A Glenties Electoral Area councillor said that elements of the county’s draft development plan could signal the “death knell” for rural Donegal.
At last Thursday’s meeting of the Glenties Electoral Area, councillors expressed concern with the draft, which they said would centralise population and greatly restrict one-off housing.
Councillors and council staff held a series of closed workshops on the plan last week, as part of the ongoing review of the county’s 2006-2012 development plan.
Fianna Fáil Cllr. Seamus Ó Domhnaill, who said the plan as is would mean a “death knell” for rural Donegal, said, “It’s not going to work here.”
Cllr. Ó Domhnaill and his colleagues also said the centralisation of population would have a negative impact on the Donegal Gaeltacht and the Irish language. Councillors said that many of the restrictions in the draft have been imposed on council by state bodies.
“We can tweak this thing as it goes along the conveyor belt, but we can’t change what’s being forced on us,” said Cllr. Terence Slowey, adding, “One way or another we’re going to end up with a flawed county development plan.”
Cllr. Slowey believed that the media should have been allowed into the workshops. “There is a process there and I think it would be beneficial if they could see the restrictions we’re operating under in this plan,” he said.
Speaking later, Eunan Quinn, senior executive planner with the council’s central planning unit, said the draft will come before councillors at their May 30 meeting for consideration as a public consultation document.
“It’s not an adopted plan at that stage,” Mr. Quinn said. He said there will be further public consultation beginning in mid-June, and councillors can propose amendments later this year. The final plan should be adopted in early 2012.
Mr. Quinn said the 2010 Planning and Development Act brought amendments to regional planning that require the county plan to be consistent with national and regional strategy. But he said he could not comment on the contents of the draft because it is not yet a public document. The draft becomes public once it is presented to next week’s council meeting.
National guidelines that set out the time frame for the county’s review require the council to publish the draft in June as a consultation document. But Glenties councillors seemed to suggest that council approval of the draft may not be a given.
“It’s a plan that has been given to Donegal and the core strategy is not changing and the core strategy is what’s wrong,” said Sinn Féin Cllr. Marie-Therese Gallagher, adding later, “I would close the book and I would hand it back to where it came from.”