Thursday, 4 November 2004

Questions (46, 47, 48, 49, 50)

Olwyn Enright

Question:

27 Ms Enright asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the representations he has received on the issue of one-off rural housing since his appointment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27553/04]

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Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

69 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he intends to meet An Taisce to discuss the issue of one-off housing; if he is satisfied with the activities of An Taisce on this issue to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27551/04]

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Dan Neville

Question:

83 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will report on the progress of the consultation initiated by his predecessor on one-off rural housing. [27349/04]

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Olwyn Enright

Question:

97 Ms Enright asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has plans to re-examine the guidelines on one-off rural housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27552/04]

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Michael Noonan

Question:

107 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of planning applications for one-off housing that have been accepted and rejected broken down by year, since 1997; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27554/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 27, 69, 83, 97 and 107 together.

In accordance with normal practice, the Guidelines for Planning Authorities on Sustainable Rural Housing, published on 4 March 2004, were issued in draft form to give all those interested an opportunity to comment before the guidelines are finalised in statutory form. Submissions in relation to the draft guidelines were to be submitted to my Department by 30 April 2004. In view of the importance of the rural housing issue, my predecessor requested planning authorities and An Bord Pleanála to have regard to the draft guidelines with effect from their date of publication. The guidelines are a material consideration both in relation to development plans and in the consideration of planning applications. Planning authorities are required to review and vary their development plans, where necessary, to ensure that their policies on rural settlement are consistent with the policies set out in the guidelines.

A total of 105 submissions in relation to the draft guidelines have been received by my Department from interested organisations and individuals. The submissions have been examined in detail by my Department. I intend to carefully consider any suggestions for clarifying or improving the guidelines before they are finalised. It is my intention that the guidelines will be issued in their final statutory form by the end of this year.

I do not have any specific plans at this time to meet An Taisce in relation to the issue of rural housing. My Department received a submission on the draft guidelines from An Taisce which will be considered along with all other submissions received. The CSO's planning permission quarterly statistical release has included information on the number of permissions granted for one-off houses since the second quarter of 2002. My Department does not collect statistics on the total numbers of planning applications for one-off housing received by planning authorities nor on the number of such applications which are refused permission. However, last year a sample of planning authorities were contacted by the Department and asked to provide information on the numbers of decisions in 2002 on rural housing applications and the percentage of these decisions that were granted or refused. The information provided by the planning authorities sampled was as follows: on average 75% of applications for single rural houses made to the planning authorities surveyed were granted, the highest grant rates were in the westernmost planning authorities with grant rates falling somewhat in the more urbanised areas to the east; most planning authorities in the western half of the country grant around four out of five applications; and where permission is refused, the reasons for refusal generally relate to issues such as traffic safety, public health or protection of the natural and cultural heritage.

My Department is currently considering ways of developing a detailed statistical database to assist policy development and monitoring of trends in relation to rural housing.