Councillors say they want to ‘lead the way’ on housing for people with disabilities

One in 20 of all residential units in new developments built in Westmeath may have to be designed to be facilitate a person with a disability.

The policy is to be included in the new Draft County Development Plan (2021-2027) after councillors voted to reject the recommendation by its chief executive not to include the amendment. In his recommendation made at last Monday’s online meeting to finalise the new Draft County Development Plan, Pat Gallagher recommended the amendment – that five percent of homes in developments of over 20 units be fitted out for people with disabilities – not be included, as there is no supporting legislation and that “in the absence of any national guideline... it is outside the remit of the plan”.

Senior planner Cathaldus Hartin told councillors that there were also issues relating to the “practical implementation on the ground”. He also noted that CDP is “very strong its commitment to this type of development and supporting the national housing strategy for people with disabilities”.

However, Cllr Louise Heavin proposed that she and her colleagues reject the recommendation.

She said that Westmeath County Council was one of the first to finalise its Draft County Development Plan and “can lead the way” when it comes to the area of housing for people with disabilities.

She also noted that the implementation could be done at the design phase. By including the policy, Westmeath is “setting a good example to other councils”, she said.

Cllr Tom Farrell seconded Cllr Heavin’s proposal to include the amendment. “Why not be the lead council on the issue?” he said.

Cllr John Dolan said that the council spends a significant amount of money each year adapting houses for people with disabilities “and rightly so”.

“It’s good planning,” he said.

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