Friday 22 June 2007

Planning twist over Bev's holiday home

THE millionaire partner of newly elected TD Beverley Flynn built the couple's idyllic holiday home using planning permission obtained by a local woman living in a council house.

Builder Tony Gaughan bought the one hectare site for the scenic retreat on the edge of the Atlantic in 1997.

The 50-year-old property developer was able to use planning permission which had been obtained by the daughter of the landowner in Doohoma, north Mayo, just four months earlier.

He is a frequent visitor to the home with his partner Ms Flynn, with whom he has two children.

She is currently facing bankruptcy proceedings taken by RTE over her failure to pay almost €3m in legal costs from her failed libel case.

The holiday home is located in an area which is now the subject of planning restrictions due to its scenic beauty.

It is just 200 metres from a sandy beach and has uninterrupted views of Tullaghan Bay and Achill Island.

Although the planning climate was much looser in Mayo in 1997, it would still have been extremely difficult to secure a site in one of the most scenic parts of the village.

However, the woman who made the planning permission application was Breege Cooney, a single woman living in a council house in Doohoma.

Her late father John owned the site at the time. And her connection to the land meant her planning application was almost guaranteed to succeed.

An investigation by the Irish Independent has revealed the application was made on her behalf by Castlebar-based planning agent John Hamrock, who has made more than a dozen planning applications for Mr Gaughan.

Mr Hamrock was unavailable for comment last night.

Ms Cooney confirmed to the Irish Independent that she had never lived in the house.

She said she allowed her name to be used on the planning application for the site as part of an arrangement between herself and Mr Gaughan.

But she would not reveal any further details.

"What happened between me and Tony was between ourselves," she said.

Ms Cooney and her family had been living in a run-down council house but, in 1998, Mayo council built a new bungalow for them.

The Irish Independent contacted Mr Gaughan, who denied that he had made any arrangement with Ms Cooney.

He also denied that he had asked her to seek planning permission for a house on the site.

Mr Gaughan said he had bought the site from Ms Cooney's father John (now deceased) after the planning permission had been granted, and that all his actions had been "100pc legit".

When asked if the involvement of Mr Hamrock in the planning application showed a connection to him, Mr Gaughan said the agent carried out lots of planning applications for people all over the North Mayo area.

Mayo county council insisted Mr Gaughan had not broken any planning laws.

"It's not an issue for us, whatever happened before or after the planning permission was given," a spokesman said. He rejected claims the council was "going easy" on Mr Gaughan.

Mr Gaughan and Ms Flynn's main residence is a mansion outside Castlebar, which has been dubbed 'Beverley Hills' by locals.

Ms Flynn did not return a call seeking comment about the revelations.

Michael Brennan
Irish Independent

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