Homeowners in rural Galway suffering marriage breakdown or going through financial hardship faced another noose around their neck – the enurement clause.
The enurement clause is a condition placed on one-off house builds in the countryside which means they cannot sell for a period of seven years.
At a special planning meeting a number of Galway county councillors asked if this could be relaxed in the times that were in it with banks breathing down people’s necks.
A number of councillors gave examples of cases they were aware of involving marital breakup or financial hardship which could be eased through selling the property.
Yet, successful planning applicants are forced to stay put for seven years as way of controlling house building in certain areas of high scenic or environment amenity – or in the Gaeltacht where planners also impose a language clause.
Acting Director of Services for Planning at the Council, Catherine McConnell, reminded councillors that the enurement clause was a mechanism that made a positive decision in favour of a local applicant.
“We no longer apply the ten year or lifetime enurement but we do insist that an enurement transfer is to people of the same criteria,” she explained.
Cllr Tomás Ó Curraoin said that the schools and GAA club in his area of Bearna mightn’t have been as vibrant without the involvement and knowledge of people who had moved into the community before some of the planning restrictions were introduced.
“When I was growing up, there was only five houses in my village. Now there’s a lot more and a few nice housing developments too and they are welcomed because otherwise the area might have been in decline. Certainly the school and the local GAA wouldn’t be there now if those people hadn’t moved in,” he said.
Cllr James Charity also asked that the enurement clause be re-examined in the current climate of repossessions and where distressed householders run into difficulties with this particular restriction which basically prevents them putting their house on the open market.
Cllr Pat Hynes too asked for a review of it asking the Council to be compassionate.
Cllr Jim Cuddy pointed out that the clause meant homeowners could only sell to local people which great reduced the price.
All councillors were reminded by Cllr Michael Fahy of Minister for Housing, Simon Coveney’s plea in Kinvara recently that everyone should have a roof over their head.
He also reminisced about a time when Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael got together in 1979 to ensure everyone got planning permission. “We were all the one that time,” he said.