A row over the refusal of a planning application for a one-off rural house in the Kilmacthomas area led to a heated debate at the March meeting of Waterford County Council.
A 24-year-old woman’s plans for a new house were turned down because she failed to show that she had a “genuine housing need” in the area.
But Cllr Liam Brazil (FG) said the woman’s parents came from the area and she lived there for five and a half years. Her grandparents lived near the building site and her partner’s grandfather lived next door.
Outlining the background to the planning crux, Cllr Brazil said the woman was refused planning in November last and had contacted him to see if there was any way she could get permission of a house.
He went to the Council’s senior planner and was told to establish the applicant’s claim to residence in the area by producing her Baptismal certificate and those of her parents.
This was produced to the senior planner who said it proved the woman had a genuine housing need in the area. He recommended a grant of permission in January based on the information provided.
After consultations with planners, Cllr Brazil said he told the woman that she had established a genuine housing need but here were “issues” with this and planning was refused.
He said he was not satisfied with this decision and felt he had left the woman astray and as a public representative he felt “hurt”, with the planning application costing “the bones” of €1,000.
Director of Services Brian White originally adjudicated on this application in November and refused it under the guidelines approved by the members of the Council in the County Development Plan.
Upon later reviewing the application, Mr White formed the opinion that he made the right decision.
Mr White said that no Council staff member was entitled to give a Councillor a planning commitment as that was decision made by a Director.
County Manager Ray O’Dwyer said the County Development Plan had been in place for five years and the interpretation of it had been applied to many planning applications.
During the life of the plan the Council had granted planning for 3,000 houses around the county and they had been very careful in interpreting the plan, he added.
Mr O’Dwyer said he had discussed the Kilmacthomas application widely with the former and current Directors and they were of the opinion it would be unfair to other people if they changed the interpretation of the County Development Plan.
He said he was sorry that Cllr Brazil had been put in this situation after processing this application in good faith.
Mr White said people were looking for consistency in the approach to planning and he had been consistent and this application was turned down.
There was “a need for clarity” and he was willing to sit down with Councillors to consider this matter because he wanted consistency and didn’t want “unfair” planning decisions.
The County Manager said it was not possible to write a planning policy that covered every situation. The decision made in this case was the correct one in his opinion, he said.
The Council was now at the start of a new development plan when these issues could be dealt with.
Former Planning Director Denis McCarthy said the existing County Development Plan had served the Council well. There would always be decisions that would not please people but the Council had to “ensue consistency was maintained” and they had done that.
The planning application was referred back to the Planning Strategic Policy Committee for consideration.