Sunday 26 April 2009

Councillor succeeds in getting his own land rezoned

A major row has erupted after a county councillor in Clifden, Galway, sought to have the council rezone his land for development, despite severe objections from the county manager.

With only weeks to go before he seeks re-election, Fianna Fail councillor Josie Conneely, who is a developer, has been criticised for attempting to have 12 acres of land around the Rock Glen Hotel in Clifden, which he owns, rezoned.

One of the main objectors to Mr Conneely's plan is the county coroner Ciaran McLoughlin, in what is being seen locally as a major clash between two of the area's leading figures.

The main issue is that Mr Conneely's hotel is on a very narrow minor road and any additional development along there would be "ridiculous and unworkable", according to an objectors' spokesman.

"The plan is totally unsuitable for the area. The road is so narrow cars can't pass each other and every time there is a burial at the nearby cemetery there is chaos. This can't work," the spokesman said.

Dr McLoughlin declined to comment on the matter but he is known to be willing to fight this all the way.

And it is not just the residents who are opposed to the plan. The county manager Martina Moloney recently informed councillors that the proposed Local Area Plan (LAP) already provides for 100 acres of new residential land, which will provide for around 3,000 new Clifden residents. However, any additional developments are severely restricted under the national guidelines for planning.

Last week, despite the objections of residents and the county manager, a proposal in favour of the rezoning was carried by eight votes to one. Cllr Seamus Walsh (FF), proposed the motion while Cllr Conneely absented himself from the chamber for the discussion and vote.

Defending his decision to propose the rezoning, Mr Walsh told the Sunday Independent: "There are major flaws with the LAP and I am totally in favour of having the road widened to facilitate the development. It is in the interests of the local area to allow this to go forward."

Yesterday, Mr Conneely denied anything he was doing was wrong, and said that he strongly disagreed with the county manager's objections.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, he said: "The plan as proposed is flawed. At a time when building is being hammered, I am trying to build a major attraction for the area which would provide as many as 50 jobs."

Mr Conneely also attacked Dr McLoughlin and described him and the other objectors as "mere blow-ins". He also accused them of objecting in order to protect their own "cosy" interests.

He said residents had ensured his 2006 plans to build a leisure centre and 24 holiday homes failed, and that failure had cost him a lot of money.

Sunday Independent

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