By Dan Walsh
The Cathaoirleach of Wexford County Council and a majority of members are opposed to the Draft Wexford County Development Plan 2021-2027 in its present form and are seeking a number of changes before the plan is adopted and called for a six-month extension to consider the document and its future impact on rural Ireland.
Cathaoirleach Cllr Ger Carty told Monday’s April meeting of Wexford County Council held with Microsoft Teams in line with Covid-19 protocols that it is extremely difficult for the Council to put the County Development Plan out to public consultation again in the absence of several changes coming from the departments around the National Plan Framework.
Cllr Carty said he asked Fianna Fail for an extension of six months to facilitate further discussion. “I can’t stand over it and I’m certainly not in a position to vote for it,” he added.
Cllr Michael Sheehan said everything ‘outside of Dublin is rural’ in the Plan and he believes there is much in the County Development Plan that will further destabilise rural Ireland.
Cllr Pat Barden described it as a particularly important Plan and must be considered very carefully.
Cllr Joe Sullivan said the Plan has huge implications for rural areas and could not understand why the project could not be paused for six months to afford an opportunity to go through it in fine detail before putting it through and then finding “it is a complete mess.”
Cllr Sullivan warned that if a Fianna Fáil Minister pushes it through “Fianna Fáil will be without me” because he is “not standing by and letting rural Ireland be further decimated by a Fianna Fáil-led government!”
Cllr Sullivan showed that 35% of all 34 members of Wexford County Council are Fianna Fáil who cannot allow this to happen, and he called for a six-months pause to thoroughly examine the Plan.
Cllr Jim Codd said the treatment of people in rural Ireland goes beyond belief. “We need to wake up in rural Ireland as we watch the demise of it,” added Cllr Codd who made refences to many shortcomings in services in rural Wexford. “Are we going to force everybody into the towns and leave people in towns and villages where there are no services?” he asked.
Cllr Jackser Owens said Enniscorthy was at the bottom of the list when it comes to the towns of Wexford and he was critical of the Fine Gael/Labour Coalition Government for the abolition of the town councils back in 2014.
Cllr John Fleming felt a need to increase rural density and lamented that rural areas are being told they cannot get planning! “I will not stand-by and let that happen,” he added.
Cllr Michael Whelan favoured direct contact with the Minister and noted that that the Plan was affecting all counties outside of Dublin and described it as “trying to fix a Dublin problem.” Cllr Whelan reaffirmed the need to stand together, and he called for a physical meeting to further discuss the Plan.
Cllr Mary Farrell agreed with the speakers and referred to a ‘crazy situation’ and claimed that villages are not like cities and towns, and she said “the hamlet effect is not for us.” She felt that in her area of Kilmuckridge that housing is a problem.
Others members who contributed included Cllrs Garry Laffan, Davy Hynes, George Lawlor, Pip Breen, Cathal Byrne, Frank Staples, Lisa McDonald, Fionntán Ó Súilleabháin. Diarmuid Devereux, Barbara-Anne Murphy Kathleen Codd-Nolan and Willie Kavanagh. CEO Tom Enright, Tony Larkin and David Minogue also contributed.
Discussion on the Draft County Wexford Development Plan lasted over an hour but diverted away from rural problems and much time was spent exploring future tactics, including the possibility of seeking independent legal advice.
The public consultation period for the Draft Plan ended on Wednesday, December 9th, 2020. One hundred and sixty-eight submissions were received during the consultation period.
17 submission were received from Prescribed Authorities.
10 submissions were received from stakeholders such as infrastructure providers. 29 Submissions related to Protected Structures.
25 Submissions related to transportation issues.
14 submissions related to Rosslare Harbour and Kilrane Settlement Plan.
9 submissions related to Bunclody Town Settlement Plan.
6 submissions were from environmental groups and NGOs.
8 related to rural housing.
5 related to renewable energy.
The submissions can be viewed online at https://consult.wexfordcoco.ie/.