Thursday, 1 April 2021
Project Ireland 2040: Motion [Private Members]
Verona Murphy (Wexford, Fine Gael)
I thank the Rural Independent Group for bringing forward this motion. On Monday, the new plan for rural development, Our Rural Future, was launched. I welcome that the Government recognised the need for a plan. Many of the measures contained within it are badly needed in rural Ireland.
I want to dwell on one particular problem. The national planning framework envisages a Karl Marx policy of corralling and forcing people to live in high-density, ghettoised settings with no infrastructure to support them. The county councils across the country are at this point drafting county development plans. Wexford County Council, having submitted its draft plan, received a 24-page letter from the Office of the Planning Regulator setting out recommendations pursuant to the ministerial guidelines. Members will recall that in June of last year, on the floor of the Dáil, the then Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy English, confirmed that there were no minimum densities in the specific planning policy requirement, SPPR 4. Notwithstanding the Minister of State's confirmation, the planning regulator had the temerity to write to Wexford County Council insisting on densities of not less than 20 or 30 dwellings per hectare. The tone and tenor of the regulator's later is the equivalent of a missive one might expect to receive from the politburo. The letter entirely misrepresents the densities requirement, if one is to have any regard for what the Minister of State confirmed on the floor of the Dáil last June.
The planning regulator in his letter to Wexford County Council sets out a plethora of recommendations that will shut down rural Wexford and ghettoise our towns. We need only look to the early 20th century and what happened in eastern Europe at the hands of the ideologues such as Karl Marx and Joseph Stalin. The planning regulator appears to be of the view that the chief executive of Wexford County Council can amend a county development plan at his insistence or behest. The last great Stalinist sentence in his missive requires the CEO to confirm his recommendations and respond within five working days, an outrageous demand and an assault on rural democracy. This is a power grab by the regulator against every rural constituency in Ireland, including that of the Ceann Comhairle where I understand an 88-page letter has been received by Kildare County Council from the planning regulator. Mr. Justice Kearns in the High Court made plain the requirement of county councils informing a county development plan when he said that a planning authority must have regard to guidelines, but is not required "to slavishly adhere" to those guidelines. That judgment has been upheld consistently by the courts.
The planning regulator, Mr. Cussen, is out of control. Having regard to the correspondence to Wexford County Council, his ideological views and his lack of knowledge with regard to his own remit, he must consider his position. I urge the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, to take action immediately to put an end to this Stalinist regime in the Office of the Planning Regulator and to remove the regulator. If the planning regulator is allowed to have his way, he will close rural schools, decimate local GAA clubs and ghettoise our towns.
Rural Ireland will become one massive Merthyr Tydfil.