There are a number of reasons why it is necessary to review and update the 2005 rural housing guidelines. As drafted, they are framed in the context of the National Spatial Strategy (NSS) 2002, which was superseded by the National Planning Framework (NPF) in 2018.
In 2007, two years after the guidelines were issued, the European Union raised an issue in respect of local housing need policy, which gave rise to a follow-on Departmental Circular to local authorities in 2008. In 2013, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled in the ‘Flemish Decree’ case that certain provisions with regard to local connection were disproportionate and contrary to EU principles and this was subject to a further Departmental Circular in 2017.
Moreover, since 2005, there have been new requirements and legislation at national and EU level introduced on matters related to rural housing such as environmental protection, the Gaeltacht and climate action.
It is relevant to clarify that the ‘Flemish Decree’ was a March 2009 Decree of the Flemish Region (a Federal Region within Belgium), on land and real estate policy that made the purchase or long-term lease of all immovable property (i.e. all land and buildings and not solely development rights in respect of new housing) in certain Flemish communes (local authorities) conditional upon there being a ‘sufficient connection’ between the prospective buyer or tenant and the relevant commune.
As the Deputy is aware, the Flemish Decree case refers to a successful challenge against the Flemish Decree in the European Court of Justice (ECJ), which ruled that it was disproportionate and was also deemed by the ECJ to be in breach of article 43 of the EU Treaty on the freedom of movement of citizens.
Work is now under way to a) review the Sustainable Rural Housing - Guidelines For Planning Authorities 2005 (which were issued under Section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000) and b) in doing so, to have regard to, inter alia, the principles of the outcome of the ‘Flemish decree’ case, where relevant.
The updated Rural Housing Guidelines will address rural housing in a broader rural development and settlement context and I expect a draft before the end of March.