Is it time for ‘locals only’ rule to be scrapped when it comes to planning applications?

Is it time for ‘locals only’ rule to be scrapped when it comes to planning applications?

A call has been made to scrap a ‘locals only’ rule relating to the building of one-off houses in rural areas following a ruling by the European Court of Justice that it is discriminatory and illegal.

Though the EU ruled as far back as 2013 on the freedom of movement of its citizens throughout Europe, many local authorities haven’t changed their planning guidelines.

Last week Galway County Council passed a motion calling on the Minister for Housing and Planning, Simon Coveney to immediately implement guidelines in keeping with the EU ruling.

The ruling states that EU citizens and their families should be able to move freely and reside anywhere in member states.

Under the rules set down by many local authorities in Ireland though, people are prevented from building in certain areas unless they have family links to the area or have lived there for a period of seven years.

This has prevented many people from building in certain areas of the country.

While there will undoubtedly be an argument to change it, many local groups will be unhappy at the prospect of a wide range of so-called ‘outsiders’ moving in and overdeveloping their area.

Today we ask for your views on it.

  • Should only locals be allowed build in designated areas?
  • Have you been prevented from building in an area of your choosing because of the rules?
  • Do you feel they should be scrapped at once as per the EU ruling?

Have your say below…

There are 17 comments for this article
  1. Paul at 11:46 am

    This rule shows Ireland for the jokeshop that it is. I would love if somebody had the money to sue the local council and the state. Stevie Wonder can see that this is an archaic system and is an actual embarrassment to Ireland. Every time that I hear a rural service like a post office or bus service is cut off, then I just hope that it is an area that has this “locals only” policy.

  2. Sarah at 9:48 am

    As a true “outsider” (an American marrying a Galway man), these “locals only” laws read as archaic, discriminatory and startling, particularly in light of the fact that the EU already ruled on these laws being unacceptable in 2013. Today (November 2018) the Galway County Council provided us with the 2015-2021 housing need and development planning outline, which clearly states that unless we can show that we are from the area, we will not get planning commission to build. My fiancé is from 20 minutes away! What I truly don’t understand is how these rules are still in effect when they’ve already been ruled illegal by the EU? Does the Council not fear someone taking it to court for continuing to use outdated planning guidelines?

    • John at 8:26 pm

      No, because Ireland is one of the most centralised states in Europe. Power in Irish politics is concentrated in the hands of central government. According to Theresa Reidy, UCC, local authorities need to be given enhanced roles in economic and social development so that they might lead development at the level that is closest to the citizen.
      As it is now, GCC and other CCs will do the Germanic “we are just obeying orders”.
      Besides, centralised power thrives on archaic, discriminatory rules, since it enables its representatives to make top down decisions in their ivory towers without interaction with real people. Hence, Planning Permission officers become Planning Permission Ayatollahs, perpetuating the housing crisis by depopulating rural districts and increasing the pressure on city housing.

  3. Kate at 10:03 am

    Definitely needs to be scrapped. I have just been told my otherwise perfectly acceptable planning request (to build on sister’s land so I have some family back-up as I look after our mother) will be refused solely on the grounds she has not owned it long enough (btw, nobody can give us a definition of “long enough”!). Ironically, this is happening in Galway, where the local council so far this year has issued TWO statements on their wanting to change this. Yeah, right.

  4. John at 5:12 am

    Scrap it.Totally ridiculous law.people should be able to build on their own land full stop.and if they buy land with their own hard earned money,they should also be allowed to build.

  5. Michael at 12:35 pm

    So what’s new in Ireland. So many of its laws are antiquated it’s embarrassing.
    Of course the law should be changed, just one of many.

  6. Jimbo at 9:36 pm

    Is this an opportunity to take local authority to the European Courts or is it supported by Irish law? We own land in Wicklow (bequeathed in a will) but as “outsiders”, cannot get planning permission. We have been approached by locals who want to buy the land at current agricultural price and they will then be free to apply for planning permission and reap large financial rewards by selling to non locals. It does not seem to be so much about allowing “outsiders” in as long as the locals can be the ones to profit.

  7. brendan oconnor at 9:53 pm

    This rule is perfect. In case nobody has noticed recently the moving about freely nonsense is getting people killed. If you think they aren’t in Ireland you are gravely mistaken. This is systematic and with purpose. Do not change the rule or you will be on your knees like England. The it’s racist and discrimatory verbiage comes from people that have nothing to lose and gets uttered by pure ignorance of reality.

    • Kevin at 11:21 pm

      Brendan the rule is far from perfect and it’s sad to see such a narrow/fearful opinion.
      Like Stephen, we too had the same problem whereby we own a piece of land that cannot be developed by us. The site is 4km outside the limit that the planning authority will allow us to build. (distance home or childhood residence) The land is also too small to be considered farming. It’s a terrible waste and a shame for us.
      I really hope this rule changes and delighted to finally see this problem highlighted.
      We, like many other young couples around the country, are being denied our right to owning/building our home, which was taken for granted past generations. I think that right something to lose wouldn’t you agree Brendan?

    • John Eric Wold at 9:07 am

      Do change the rule, otherwise you will be in the same mess that rural Norway was in 30 – 40 years ago. The comparison is worthwhile, since the demographic, topographic, occupational and cultural patterns were much the same as the ones in present day rural Ireland. The same local rule bigotry depopulated rural areas, created occupational and cultural stagnation, and hampered wealth and innovation. Even the true blood locals, for whom the local rule was supposed to benefit, fled the areas. Centralisation took over, local schools, shops and industries had to close. Fortunately, a set of younger and more broadminded politicians took over and changed the local rule. Today rural Norway is thriving, enjoys good infrastructure and still has strong regional character, steeped in history, tradition and culture.

      • Peter O’Brien at 1:29 pm

        Well said John!

      • Anna Stuart at 5:33 pm

        I agree that this law be changed completely. Its still very difficult in Wicklow even for my children who are born there ..locals .. almost impossible unless your a farmer .. Also you if you want to downsize , you cannot build a second time even 40 years later . My family want to live close by but cannot build . There is a shortage of housing in my area ,, so again de ruralisation takes place and the place becomes lifeless !!! Wicklow planning needs to change , It has a notorious bad reputation . Anything to do with Planning is a nightmare here. EU laws should be applied . They have changed the planning laws in Sligo and Galway. Even if they increased the numbers of houses per year ,, and loosened the stringent rules.

        • John at 7:25 pm

          Thanks, Anna Stuart. One is tempted to think that the Wicklow Planning Ayatollahs are supported by remnants of British aristocracy, since the rich and influential people in the upper part of the social hierarchy have very few problems with getting planning permission for almost anything and anywhere. They can afford to hire the expensive architects/engineers/lawyers who have the cunning and connections needed to blaze a way to a planning permission.
          The housing shortage and stagnation in rural Ireland is partially due to the feudalistic and intricate application system that leaves the ordinary person incapacitated and bamboozled in dealing with the authorities. There are Planning Clinics in Ireland where advice is given, but it is hardly ever supportive, innovative or contributory towards your case – only judgemental. An ordinary citizen should be able to obtain advice and support without prolonged humiliation and having to pay through his/her nose.
          Good news is that there are more and more TDs who are supportive of the people who actually want to create a life in rural Ireland, and they know that vibrant, flourishing rural communities are NOT created through the Draconian master plans concocted by power-seeking, academic Planning Authorities.
          Maybe there is a valiant TD in your county, a person who can lead you to some well-deserved backing.

    • Joakim at 9:45 am

      What are you on about?

  8. STEPHEN at 9:52 pm

    The “Locals only” rule should be scrapped. It is both discriminatory and illogical. I have personal experience of this(I owned a piece of land but was not granted planning permission to build because of the residency criteria). However, developers did not have the same problem and were granted permission to build and subsequently sold the properties on to people who were “outsiders”. This really doesn’t make sense and serves only vested interests. Now that Irish society is so liberal in all matters why not add this to the list and comply with the EU ruling.

    • Joakim at 9:43 am

      Well said! This “locals only” rule is both idiotic and self-destructive as it really prevents the free movement of people, i.e. if you’re not “local” you can’t build yourself but have to rely on the poor quality rubbish the “professional” builders cobble together while making huge profits at the expense of everybody else. Self-building combined with proper planning (i.e. not the Mickey Mouse system currently favored by all local planning authorities) would greatly enhance the housing stock as well as allow more people to move to less populated areas and villages and let those areas also thrive.

  9. Declan at 5:23 pm

    This law is so far outdated and discriminatory. It prevents an area from growth, expansion and investment. By all means, keep control of all building proposals and insure a standard is upheld. By allowing new investment into an area, this stimulates and improves business. This in turns, leads to a better standard and quality of life for all. Improved job opportunities and business expansion. Road and rail infrastructure, along with schools and hospital improvements. Why would any council, in any area, not want this for it’s residents? Unless?? They have a monopoly on conditions as they are !!

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