Local authority breached law by failing to implement language condition on planning permission

Kerry County Council breached planning laws by failing to implement a language condition attached to a planning permission for a housing development in the West Kerry Gaeltacht, An Coimisinéir Teanga has said.

The Office of the Language Commissioner carried out an investigation on a provision of the Planning and Development Act 2000 for the first time last year, according to its 2019 annual report.

The commissioner “concluded that this was a matter that came under my jurisdiction as it concerned an allegation that a provision of an enactment that pertained to the status or use of an official language had possibly been breached”.

The condition attached to the planning permission by An Bord Pleanála in 2005 was that 75 per cent of the 16 houses to be built were to be provided only to “persons who have demonstrated to the planning authority a reasonable fluency in the Irish language” for a period of 20 years.

However, a member of the public complained in 2017 that Kerry County Council did not implement this language condition or ensure it was implemented.

After an investigation, the Language Commissioner found that there was a “fundamental fault resulting in no legal or practical arrangements being in place to ensure that the County Council was informed when ownership was being transferred and whereby language competence would be assessed at this stage”.

“This is a very important investigation due to the link between the future of the Irish language as a community language in the Gaeltacht and the impact that an increase of non-­Irish speakers could have on the protection of the language,” the report states.

“The investigation demonstrated that Kerry County Council did not implement the relevant language provision − a language provision confirmed by law to protect the use of Irish in the Gaeltacht. This was obviously a very serious breach.”

The Language Commissioner has recommended that Kerry County Council “prepare and establish, to my satisfaction, procedures to be following in any case where a language requirement is attached to planning permission for a housing development in the Gaeltacht, in order to ensure that the language requirement is implemented effectively”.

The Commissioner also recommended that the County Council “inform my Office, for the next five years, of any planning permission granted in the Kerry Gaeltacht for large planning applications or applications in respect of three dwellings or more”.

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