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Councillors angered with planning regulator in ‘cuckoo land’

The Office of the Planning Regulator’s submission on Waterford County Council’s Draft County Development Plan has been met with anger by a number of councillors.

The planning regulator issued a warning within it’s submission that Waterford Council’s plan to zone enough land for 10,000 homes over the next 7 years, will be allegedly more than twice the expected levels of demand. The submission also warned that the scale of proposed development in Waterford will likely not be coupled with an appropriate level of infrastructure - and it also could potentially be out of scale for the location.

The OPR submission estimates that 4,800 new houses will be needed in Waterford over the period of the plan (2022-2028) - despite plans to build over twice that. The submission warns that the Council will need to review its draft plan following the publication of new guidelines on housing supply targets last December.

West Waterford Cllr. James Tobin (Fianna Fáil) was angered by the submission and questioned whether or not the Council should just scrap the development plan as a whole.

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“I don’t know what cuckoo land the man is in. If we only need 4,800 houses but have enough land for 10,000, where are all the submissions? Have we fooled all the people of this county who put in submissions to have some land zoned? We’ve been fooling them if the regulator at this point in time comes along and slaps us down. I would like today that we have a comment from planning on what they think. Where can we can go from here? Do we just scrap the development plan and give it to the regulator? We are the people that are drawing up this development plan. We have spent a year and a half at it, with I don’t know how many meetings, so I think we are the people who must reply to the regulator.”

Mayor of Waterford City & County, Cllr. Joe Kelly (Independent) criticised the planning process and was also unhappy with some of the comments made by the regulator.

“I have serious concerns myself as a councillor with the role of the regulator and the way they seem to be at liberty to throw out huge amounts of work done by both staff, councillors and indeed submissions from the public. That’s how the government again has set this thing up”, responded Cllr. Kelly.

Council Director of Services for Economic Development and Planning, Michael Quinn, offered a response to the queries and admitted that some concerns raised by the regulator will be addressed, but others won’t.

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“In some cases, it’s additional work which they have asked to do - in which case, we will of course try and do that. In other cases, they have flagged concerns. In some cases, we may be able to address those concerns, in other cases we may not. We’re going to work on that over the next couple of weeks. As far as possible, we have tried to strike the right balance between the views of the Councils, councillors and the regulations and in some cases, it didn’t quite always work out but in the plan as presented, it does reflect very much that kind of compromised view as best we could achieve it with the councillors and with the regulations.”

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