ENVIRONMENT Minister John Gormley is to intervene with Waterford County Council over the controversy surrounding the rezoning of plots of land in the greater Dungarvan area.
A major garda investigation is under way into alleged planning irregularities in Dungarvan, with a number of local politicians quizzed by detectives in the past fortnight.
The rezoning issues being examined all relate to planning matters over the past decade.
Yesterday, it was officially learned that the Department of the Environment is now to intervene. Officials are to write to Waterford County Council to make a specific request that they do not move ahead with proposed variations -- rezonings -- in the county development plan.
Minister Gormley believes there has been an "excess of rezoning" in the area, with a particular focus on land zoned industrial.
He said: "I can't comment on the garda investigation. However, I and my department have had concerns going back to last year concerning some rezoning proposals, specifically the proposed rezoning of some land for industrial purposes. "I'll be asking my department to write out and engage with Waterford County Council on this issue."
It is understood that Mr Gormley will proceed to invoke Section 31 of the Planning and Development Act if the local authority fails to act on his request, meaning he can override their designations and block any proposed changes of use.
Last year Mr Gormley applied the provisions of Section 31 in order to overturn a series of rezonings ordered in Monaghan, which would have had the effect of quintupling the population of some villages.
The current garda probe was launched in early 2005, when a Waterford County Council employee raised concerns over specific planning matters with senior local authority officials.
After an internal inquiry, the matter was referred to the gardai. One person has already been charged in relation to the investigation, and a number of arrests made under anti-corruption legislation.
Senan Molony Deputy Political Editor