The decision on one-off housing will cost us a fortune in the years ahead. A lot of the coverage has focused on the possibility that some of our natural beauty spots will be tarnished by bungalows. For this column, bungalow blight is not the issue.
The main reasons for opposing this retrograde move are political, economic, and environmental or resource-based.
On the political front, Napoleon once stated accurately that â€œto govern is to choose’â€˜. It is crucial that a government is not seen to be continually compromising.
It needs to make hard choices and to stick to its convictions. A government without conviction is a government without credibility. It has to stand for something.
If it changes the planning laws and guidelines too frequently and in response to pestering from lobby groups, the credibility of all directives, laws and decrees will be tarnished. In short, no system can work without a set of rules and if the rules are bent too often the entire system is undermined.
Farmers, developers and individual owners of land will interpret Roche’s latest move as a green light to chance their arms, leading to a further blurring of planning regulation. Of itself, extending development may not be a big deal, but the related economic ramifications certainly are. Let us be very clear: if we have one-off housing, we cannot have a functioning public transport system, public health service, public education system or postal system, never mind universal access to broadband or cable.
Think five years hence, with thousands of houses dotted willy-nilly around the country, neither in villages nor towns. A rural movement starts complaining, in marginal constituencies, about the lack of buses or other public transport infrastructure.
You then get the airwaves blocked by the rather innocent-sounding â€œrural bus coalition’â€˜ that is running a candidate in the local elections on the rural isolation ticket. Suddenly you have local TDs promising hourly bus services to the back end of nowhere to facilitate the people that built their one-off houses at the end of the valley in 2006.
The success of the rural bus coalition spawns the â€œisolated ambulance platform’â€˜, which is running another candidate for â€œimmediate ambulance access for the dark-side-of-the-mountain’â€˜. This flamboyant candidate is threatening the goofy scion of an interbred fourth generation local political dynasty.
Within weeks the local TD is in the DÃ¡il demanding ambulances for all and within a month or so you get the â€œremote school access project’â€˜ calling for school buses to travel the 30-mile round trip to pick up little Saoirse from halfway up Errigal and drop her to school for nine o’clock.
It’s the same story with postal services as well as water, sewage, telecom and roads infrastructure. The more you spread the population, the higher the cost of providing all these services.
But do you think a variation of the â€œpolluter pays’â€˜ concept would be applied to price these extra services - where the more remote you are, the more you pay for basic utilities because it costs more to get the services to you? No way.
There would be uproar, constitutional challenges and entire Liveline programmes devoted to the â€œconstitutional right’â€˜ to be bussed to the local â€œeducate together’â€˜ preschool.
So who pays? The worker who has abided by the laws, who has bought a place in a town or a village and who is not lucky enough to inherit land. You pay.
Your bills and taxes will be increased to pay for the lobby group that shouts the loudest.
The combination of a weak political system, opportunistic land owners and pushy local candidates means that the silent suburban majority - the backbone of this country - gets shafted again.