Friday, 8 December 2006

Riordan rejects call to restrict access to planning files

Irish Examiner:

A CALL for restricted public access to planning files in Kerry has been strongly rejected by county manager Martin Riordan.

Some councillors, who claim “serial objectors” are putting pressure on council staff by demanding a large number of files at the same time, have called for curbs to be introduced.

Independent Cllr Michael Healy-Rae accused some objectors of going to the planning department with a list of up to 40 files they wished to examine.

However, Mr Riordan said people were legally entitled to see files once the applications were in the public domain.

For that reason, he had no intention of reducing the number of files they could examine.

Mr Riordan also said he was concerned about the use of the term “serial objector” by Mr Healy-Rae which, he added, had serious connotations.

Cllr Healy-Rae called for new rules in the planning department to be “enforced rigorously” on serial objectors.

“When they want to receive anything more than two files, they should have to sign their names and should not be allowed access to anything more than 10 files per day,” the councillor said.

“Some of our serial objectors have, in the past, requested to see over 40 files per visit. This is not acceptable as it puts too much of a workload on our staff.”

He further alleged that such people were not going to the planning department out of genuine interest, but to look for information from around the county.

However, Mr Riordan said transparency was essential in the planning process.

“A person is entitled to come into the office and examine a file. It is a legal entitlement,” he emphasised.

But, he pointed out that someone coming in with a huge list could not be guaranteed immediate access.

Planning continues to be a major, contentious issue in Kerry, with councillors still claiming that there are difficulties in getting the go-ahead for one-off houses in the county.

Senior planning officials, however, have dismissed suggestions that it is more difficult to get planning for such houses in Kerry than in other counties.

Last year, the council’s planning department dealt with 4,500 applications, 83% of which were granted.

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