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House applicants fork out up to €30,000 – only to see plans refused

Applicants who wish to build their own family home in rural parts of the county are spending up to €30,000 on planning applications – only to then be refused by the local authority.

That has prompted calls for a complete overhaul of the planning section of Galway County Council as it was stated that applicants are often left bewildered over the reasons for them being refused.

But in response, the newly appointed Chief Executive of Galway County Council, Liam Conneally, said that pre-planning meetings for applicants will be facilitated when possible.

And he said that there was an onus on agents representing applicants to familiarise themselves and their clients with the planning policy that exists within Galway County Council.

“They are being paid significant amounts of money for the services they provide and it is incumbent on them to familiarise their clients of the planning policies that exist within the local authority,” added Mr Conneally.

He did concede that the Council’s planning department did require additional resources. He said that posts were being advertised but low applications made them difficult to fill.

The matter was raised by Cllr Jimmy McClearn, who said that applicants were “clear housing needs” were being refused planning permission and many of them were left in a state of confusion.

The Killimor councillor said that he had been contacted by applicants who had the necessary water supply and required wastewater treatment facilities but were still being turned down.

“I am completely lost as to where we are going with planning at the moment ,and it is certainly not in line with the County Development Plan that we passed last year.

“Applicants are now being asked questions that no applicant has been asked before and it is little wonder that rural parts of County Galway are experiencing population declines. It seems as if they want everyone to move into towns,” added Cllr McClearn.

But Cllr Liam Carroll said that even when it came to some of the built-up areas of County Galway, it was almost impossible to get planning.

He said that it was very disappointing that over the past couple of years, four applications in Oranmore, which would have yielded 224 new houses, had been turned down by Galway County Council.

Cllr Carroll said that the recent announcement that Dexcom would be providing 1,500 jobs in Athenry meant that there would be a demand for housing “within shouting distance” of the town and that Oranmore would fit the bill in this regard.

According to Cllr Andrew Reddington, applicants were spending up to €30,000 on multiple applications for one-off houses only to be refused on each occasion.

“I have one application that has been refused because of the height of the roof when this should be simply a condition of planning if the planners had an issue with it,” the Headford councillor said.

Cllr Declan Geraghty, in welcoming the new jobs for Athenry, said that those new employees should not be forced to seek rented accommodation in Galway city when there was very little available.

“We need an overhaul of the planning section and have to look at the standards that we apply. There is a need for rural housing now more than ever,” added the Williamstown councillor.

Cllr Gabe Cronnelly highlighted the need for pre-planning meetings but also stated that issues such as restricted sightlines could be rectified by applicants if given the opportunity.

“We need a proactive approach from the planning authority as we simply have to build houses. The jobs in Athenry are most welcome but it is imperative that we keep the employees as local as possible,” he added.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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