AN TAISCE was last night labelled a secret society as councillors demanded that the Minister for the Environment delist the organisation under the Planning Acts.
At the adjourned May meeting of Clare County Council, councillors adopted a motion calling on the Minister, Phil Hogan, to delist An Taisce under planning legislation.
Currently, local authorities are required to refer certain planning applications to An Taisce for its observations. However, at last night’s meeting, Cllr Joe Cooney (FG) said it was a disgrace the way An Taisce was objecting to and subsequently appealing to An Bord Pleanála over applications for one-off housing in the county.
Cllr Cooney said: “Young people are seeking to build a home for themselves and An Taisce are appealing decisions at the last minute to An Bord Pleanála.”
Cllr PJ Kelly (FF) said An Taisce was a secret society and that the organisation should make its membership public, remarking that its members may contain representatives of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Fine Gael councillor, Joe Arkins said An Taisce objects to developments in Co Clare without properly researching planning applications “and as a consequence of that, they have lost credibility”.
Mr Oliver Garry (FG) said that he was supportive of the motion, stating that An Taisce objects to everything.
However, Green Party councillor Brian Meaney said An Taisce had been unfairly vilified with “inflammatory and dangerous language used”. Mr Meaney said councillors would find it beneficial by positively engaging with An Taisce.
The motion to request Mr Hogan to delist An Taisce was carried with Mr Meaney and Patricia McCarthy (Ind) dissenting.
Last night, chairman of An Taisce Charles Stanley-Smith said he was disappointed by the council’s action.
“The councillors fail to understand An Taisce’s role. We are not a decision-making body. We are not anti-rural or anti-development.” Mr Stanley-Smith said An Taisce “is there to protect the common good. We try to make sure that the laws of the country are adhered to”. He also rejected the claim that the organisation is a secret society.“Anyone can join and the members of the governing body of An Taisce are well known.”
He said that on average An Taisce appealed 300 decisions per year to An Bord Pleanála. “We don’t appeal for the sake of appealing.
“We do tend to win with 80 per cent of decisions going our way as An Bord Pleanála is guided by the planning laws in making its decisions.”