THE County Manager has warned of a get tough policy against rogue developers. Speaking this week Mr Michael McLoone said council enforcement will be stepped up and "people who didn't comply with planning conditions would suffer the full forces of the law".
Mr McLoone was speaking at Monday night's Town Council meeting in Letterkenny where four motions were tabled concerning planning problems around the town. There were claims from councillors that some developers "had the belief that they could do what they wanted and get away with it".
A number of residents from the Carolina Park area of Letterkenny attended the meeting to highlight their dispute with a local developer who has built an illegal road beside the estate , leading to flooding and damage to gardens.
It emerged that an enforcement notice was issued by the council against the developer 14 months ago and he had still failed to comply with the terms of that Notice.
The Council issued an Enforcement Notice to Dunree Construction on January 31, 2006 concerning the construction of an unauthorised roadway at Kiltoy, Letterkenny. Residents are furious the developer has failed to comply with the terms of the Notice. The matter is currently in the hands of solicitors but residents feel not enough is being done to bring the developer to task.
Mr Larry O'Neill is Chairman of the Carolina Park Residents Association.
"There is no enforcement going on here. The Manager told us tonight he was not personally aware of this case but has agreed to review the file and visit the area with his officials," he said.
Mr O'Neill said there were 54 houses in the estate and it had won numerous prizes in the past few years in the Tidy Towns.
"The place is flooded any time there is rain. We have hit a stone wall and we're here as a last resort to get something done," he said.
Councillor Jimmy Harte called on the council to pursue developers that were non compliant. In the case of Carolina Park he said: "Here we have a case where an enforcement notice was sent almost fourteen months ago and I wonder was the letter even opened. The public perception out there is that certain developers are getting away with it and we're allowing them to get away with it. We don't seem to have the powers. This developer did inform the council in July 2006 of his notice to submit retention but that has now gone on for eight months."
"The people in Carolina Park are getting a raw deal. Their gardens have been destroyed and they can't let their kids out to play. We have a developer here who is giving two fingers to the planning authority. It is a shame," Cllr Harte added.
Agreeing Cllr Gerry McMonagle said the problem was widespread over the town.
"This is not about just one developer. There are developers who are getting away with murder. We see cases where half way through a development it is
changed in style and then the developer applies for retention. This is a major issue in the town. There are developers flouting the planning laws and we need to tighten up and if that means further resources they have to be provided," Councillor McMonagle said.
Cllr Damien Blake said it was vital as a town that was benefiting from such development that the Town Council was seen to have the 'toughest regulations'.
"What is happening in some cases is shocking and residents are getting caught up in a protracted legal process. It is making a mockery of the planning process," he said.
Cllr Dessie Larkin, a resident of Carolina Park, said residents were woken at 6am, had their gardens wrecked and hedges removed.
"A massive injustice has been done to the people out in Carolina Park. Our houses are our castles but here we are when an enforcement order has been served over 14 months ago and there has been no compliance. We need more enforcement and I'm calling for the appointment of such an officer immediately in Letterkenny and our access to planning staff increased to three mornings per week. Solicitors have to be made aware of the urgency of such cases," he said.
Cllr Jim Lynch said a maximum period of eight weeks for compliance after an Enforcement Order was served needed to be introduced while Cllr Jean Crossan said it was time that 'knuckles were wrapped'. Concluding the debate Cllr Harte said: "We may have to consider injunction proceedings."
The County Manager agreed to personally review the file with planning officials. On the issue of non compliance generally he said the County Council had agreed to invest a further ¤1million in the planning service.
"We're trying to recruit planners and administrative staff to ensure all legal matters are followed up. However, the message has to go out loud and clear that we are absolutely focused on active enforcement. People who don't comply will suffer the full force of the law and the sooner the better," he said.
© Donegal News