AN BORD PLEANALA and Minister for the Environment, John Gormley, came in for sharp criticism at last Monday's meeting of Wicklow County Council.
Deirdre Scully of the Regional Planning Guidelines gave the members notice that guidelines for the Greater Dublin area, which includes Wicklow Town and county, were going to be reviewed and said they would welcome submissions.
The idea behind the review, she said, was so they could see the areas within each county they needed to focus on.
Key issues under the RPGs include public transport, water services, the built and natural heritage and social infrastructure.
Following her presentation Cllr. George Jones said he felt the 'whole planning process is just a bureaucratic nightmare. 'We are going nowhere. The Minister for the Environment is a complete dictator when it comes to planning.'
Cllr. Chris Fox agreed saying Minister Gormley has 'started to dictate to local authorities about planning. We heard about a memo from the Minister to each county manager urging them not to relax any criteria for rural planning and to tighten it significantly instead.'
Cllr. Jimmy O'Shaughnessy said he didn't feel Wicklow got enough out of the current RPGs. 'One thing that was put into the last plan was about bringing jobs to Wicklow. I don't think we got any jobs out of it and in fact factories are closing every day,' he said. Cllr. O'Shaughnessy was also concerned about the intervention of Minister Gormley. 'I am worried about the Minister. I believe if he had his way there wouldn't be a house built in the county. People have the right to live where they were born and reared.'
Cllr. John Ryan said there were massive inconsistencies within An Bord Pleanala. 'Wicklow County Council makes one decision, the inspector with An Bord Pleanala makes another and An Bord Pleanala makes another. It seems to me that God only knows what they (An Bord Pleanala) will do.
Cllr. Pat Vance said that he had been expressing his concerns about An Bord Pleanala for a long time and said they were behaving disgracefully.
Green Party's Ciaran O'Brien said there had been 'horrendous' planning practices in Ireland for the past ten years and said people 'were giving planning permission to their buddies'.
However Cllr. O'Shaughnessy was outraged and asked him to retract the statement saying that when it came to planning he had 'no buddies'.