Mary Wallace TD.

Local anger intensifies over valley curbs plan

Hundreds of concerned residents of the Skryne-Tara area have demonstrated their strong opposition to a Meath County Council plan to restrict planning in the locality. Up to 250 people attended a public meeting in Skryne last week on the controversial Draft Tara Skryne Landscape Conservation Area plan which is due for decision at the next meeting of the county council. A show of hands rejected the plan at the meeting, which was hosted by Fianna Fail but saw attendance from local Fine Gael representatives as well. The deadline for submissions on the plan is today (Wednesday 16th June). Politicians from all sides of the political divide have expressed concern at the amount of land being taken in by the draft proposal. However, the Meath Archaeological and Historical Society (MAHS) has welcomed the plan, and says that fears being raised are based on misinformation and are groundless. The three Meath East TDs, Mary Wallace and Thomas Byrne of Fianna Fail, and Fine Gael's Shane McEntee, have all expressed opposition to the extent of the area which is coming under the conservation area, stretching from Bective to Walterstown. It was proposed from the floor at last week's meeting that each person at the meeting should demand that members of Meath County Council vote against the proposal and that the plan should be dropped. "This is a strong message from the area to each member of Meath County Council that people are vehemently opposed to the plan," Deputy Wallace said. "The decision on the plan is a function reserved to the 29 members of the council and they will each have a vote on the plan. It is, therefore, very important that each elected representative understands people's concerns at this time and, in particular, how people would like them to vote at the council meeting on Monday 5th July," she added. Cllr Nick Killian claimed that the plan would curtail the building of one-off rural housing in a five kilometre square area surrounding the Tara-Skryne valley. "It will also impede the building of additional farm buildings," he added. "It will prevent families putting satellite dishes or any sort of antennae for broadband onto there homes. I have attended many public meetings in the past, but never a meeting that was so unanimous in its opposition to the proposed conservation plans, put on display by the planning department by Meath County Council." Cllr Killian said the fact that Fine Gael councillors, Deputy Shane McEntee and Independent Cllr Frances Deane also attended, showed the huge cross-party opposition to the council's plan. Cllr Tommy Reilly indicated that the planners in Meath County Council were already operating as if the plan was in place, by referring applications for one-off rural housing to the Department of the Environment. "This is unacceptable, as the rural people of this beautiful and historic area have an entitlement to continue on living in the area as did their generations past," he said. He had no problems with the Hill of Tara being preserved, but the curtilage was extreme. All councillors present gave a strong commitment to vote against the proposal when it comes before the full membership of Meath County Council at its July meeting. Deputy McEntee and Fine Gael Navan Area Cllr Suzanne Jamal have asked Meath County Council to revise the extent of the area which is included in the Tara-Skryne Landscape Conservation Area Plan. "Whilst we fully agree with the need for preserving the historical landscape of Tara-Skryne area, we do not, at the same time, consider it appropriate to include the areas which are not of significance from a historical point of view," they said. "We believe Meath County Council has gone too far to expand the area included in the plan." Deputy McEntee said: "It is a huge area and a huge population of people that could be affected when looking for planning permission. We do not want a Newgrange II on our hands." . Cllr Jamal also expressed concern over the size of the area included in the plan, but had received assurances from Meath County Council that the current position regarding planning for one-off housing remains unchanged. Meath Archaeological and Historical Society has made a detailed submission to the council in relation to the draft plan.. In its submission, the society, which claims it represents the views of 600 members in Meath, broadly welcomes and endorses the proposal which, it believes, will prove of immense benefit, not only to the rich heritage of the Tara-Skryne area but also to the local residents, local communities and to the county as a whole in selling Meath as a prime heritage destination for tourism. The society highlighted he extensive research and consultation carried out by Meath County Council, with consultations that included experts in various fields.