Sham separations and divorces are being used to get around planning restrictions on one-off houses in rural Ireland, according to a Galway councillor.
A meeting of Galway County Council on Monday heard that married couples are pretending to break up to secure planning permission for a second one-off home.
Under the county’s development plan, people are not permitted to apply for permission for a one-off house if they have previously been granted planning permission in the area.
Moycullen councillor Noel Thomas told the council that he had personally seen situations where couples pretended to break up in order to get around the restrictions.
On The Pat Kenny Show this morning, he said it is “not that difficult a thing to do” to get legal documents saying you are separated or divorced.
He said some couples could actually go as far as getting court-certified separation and divorce documents.
“You have got to understand that there are people out there that are not lacking in funding and can afford to do that sort of stuff,” he said. “It’s no problem if they wanted.”
Cllr Thomas said he fully supports the right of separated couples to re-apply for one-off housing – but is opposing a motion calling for separation and divorce to be explicitly included as an exemption to the policy.
He said it is “incredibly difficult” to put a catch-all policy in place he would prefer to see a director of services for planning empowered to make decisions in difficult cases.
“We need a policy in place but it is incredibly difficult to put a policy in place that is going to be strong enough to be able to uphold itself,” he said.
“So, I have to say, to be very honest with you, my preference on this from the very beginning would be that there should be a director of services for planning for your county that should have the final say on this.
“If something was to be written into the county development plan, that is what should be written in.
“Rather than a policy on people being able to get planning again after getting separated, the policy should be clearly written to say that a director of services would have the option to grant a planning permission or grant a housing need again to a person based on the information that can be compiled in relation to the couple and their split and everything else.
“Then it can be done fairly.”
The Galway County Development Plan currently includes a provision for exceptions to the rules regarding one-off housing; however, the exceptions are not defined with the plan.
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