Wednesday 26 March 2008

Waterford officials ruled out of zoning inquiry

THE GARDA has confirmed that an investigation into an attempt to rezone 400 acres in Dungarvan, Co Waterford, does not involve any serving council member or official, the mayor and county manager of Waterford County Council insisted last night.

Clearly angered by recent publicity surrounding the bid to change the county development plan, chairman Billy Kyne and manager Ray O'Dwyer called for the Garda investigation to end quickly.

In a joint statement, they said: "In response to the alarming amount of interest concerning the recently covered Garda investigation, Waterford County Council wishes to point out that the gardaí have advised that this investigation does not concern any county councillors, nor any member of the council's planning staff.

"The council is fully co-operating with the gardaí in their inquiries and requests that the media take a fair and balanced approach in their coverage.

"Despite this setback, the members and staff of Waterford County Council remain committed to ongoing development and job creation within the county. We urge that this investigation be concluded as speedily as possible."

The statement was released by Waterford County Council last evening.

The National Roads Authority warned that an earlier plan to rezone the lands - which differs only in the most marginal way to the latest application - would add millions to the cost of buying land needed to upgrade the Cork-Waterford road, since some of the lands run right across the proposed route.

The latest version of the plan has been strongly opposed by Minister for the Environment John Gormley, who has warned councillors that he will veto it if they insist on going ahead and approving it.

The closing date for consultations on the application - the 10th variation to the 2005-2010 Waterford County Development Plan - has been set for tomorrow.

However, a copy of the ninth application - the one objected to by the NRA - cannot be found on the council's website - even though all others are listed.

Last week Garda detectives interviewed all 28 members of Waterford County Council and Dungarvan Town Commissioners about their knowledge of the rezoning application, though the investigation is not linked to any prior planning investigation.

Some of the owners of the lands in the townlands of Killadangan, Ballygagin, Mapestown, Lackenfune, Ballinure and Middlequarter townlands affected by the rezoning application had no part in the issue and only discovered that some of their lands were included following last week's publicity.

Mr Gormley must write to the local authority outlining his objections by tomorrow, but he intends to veto any changes to the plan - which would allow industrial, retail and office developments, along with a hotel - if the council persists with the application. He is understood to be concerned that such a major change would be considered three years after it came into force and one year before planning for its successor begins.

The Irish Times

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