Director of Services Barry Kehoe.

Council in Westmeath 'struggling with plannning enforcement'

The county council has said it will be providing additional staff to deal with its "increasing workload" of complaints about unauthorised development in various parts of Westmeath.

At the local authority's monthly meeting last week, councillors called for a more effective response to the issue.

Council director of services Barry Kehoe said there were some planning enforcement complaints that the council was "actively engaged" on at the moment.

However, he said the recruitment of planning staff was a problem for local authorities across the country. On Tuesday last, it was reported that city and county councils nationally had sought an additional €40 million from the Government for the hiring of 541 more planning staff.

"It has become difficult to get, and hold onto, planning staff. There tends to be a revolving door syndrome," Mr Kehoe told councillors.

He said, however, that more staff were being added to the council's planning enforcement team in order to deal with the greater workload in this area.

The discussion on Monday, January 30, heard councillors John Dolan, Paul Hogan and Frankie Keena each voice concerns about alleged unauthorised development in the Willow Park area of Athlone, and the impact it was having on sewerage in the locality.

Responding on behalf of the council, Mr Kehoe said there was a "graduated" process that had to be followed in relation to complaints about unauthorised development. He said this involved an inspection, a warning letter, an enforcement notice if necessary, and then court proceedings if an enforcement notice wasn't complied with.