Council Briefs: Moving to the Country, and Log Cabins Again

Moving to the Country

Dublin city councillors say they want a scheme that helped people move from urban to rural areas brought back, as a way to help those languishing on the social housing list who might want to move to the countryside.

“I know it’s not for everybody,” said Sinn Féin Councillor Ray McHugh, who put forward a motion at Monday’s monthly meeting of the council at City Hall to review the resettlement scheme to help families in the city relocate to towns and villages “decimated by emigration”.

But some would be delighted at the chance, he said.

Sinn Féin Councillor Críona Ní Dhálaigh, who seconded the motion, says she deals with people every week who would love to move out of Dublin to a rural area. “It’s a win-win for the rural community, and it’s a win-win for those in the city who want to go live in a rural community.”

Countrywide, 800 families were resettled up to 2016, when the last scheme, run by Rural Resettlement Ireland, wound up, Ní Dhálaigh said. “It wasn’t that people lost interest.” Funding was cut, she said.

She said the council should write to the minister to get funding and to set up this up as an official scheme.

Sinn Féin’s Greg Kelly said two of his constituents had come to him recently, asking how they might transfer – one to Donegal and another to Kildare.

Dublin City Council’s head of housing, Brendan Kenny, said there used to be a volunteer-run scheme, headed up by Jim Connolly.

The council gave people who wanted to move €1,000 in a grant to do so, he says. The central government grant got cut, though, and it became too much for staff to handle, he says.

“We’d like to go further,” said Kenny. Council officials think local authorities should do this on a more formal basis, he said – that if somebody qualifies for housing need in Dublin, that should apply all over the country.

Councillors agreed the motion.

Building Heights

Some councillors said they were still raging at how new guidelines around height in the city would take precedence over what they had earlier agreed under the development plan

Up to now, councillors have set what can be built where in the city, under the development plan.

That plan says some parts of the city can have clusters of tall buildings of more than 50 metres, around major transport hubs such as Heuston Station.

For the rest of the city centre, heights were limited to 28 metres, between seven and nine storeys, while for suburbs the limit was lower, at 16 metres, usually four or five storeys.

Under the new guidelines from the Department of Housing issued by the minister in December, those limits are now overruled.

Instead, the council has to “to consider building heights of at least six storeys within the canal ring, three to four storeys in suburban locations and to actively seek and bring forward proposals which significantly increase building height and the overall density of development”, a briefing note says.

Said Labour Councillor Andrew Montague: “To have a blanket change to regulations, without getting into the fine grain of how this is going to work and what should work, what could work, I think is very dangerous and very wrong.”

Montague, who is head of the council’s planning committee, listed what is needed for good high-rise buildings: lifts that work, safe and secure entrances, good parks and green spaces around.

“We need to have standards to make sure it’s going to be successful,” he said. Otherwise, some will work and some will be a disaster.

Councillors and communities all across the city weighed in on the development plan, which has now been overruled, said People Before Profit Councillor Tina MacVeigh.

“There’s serious problems with these guidelines,” she said, calling them developer- and profit-led.

Sinn Féin’s Criona Ni Dhalaigh said the changes were slowing development, as developers had put in new plans with extra floors for sites for which they already had permission.

Fine Gael Councillor Kieran Binchy said there was hyperbole and personalisation in what people were saying about Minister Eoghan Murphy’s guidelines. The height rules were an attempt to increase supply – just like the idea of log cabins in back gardens, he said.

Labour Councillor Dermot Lacey asked for a clear yes or no as to whether the minister’s guidelines would overrule the city’s development plan.

“The planning authority has an obligation to implement government policy,” said Chief Planner John O’Hara. In other words, yes.

Shooting Down Log Cabins

It’s impossible, or would take decades, for many couples on average incomes to save these days for a deposit for a home, said independent Councillor John Lyons.

“There’s a whole generation being locked out of the housing market right now,” he said, at Monday’s monthly meeting.

He was asking councillors to back his motion, which has been making its way through council committees, to relax rules around “ancilliary accommodation” with homes. In other words, putting structures such as log cabins in gardens for family members to live in.

It’s not a panacea, Lyons said. But “this is a practical measure that I do think can help a lot of people in the medium term”.

Most councillors spoke against the proposal.

“I think it does raise a slippery slope that I don’t think we should go down at this point in time,” said Green Party Councillor Ciarán Cuffe.

There would be issues around health and hygiene and things such as bin collection, but also fire-safety issues if, for example, the fire brigade couldn’t get to a structure, Cuffe said.

People Before Profit’s MacVeigh said it’s easy to find online substandard rentals even now. “So I would have deep deep concerns that there is actually no way of regulating that this is just going to be for family members,” she said.

“It’s wrong,” said Fine Gael’s Binchy. He said if he put it down as a motion, he’d be told it was neoliberal Fine Gael policy.

As he sees it, there’s a constant debate around balancing supply and building standards, but this isn’t right, he says.

A response the council’s head of planning, Richard Shakespeare, said the council does sometimes grant planning permission to people who want to build add-on accommodation, but that’s when it’s attached to main home.

Council officials will remain flexible and will sometimes consider free-standing structures, but don’t think the rules should be relaxed, the response said.

Councilors voted down the motion.

Author:

Lois Kapila: Lois Kapila is Dublin Inquirer's managing editor and general-assignment reporter. Want to share a comment or a tip with her? Send an email to her at info@dublininquirer.com.

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