Sunday 7 December 2008

Meath planning row deepens

The war of words over planning in Drogheda has deepened, writes Susan Mitchell.

This week, Meath county councillors will call for the resignation of Minister of State Dick Roche, who was highly critical of a recent local area plan produced by the council. Elected members of the Fianna Fail-led council plan to write to Taoiseach Brian Cowen calling for Roche’s resignation. A council spokesman alleged that Roche’s intervention in the matter had been an attempt to ‘‘influence the planning process’’ when a family member had stood to benefit.

The council was responding to a letter from Roche, the former environment minister, who described the controversial South Drogheda Environs Local Area Plan as ‘‘the worst case of maladministration’’ he had ever come across.

Roche has always made his position clear and, in a previous interview with this newspaper, said: ‘‘I was reluctant to get directly involved in this affair because of a family connection, but having been approached by local public representatives, I feel the complaints are serious and warrant investigation.”

Roche described the ‘‘hysterical response’’ to his comments as ‘‘most unusual. I wonder why simple comments I made have triggered such an extraordinary reaction’’.

He said he had always been upfront about a family connection, but was approached and asked to intervene in the affair by a Wicklow constituent. Roche described the goings on, including the council decision to get developers to fund a €200,000 development plan, as ‘‘most unorthodox’’.

Local Fine Gael TD Shane MacEntee also called for a probe into the planning process, and Dublin developer Bill Doyle has threatened to instigate a High Court action over the plan.

The controversy has also engulfed Drogheda United FC, which has gone into examinership. The club had done a deal with Doyle and planned to build a new stadium on lands in the Bryanstown area.

Under the proposed Local Area Plan, much of the land in Bryanstown was zoned for open space and industrial use, rendering the stadium plan redundant.

Doyle claimed he received verbal assurances that the land would be zoned residential. The plan is due for decision by Meath County Council tomorrow.

Sunday Business Post

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