MEMBERS OF Mayo County Council are prepared to take legal action to prevent Minister for the Environment John Gormley from dismantling their new county development plan.
The Minister is unhappy with the council’s decision to ignore the advice of his department by allowing greater flexibility for single-house developments in rural communities deemed to be under urban influence.
The Fine Gael whip on the authority, Cllr Paddy McGuinness, described the Minister’s intervention as very frustrating as he declined requests to meet the elected members during the consultation process this year.
“I felt a great sense of satisfaction when the new plan was adopted in May because I knew it was very significant in addressing problems being experienced in our rural communities.
“Now I feel my homework has been thrown back at me by an authoritative teacher. Since that happened in July all the positivity has been replaced by negativity.
“We worked very hard to get it right and now we are involved in time-consuming and morale-destroying work in fighting his intervention which, in my view, is so unnecessary.”
Cllr Al McDonnell, the chairman of the Fianna Fáil party on the council, said the members of the council would never accept a Cromwellian-type policy of driving, in herd-like fashion, rural people into urbanised surroundings against their will and against their better judgment and welfare. He said the development plan took full note of housing guidelines circulated to local authorities in 2005. These were based on the original National Spatial Strategy of 2001.
“So that there would be no misunderstanding, no misrepresentations of what we intended in our plan, we decided to include in verbatim form Chapter One of the sustainable housing guidelines of 2005. It is, therefore, quite extraordinary that the Minister has decided in his directive issued on July 11th to delete his own department’s statutory guidelines from our current plan.”
“The more we research this extraordinary directive, the more convinced we are that the Minister has not read our plan nor does he know anything about our county. If he is fortunate enough to be totally dependent on his officials, then he needs to take a close look at them as well.”
Sinn Féin councillor Gerry Murray said the Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil parties on the council were playing Russian roulette with planning in the county.
“My constituents have been the ones affected most by the situation. It behoves us all to work together and find a resolution.”
Mayo County Council has been invited to send a four-strong delegation to the next meeting of the Oireachtas Committee for the Environment to outline their dispute with Mr Gormley.
The Irish Times