Wednesday 11 February 2009

Intimidation over rezoning claimed

A CLARE county councillor has said he will “name names” after claiming that he and other colleagues were intimidated by representatives of a company that had applied to the local authority to have an area of land in east Clare rezoned.

Meelick-based teacher and council member Cathal Crowe (FF) said he was warned that his “election campaign would be dismantled” if he did not support the company’s application to have land rezoned. Two other councillors also raised concerns about the excessive pressure they claim was brought to bear on them ahead of this month’s meeting of the local authority.

Mr Crowe made the claims during a debate to decide whether the South East Clare Local Area Plan (2009-2015) should be amended to include an application by Zinc Properties to rezone an area of land at the former Burlington plant at Gillogue near Clonlara in east Clare.

Zinc Properties, which owns and operates a “business park” at the site, had submitted an amendment to have a portion of a 28-acre site rezoned for heavy industrial use and 24-hour access. The property houses 12 small businesses, many of which are the subject of council enforcement orders.

At this month’s meeting of the county council, however, the local authority’s legal officer John Shaw said the amendment could not be considered part of the plan as it had not gone out for public consultation and so it was refused.

Mr Crowe claimed: “I was intimidated and got phone calls at all hours threatening to dismantle my election campaign. I got one call late at night warning me that they would tear me to shreds. This is nothing short of bullying and coercion and it is disgraceful.

“There has also been a clear breach of ethics here. We had a meeting in camera some weeks ago where we discussed this matter, but within hours of that meeting taking place people knew who voted and how they voted, and that is a breach of a clear code of conduct. Somebody in our midst is quick to run with stories from meetings. I am taking this matter very seriously and I am considering whether I will make a formal complaint to gardaí.

“I challenge everyone who was at that meeting to name who it was that put the voting record in the public domain. I will name names,” Mr Crowe said.

Brian Whelan, a spokesman for owners Zinc Properties, said: “Nobody associated with this company intimidated or threatened any councillor and no calls were made to anyone at inappropriate times. This is not the decision we wanted, but there is planning on site since 1974 and some land is zoned for light industrial and we will utilise that and consider our position in relation to the refusal to allow our amendment at a later date.”

Meanwhile, residents living close to the plant at Gillogue have welcomed news that the council rejected the amendment.

A spokesperson for the Gillogue Residents’ Association said: “As residents, we all fully support development within our community. Our only condition has been that this should be done ethically, democratically and within the formal planning process.”

Irish Times

No comments: