Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Forum calls for Cllr. Allen to resign

ALLEGATIONS CONTAINED in last Monday night's Prime Time Investigates have put Cllr. Lorcan Allen's business activities firmly in the spotlight.

His involvement in rezoning his own family land in Gorey and his failure to make a full declaration of interests was dealt with fully in the RTE programme and has prompted the newly-established Local Government Enquiry Forum to call for his resignation.

In an amazing display of bravado, Cllr. Allen repeatedly said that he did nothing wrong. The evidence presented suggested otherwise.

He seemed to be completely indifferent to the rules and regulations that other people have to subscribe to. The programme said he might be wringing his hands but he's not apologising.

Some councillors are playing wild and loose with the planning and zoning laws and this has to stop. The legacy left by opportunistic decisions will blight future generations.

The statement made by Cllr. Allen that everyone is out to make a quick buck best summarises the mentality of those who have taken over the planning process as if it were their own personal fiefdom.

The Local Government Enquiry Forum couldn't be better placed to address the anomalies in Wexford which have now been highlighted by the national broadcaster.

The group will investigate issues like how did Cllr. Allen managed to get 50 acres of his family land a kilometre and a half from Gorey included in the development plan after the plan was removed from public display.

Cllr. Allen didn't act alone. Why was this behaviour allowed? Who facilitated it and what paper work was involved. Wexford County Council is the Local Government Authority and the buck stops with it. What were the County Council executives doing when all of this was happening? Did they turn a blind eye or were they completely hoodwinked?

Part of the Wexford Racecourse was also rezoned residential in 2002. Was this rezoned like Cllr. Allen's land in Gorey after the development plan was removed from public display?

It must have been, otherwise somebody would have noted that there was a plan to build houses where the horses were racing. The controversy over the extension to the racecourse has its origins in this rezoning anomaly.

There were other peculiar land deals happening at Bettyville at the same time. It does beg the question who knew what and when and how high up it goes said a spokesperson for the new group. "A lot of people seemed to be standing idly by".

Cllr. Allen, according to Prime Time, was chairman of the four member Gorey Area Committee of councillors. The very body that proposed his family land for rezoning and the four-strong committee zoned land linked to the family of another of its members, Deirdre Bolger, Fine Gael. Neither Cllr. Bolger nor Cllr. Allen, Prime Time, said took part in that decision.

Lorcan Allen commented: "in politics, that's what happens". In a loaded statement he revealed much about the inner workings of the system. The system that works for those with the most influence and for those that flout their position.

After the Allen lands were rezoned the family sold 16 acres to the council for the new Gorey bypass, for an undisclosed price.

Last year the remaining 36 acres went on sale for an estimated value of €2 million an acre. So said the auctioneer conducting the sale, Lorcan Allen. Mr. Allen said on Prime Time that his credentials are unblemished.

However, Cllr. Allen did admit that there is a unanimous feeling amongst the councillors now that they did make a mistake in 2002 in rezoning too much land. A spokesperson for the enquiry forum said that this wasn't acceptable. No one is handing back the hefty profits that they made.

In relation to Declaration of Interests Lorcan Allen is noncompliant as well. In line with modern ethics requirements each councillor is required on an annual basis to make a declaration of interests, the interests to be declared are their own financial interests.

Wexford County Council told Prime Time that they paid Cllr. Allen's auctioneering firm almost €50,000 last year and €2,000 the year before for professional fees. Cllr. Allen declared none of these figures on his Declaration of Interests.

Fees earned by a councillor directly or indirectly for services provided to a local authority if over €6,348 a year must be declared in Section 8 of the form. Section 8 of Cllr. Allen's return has been left blank.

Councillors also have to declare every interest they have in land and buildings. Cllr. Allen has owned property in Gorey Bridge since 2002 which he has never declared. In 2005 he declared ownership of his family home and 30 acres of land but he never declared it before or since.

Section 3 of Cllr. Allen's declaration where he must declare all land and property is blank.

The reason why councillors have to declare all their property annually and that includes and any interest in family home is quite simple: the zoning decisions councillors take could boost the value of their property many times over and to avoid conflict of interest everything has to be out in the open. It isn't and that's why vested interests have succeeded in taking over.

Gorey Echo

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