From Castlebar - County Mayo -

Local Papers Commentary
The Connaught Telegraph 8 October 2003
By The Jaundiced Eye
12, Oct 2003 - 19:27

No justification for preventing people building one-off houses

There is no justification for preventing people in rural areas building one-off houses, according to Fianna Fail Deputy John Carty, TD. He stated: "I welcome recent comments from Bertie Ahern that he strongly supports people who want to build one-off housing on their family farms and that the Government will look at current planning and development legislation to address the issue. The failure by young people to get planning permission on family farms is now one of the biggest issues in Mayo."

And lots more of the same disingenuous rubbish in the press statement published without comment by the CT. Why can't we just say what we mean: "We farmers need this fine cash crop of building sites" and be done with it? The nice myth that all one-off houses are built by the sons of farmers is a load of cow manure – and indeed it smells just like the kind that regularly wafts across into the kitchens of these one-off houses.

It would be fine if the myth were the truth but the reality is that farmers have a strong vested interest in selling sites to all-comers. Strangely enough Mr Carty is a land-owning TD and County Councillor himself! Gosh Shock Horror! How could that be? And he uses his TD County Councillor status to promote the sale of sites for one-off houses. Huh? Am I that jaundiced I wonder?

And sure weren’t they all chanting the new National Anthem long into the night at the FF Ard Fheis last weekend?

Sinne Fianna Fáil
A tá ag togail ribbon houses,
buion dár Cash Crop
Thar toinn Rezoned Development Sites with OPP,
Fé mhóid bheith saibhear (rich).
Sean tír ár - Sites for Sale Sites for Sale"

Just look at the ‘Sites for Sale’ signs littered all along any road in the country. Check the names of those erecting them – how many belong to that other vested interest species of TD and County Councillor – the auctioneer or ‘developer’. If all these houses are built for just the immediate offspring of a farmers how come there are for sale signs all over the place? Do they have so many children that they have to auction the sites off to their children? How come half the houses built in the State are built as one-off houses? Do we really have that many farmers with children that want or need to build a house on their farm? You gotta be kiddin' us!

Another item in the Connaught this week concerns an objection to a planning permission on a farm where already 10 sites have got planning permission. So the owner has 10 children and to hell with the eldest son getting the farm? No - the objections came from those living in houses that would be overlooked by the new house – presumably the objectors houses are on the same parcel of land - the same farm or neighbouring farm?

So we have agricultural land prices now anchored to rezoned site prices – the real farmers can’t afford to buy farmland because it is benchmarked against the cash crop site prices. The genuine farmers are being priced out of farming unable to acquire a holding large enough to be viable as a full-time farm. Agriculture income is going down but land prices are going up simply because of the ability to sell sites.

But people born and reared in cities, towns and villages also buy houses don’t they? Nobody ever suggests that they might want to live near their parents or siblings. Nor that they have some God-given right to live where they were born or get a cheap house in the neighbourhood? Hardly.

In fact the FF speculators and brown envelope brigade have done everything in their power to make sure that they cannot afford to buy a house of any description. So now they are creating the myth that rural farming families have a ‘right’ to cheap housing but really it’s a ploy to cash in on site sales – the cash crop in other words. So the magical answer to Liam Lawlor and Ray Burke and Frank Dunlop and all the rest (we won’t mention names closer to home) is to build in the country on FF or FG farmers’ land sold off by FF or FG auctioneers and built by FF or FG ‘developers’. Breathtaking stuff! I am lost in admiration at the sheer neck!

As long as we don’t mention that pathogenic bacteria, viruses and protozoans seeping from these one-off septic tanks; polluting half the aquifers in the country. Ponded swamps leaching septic material silently into streams and lakes. Increasingly ribbon dwellings add to air pollution, traffic congestion, draining services such as water and electricity. We commute much further from our one-off houses than they do in the USA who invented the sprawl or ribbon in the first place - put 'sprawl' and  'pollution' into Google to see what I mean - I got 'about 117,000' references just now. We are decimating our countryside habitats and breaking up hedgerows hand over fist. We are destroying tourism by building on top of every beauty spot in the county. We are creating an architectural nightmare that will sink any hope of sustainable tourism in the future. Lip service to environmental issues but in reality it’s a mess. Remove that word sustainability!

Just look at what the supposed farmers' daughters and farmers sons have done to the road between Castlebar and Westport. That’s a lot of farming sons and daughters lined up house to house along the national route over the entire 11-mile stretch with barely a gap! What was wrong with building in carefully zoned housing outwards from villages like Aghagower or Islandeady where there are churches and schools to form a nucleus of a real community? Nothing - but greed got in the way. But then the poor FF landowner not located near Aghagower or Islandeady wouldn’t get to sell off a few of their cash crop sites if planning worked that way. Same number of houses but not as many landowners would get to share in the bonanza. Charlie H. showed them the way but we have to pay.

So John Carty, land owner, TD and county councillor give us a break.

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