Politics

Friends of the Irish Environmental believes that the Irish landscape in rural areas is under serious and imminent threat, and we are calling upon the Minister to take appropriate action on an urgent basis.



Mr Noel Dempsey, TD, Minister for the Environment

Department of the Environment,

Customs House,

Dublin 1,

24 June, 1999.


Re: Rural Regeneration Scheme


Dear Minister:


Friends of the Irish Environmental believes that the Irish landscape in rural areas is under serious and imminent threat, and we are calling upon the Minister to take appropriate action on an urgent basis.


As you know, the Irish landscape is important for a myriad of reasons-cultural, aesthetic and natural--and is known throughout the world. Over the last number of years, the Irish landscape has been suffering from ill conceived and rapid development, with an enormous amount of suburban style housing being pasted along our roads and on the edges of towns and cities. No land use principles have been enshrined in Irish law; no design guidelines (as would be common in the rest of Europe) have sought to preserve a visual wholeness to our landscape.


But now, we learn that there is to be a massive "rural regeneration scheme," whose purpose would appear to be yet again, to allow wealthy business people to write off the capital costs of construction of buildings anywhere in Leitrim, anywhere in Longford, and in certain parts of Roscommon and Sligo against income from "rental". (One can only imagine the potential for abuse of such a scheme.). This scheme will almost certainly lead to environmental and visual disaster, and we are calling on the Minister to take action, without waiting, to prevent this.


No European country is as careless with its landscape heritage as Ireland. Spain has had similar problems, but even Spain does not allow such haphazard building in its countryside.


We deplore the concept of tax relief vehicles for the already wealthy. We object strongly to the fact that the government is claiming that such schemes benefit local people, when in fact they benefit wealthy outsiders almost exclusively. We believe that such policies are unworthy of a modern European country.


But if this is to be the policy of the next few years, at the very least there must be a Ministerial directive instructing local authorities as to exactly where, and in what form, building can take place. If the Minister leaves this to a free for all, that will be the death of the Irish landscape as we know it in these areas.


We look forward to your prompt response to this serious matter.