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Planning regulator has 'better understanding' of challenges in Waterford

Following a recent meeting with representatives of Waterford Council, the Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR) has left Waterford with a better understanding of the challenges that Waterford faces in relation to the future development of the county.

That's according to Director of Services for Economic Development at Waterford Council, Mr. Michael Quinn.

Quinn confirmed to councillors at a recent meeting that the executive and planners had met with OPR representatives. That meeting took place in Waterford on the previous Friday.

At the meeting of the Plenary Council in September, Sinn Fein councillor, Conor McGuinness called on the Council to meet with the regulator and talk through the issues which were highlighted in their submission.

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Many councillors were unhappy with the submission made by the planning regulator to the Draft County Development Plan 2022-2028.

'Claims ring hollow'

Speaking at the October meeting, Cllr. McGuinness said the claim by the regulator within their submission that too much land has been zoned for development 'rings hollow'.

โ€œOnly 16% of the land zoned ten years ago has been developed on. The planning regulators claim that weโ€™re zoning too much land kind of rings hollow. We need to action this, sit down and have a conversation with them to explain where weโ€™re coming from and to find a resolution.โ€

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Sinn Fein Councillor Conor McGuinness.

Mr. Quinn told the meeting that members of the Council and the planning departments had met with OPR representatives to discuss concerns. He said that the regulatory office were happy to meet with officials.

However, they did not want to set a precendent in terms of engagement with elected representatives.

โ€œWe did contact the OPR in relation to the previous request from councillors. The OPR are concerned in terms of setting precedent for dealing directly with councillors. They did agree to meet the executive and senior planners. We had that session on Friday."

Challenges

The meetings centred upon the challenges faced by Waterford City & County Council in implementing policies which are set by the OPR.

"We went through a lot of the issues particularly around zoning, and the challenges we face locally in implementing policy. Thereโ€™s a difference in setting policy, which they have a responsibility for, and overseeing and implementing it on the ground.โ€

Mr. Quinn warned that the OPR aren't going to 'row back' upon all of their observations. However, he did note that the representatives left the county with a 'much better understanding' of the developmental landscape.

โ€œWe had a very good discussion with them. They had a site visit around Waterford and they went away with a significantly improved understanding of the difficulties we both face as councillors and executives in implementing some of the policies that they have set for us. Thatโ€™s not to say that theyโ€™re going to row back on everything that they have said. Though they certainly have a much better understanding of the challenges which we face.โ€

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