Motion To Abolish Strategic Housing Development

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atest press release from Cllr Mags Crean, issued on Thursday, April 8th 2021…

Cllr. Mags Crean, supported by a number of other Independent Councillors, has a motion on this month’s Wicklow County Council agenda for councillors to call for the abolition of the Strategic Housing Development process.

At a special meeting in March, Wicklow County Councillors worked collectively to voice opposition to a measure in the proposed Land Development Agency that removes councillors’ powers to vote on the sale of public land.

This is exactly the type of cross-party, collective action needed at council level to not only challenge flawed national policy but reinvigorate people’s belief in the power and purpose of local government.

A similar level of solidarity will be needed to challenge the equally flawed strategic housing development legislation.

Proposed motion: ‘That this Council writes to Darragh O’Brien, Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government and Peter Burke, Minister of State, with special responsibility for Local Government and Planning with a request that the Strategic Housing Development legislation is abolished.’

Ultimately, the solution is demanding abolition of the strategic housing development policy that has resulted in unsustainable development at a local level. This is why myself and a number of other Independent Councillors have put forward a motion at local council level to demand abolition of this legislation.

Demanding national policy change is paramount to real change locally. If we don’t challenge the root of problems that we are meeting locally, then we will spend our time on band-aid solutions that don’t deal with the cause of a problem. This is the real power of local council; we see the flaws of national policy first-hand, on the frontline, in our communities and the solution is to name it, to call it out and to demand change.

Those happy with the status quo may see this as moaning or ranting but those who need change view the necessity to speak out as essential to effecting change and giving voice to those most negatively affected by Government policy but often lacking the resources to challenge the impact of these policies.

I congratulate the Delgany Judicial Review group for organising a challenge to the permission granted for the SHD development of 230 residential units at the site of the former Carmelite monastery. I hope they are successful and I will continue to support their legal action efforts by raising this issue at a political level.

However, the judicial review process typifies the inequity at the heart of this legislation. Only 15 per cent of SHD permissions granted to date have been challenged by judicial review. We know that 85% of judicial reviews are won but not every community has the resources to collectively take a judicial review, which means that the vast majority of residents are forced to live with bad planning if they can’t afford or don’t have the capacity to challenge an SHD decision.

There is an unspoken, or at least not spoken of enough, problem in local democracy and that is the growing lack of powers and functions allocated to local government. I see it first-hand in my work as a public representative but we also know from research that Ireland has the most limited local decision making in western Europe and doesn’t fare well in comparisons beyond those borders either.

The Strategic Housing Development legislation is part of this wider move to bypass local democracy, as is the proposed Land Development Agency (LDA) measure also mentioned earlier. This approach to national policy also drives unsustainable local development; often in direct conflict with local needs and concerns.

The solution is a cross-party agreement at local council level that this legislation is not having the intended outcome on the ground.