inter alia, the guidelines will address the issue of urban generated rural housing construction with particular emphasis on the need for sustainable land-use development and the protection of drinking water sources.
Census 91 Volume 10, Housing, published by the Central Statistics Office in February 1997, shows that within the aggregate rural areas, over 55 per cent of rural households are supplied, either directly or indirectly, from local authority public water supply systems. Some 12 per cent of rural households are supplied from privately sourced group water schemes while the remainder are served by private individual supplies.
Private supplies are vulnerable to pollution from a variety of sources including poorly sited or inefficient septic tanks or other domestic waste water treatment systems. My Department's rural water programme is specifically targeted at correcting quality deficiencies in private group and individual water supply systems and I will shortly announce increased levels of funding together with new measures to improve rural drinking water quality in 1999.