County councillors have come under pressure from developers who purchased land that could now be de-zoned, it has emerged.
Several landowners have made submissions to the new County Development Plan seeking compensation if land they had bought for residential development is de-zoned.
In some of the cases the land was used as collateral for loans from banks.
Under the new Development Act 2010 councillors must identify areas specifically targeted for housing development which was not the case in the 2006-2010 Development Plan.
When adopting the new County Development Plan next month, councillors will have to identify what land banks they want around the county for future housing developments. This will lead to lands being de-zoned when local area plans are made.
The council received submissions from landowners concerned about the impact of de-zoning on lands they own.
Concerns about the impact of de-zoning were raised at yesterday’s meeting of the council where councillors began adopting the new County Development Plan.
Councillors discussed zoning and the controversial issue of wind energy after the media were asked to leave the meeting for over an hour following a proposal from Cllr. Frank McBrearty Jnr.
County Manager Seamus Neely said there were no proposals before the council to de-zone lands.
“The plan, however, does incorporate the principles when de-zoning is to be considered in the making of each local area plan. There are multiple other uses in the zoning of land - not just housing,” he said.
Concerns also emerged about how the new plan will affect housing development in rural parts of the county. Under the County Development Plan, areas of Donegal have been categorised as Areas Under Strong Urban Influence, Structurally Weak Rural Areas and Stronger Rural Areas.
The structurally weak areas stretch down the west coast and includes most of the south west of the county from Killybegs round to Dungloe while the north east contains most of the areas that are designated under strong urban influence. Much of the centre of the county has been desginated as stronger rural areas.
Sinn Féin Councillor Marie Therese Gallagher said she had deep concerns for the rural population in west Donegal if the core strategy for tier towns in the plan were adopted.
“Apart from Dungloe the whole west is not catered for as areas for development. I’m fearful the approach to strengthen key towns like Letterkenny will stagnate the remainder of towns in the county,” she said.
Councillors also expressed concern about restrictions on so-called ribbon development and the ability of indigenous people to build houses in rural areas.
The County Manager said 35 per cent of the housing need in the plan has been allocated for rural areas.