Taoiseach rejects NIMBYism accusations over Castleknock planning objection

Mr Varadkar says there is a difference between development and bad development.

Taoiseach rejects NIMBYism accusations over Castleknock planning objection

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at the National Ploughing Championships. 21-09-2017. Image: Sam Boal/Rollingnews

The Taoiseach has defended his objection to a new housing development planned for his own constituency.

Leo Varadkar came in for accusations of NIMBYism (Not In My Back Yard) after objecting to the construction of a four-story apartment block in Castleknock.

He made the objection despite encouraging local councils to build more high-rise accommodation in an effort to address the ongoing housing crisis.

Speaking in County Offaly on the final day of the National Ploughing Championships Mr Varadkar said there is a difference between development and bad development.

“My constituency is also one that was blighted by bad planning,” he said. “Particularly by Fianna Fáil - building houses and apartments without putting infrastructure in first.”

“I am very much for development; very much for housing construction in all parts of the country - but there is a difference between being in favour of development and being in favour of every single development.

“I think it is always the prerogative of a councillor or TD to object to particular developments that they may see as inappropriate.”

Bad planning

Earlier this week a spokesperson for the Taoiseach defended the objection insisting councillors were not being asked to support “bad planning or inappropriate developments” adding that the objection was to a high-rise apartment block in the middle of housing estate.

In his objection, Mr Varadkar called the planned development a “huge error of judgement” which would have unacceptable implications long into the future.

He claimed the four story apartment design model had long fallen into disfavour and it was grossly insensitive of local feeling to permit such dated architecture.

Fundamental disconnect

On Newstalk Breakfast however, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the objection “sums up the fundamental disconnect between the rhetoric the Taoiseach articulates - and his ministers - and the reality on the ground in terms of substance and policy.”

Presenter Shane Coleman meanwhile, said Mr Varadkar was “speaking out of both sides of the mouth.”

“It is hypocritical,” he said. “There is no other word for it.”

“It is black and white; there is no grounds – other than looking for local votes – for opposing this.”

“It is sending out all the wrong signals.”

This morning, the junior housing minister Damien English insisted the Taoiseach was not being hypocritical. 

“It wasn’t a principle of housing,” he said. “It was to do with how to manage traffic at that junction.”

“So I want to say it to you; it is important for everybody else to realise in this country. While there is an urgency in tackling a housing crisis and bringing forward new developments on zoned land throughout the country; we still respect the right of people to object to planning.

“We are trying to find ways to deal with those objections quicker but the right is there for anybody – you, me or the Taoiseach.”

Homeless and housing crisis

On Tuesday, new figures from the Residential Tenancies Board revealed that average rents across the country had increased by 6.6% in the 12 months to the end of June.

The figures set a new record high – with the cost of renting now almost 11% higher than it was at the peak of the Celtic Tiger.

The latest government figures show that more than 8,000 people were homeless in July.