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19 April 2007 Edition

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Tipp village fights developers' greed

By Ella O’Dwyer

The residents of Puckane, a small village in North Tipperary, are extremely concerned about a proposed rezoning in the area which they believe will practically destroy their community. This scenic village currently has a population of 269 people living in an estimated 100 houses.  But North Tipperary County Council wants to allow developers to build 400 houses in the village.
While initially it appeared that the acreage involved in the rezoning was to be in the region of 24 acres, it later emerged that this plan had been amended to incorporate 105.2 acres. Sinn Féin Councillor for nearby Nenagh Seamus Morris fully empathises with the community of Puckane on the issue. “Puckane is an idyllic rural place untouched by planning for many years and preserved in its original style – a sleepy village with a shop, a pub, a craft shop, with a beautiful array of thatched houses and situated near Lough Derg. It’s a typical old-fashioned Irish village which the locals have preserved in its original form.  An application was made for rezoning in 2005 – an application that was acceptable, but then a couple of weeks before the council were to vote on that application it was amended to entail a much bigger development, yet the council still voted the application through.
While the infrastructure of Puckane could have sustained the original smaller application for the 24-acre site, the revised application would amount to 105 acres with a probable addition of 400 houses. That’s likely to bring a 600% increase in population. The real disgrace is that the people of Puckane only discovered the extent of the rezoning two weeks ago and they are justifiably outraged. I blame the County Councillors here who – each and every one of them – backed the interests of the developers over the welfare of the residents. I’m convinced there was a deliberate attempt between some Councillors and the developers to corrupt the application process. The residents had agreed to the 25-acre development and the additional acreage was passed at the last minute – too late for the residents to object. It’s a disgrace.”
Speaking on behalf of the Puckane Development Association Seán Fay said, “The development being proposed for this small village is totally unsustainable. The projections on the population figures for this village as it stands is nothing in line with what would happen to Puckane if 400 additional houses are built. At the moment our primary school is at full capacity with 170 – there’s no way it could cope with the population increase expected from such a development. We don’t want to see the village turned into a town over night – the infrastructure just doesn’t exist for that kind of development. I was brought up here – I don’t want to see the place turned into an urban masse without the resources to cope. We’re gong to fight this tooth and nail. This development will not happen, we’re contacting the Department of the Environment, local TDs and Councillors to object. The only councillor that has come out full scale in support of us is the Sinn Féin councillor in Nenagh Shemie Morris and Arthur Morgan TD is to submit a Dáil Question on our behalf. The media too have taken a big interest in the case – we’ve made the front page of the Nenagh Guardian three weeks in a row and RTE 1’s programme Pobal covered the issue on Sunday 15 April.”
 Frustration was vocal on the programme with one elderly resident commenting; “this development will make a dog’s dinner of Puckane – I hope I don’t live to see it”. Interviewees expressed grave concern about the proposed rezoning and also indicated an increasing lack of confidence in North Tipperary’s County Councillors, who declined to be interviewed on the programme. Again on behalf of the Puckane Development Association Fay said: “We’re clearly not against development but in a balanced and sustainable way.  I just can’t understand how our county Councillors could have considered letting a development of this proportion go through – you can’t help wondering what pressure or influence they came under.”
The Councillors have since agreed to convene a meeting with representatives of the Association next Friday.
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