Dispersed rural housing

Sir, – David Buttimer (February 15th) argues that Frank McDonald (Opinion & Analysis, February 13th) is quite wrong in claiming that dispersed rural housing undermines the viability of villages and small rural towns and that, on the contrary, it is the refusing of planning permissions by local councils over the past 15 years in their wider rural hinterlands which is driving the problem.

According to the Central Statistics Office, which keeps detailed records of the phenomenon, over the past 15 years 170,399 dispersed one-off houses have been granted permission nationwide.

Indeed, the period since 2002 has been the most prolific era of one-off dispersed rural house building in the history of the State with 117,290 (27 per cent) of the national total of 425,840 added. This has coincided with the precipitous decline of rural towns and villages.

We also know from the Central Statistics Office that 70 per cent of all one-off house building is between one to five kilometres from an urban settlement. It is time to call this trend out for what it is – classic counter-urbanisation and ex-urban sprawl which is deleterious to our rural towns and villages.

Furthermore, and contrary to popular myth that local councils regularly refuse planning permission for one-off houses, according to the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, 91 per cent of all planning applications are granted permission, with typically higher rates in more rural counties.

Mr Buttimer is quite correct, however, in advocating for the regeneration of rural towns and villages through positive inducements.

The failure to provide alternatives to one-off house building and stemming the haemorrhaging of population to far-flung hinterlands has been one of the most egregious and costly failures of modern Irish planning policy. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 1.

Sir, – What I find remarkable in all the years I have seen this subject debated in your Letters page is that it is invariably urban dwellers who presume to dictate to rural dwellers about what sort of developments they should undertake. Over the same period I have never seen a letter from a rural dweller disparaging urban developments, although we all know that there have been repeated disasters in that sector.

There are now far fewer rural dwellers in single units than there were a hundred years ago and, while the costs attached to single units are higher, those dwellers are taxpayers who are helping to retain some vestige of human life in the country.

Is it too much to expect urbanites to show as much respect for the dwindling rural human population as they often do for rural wildlife? – Yours, etc,



Co Donegal.