A MOVE by Mayo County Council to have lands in Ballina and Westport included on the vacant sites register has been called into question by An Bord Pleanála.
The council had initiated the action in an effort to address a housing need in the towns, Ballina being cited as being in need of 593 new units.
However, the owner of one of a site at Killala Road in Balina, Fergal Burke, successfully appealed the council's decision.
He explained that he and Thomas Carr wished to develop lands for purposes other than housing over the course of the existing development plan.
The appellant said it was clear that at time of preparation of core strategy that there was an oversupply of houses in the area and since then there has been a fall in population levels.
“Currently 121 properties are for sale in Ballina on www.daft.ie with average price of properties €175,736 which is significantly behind average prices in the State (excluding main cities), which indicates a lack of housing demand or need in the area,” he added.
In her assessment of the case, Una Crosse, senior planning inspector, said the appeal stated that Census 2016 showed the vacancy rate in Ballina in 2016 was 14.3%, which indicate the absence of a housing need in the area.
“I do not consider that there is sufficient evidence to support a need for housing in Ballina and therefore the site would not meet the test set out to be included on the vacant sites register.
“I would also note that it is my opinion that this ‘site’ comprises two sites with two separate folios in separate ownership and arguably should not have been considered as one site.
“Therefore, the entry on the Vacant Sites Register on January 1, 2018, shall be removed."
Since the Burke ruling, Judge Bros have been successful in having a site at Glen Ri Estate, Bonniconlon Road, Ballina, removed from the vacant site register, as has John Laurence Gerard Conway in respect of a site at Knockranny, Westport.
In both of those cases, the absence of evidence of a housing need was cited by An Bord Pleanála.