High level of refusals queried

Members of Westmeath County Council have queried why almost a quarter of planning applications are being turned down.

At the June monthly meeting of the council, Cllr John Dolan remarked that 154 planning applications had been granted and 40 refused so far this year. “That’s a very high percentage, almost a quarter! Why?”, he asked.

Cllr Tom Farrell asked why applicants were getting letters from the council, saying they must pay planning fees when those fees have been waived.

Cllr Frank McDermott said the percentage of planning refusals was “very high” and “certainly, something needs to be done”.

Barry Kehoe, Director of Services with the council, said he would look into what sort of developments were being refused and why.

He accepted that the rate is “slightly up”.

Mr Kehoe explained that the temporary waiver of development levies was not automatic and to qualify, the applicant must prove that work has started since April 24 last and make a declaration that it will be finished by the end of 2025. The council can then waive the fee and claim that money back from the Government.

Mr Kehoe said the planning department could attach an information note to grants of permission explaining that the waiver is available and how to apply for it. The waiver only applies to housing development.

A new assistant planner has started with the council, but they are still experiencing serious problems recruiting staff, Mr Kehoe explained. He said they will continue to try to recruit until they have a full complement, and if they cannot get suitable applicants from the relevant grades, they will look to other grades.