Sunday 24 May 2009

Gormley criticises FG over 'rezoning frenzy'

THE GREEN Party yesterday accused the two main Opposition parties of being responsible for some of the worst rezoning excesses in Ireland in recent times.

Party leader John Gormley said yesterday that Fine Gael and Labour, with 44 per cent of all council seats, must share their burden of blame for creating the conditions that led to a property bubble.

When asked about the role of his party’s Coalition partner, Fianna Fáil, Mr Gormley accepted that it too had played a major part in rezonings that had been taken against advice.

Speaking at a press conference in Dublin organised as part of the Greens’ local election campaign, Mr Gormley said a debate was needed on the role councillors had played in the “property bubble we are now trying to clean up”.

He said that inappropriate rezonings had been a significant contributory factor in inflating development land prices around the country.

In a specific reference to the Opposition parties, he said: “Fine Gael and Labour have been very quick to point fingers of blame on the property boom, yet with 44 per cent of all council seats their elected members, they bear a responsibility they have yet to acknowledge.

“In particular Fine Gael councillors have been embroiled in rezoning controversies across the country, and have embarked on nothing short of a rezoning frenzy in some cases. Yet the party leadership has been utterly silent on this behaviour.”

Mr Gormley said he had been forced to intervene when local authorities had drawn up development plans that ran contrary to good planning.

He instanced what he said were excesses in Monaghan, Dungarvan and Co Mayo.

“In [Fine Gael leader] Enda Kenny’s home town of Castlebar, Fine Gael councillors were attempting to rezone enough land to triple the population within five years.

“I had no choice but to intervene in this case. It is a town of 10,000 people, and is expected to grow by another 3,000 over the next five years. Yet Mayo councillors sought to rezone enough land for a further 25,000 people,” he said.

However, Mr Kenny rejected the claim saying the Greens did not understand the true level of anger at the Government’s performance. “I think he [Mr Gormley] should concentrate on holding on to his own seat. Fine Gael have published a very detailed document on what we will do when we have the authority of the people to run local authority effectively for the next five years.”

He said it was no coincidence that poorly planned commuter towns that were subjected to “a rezoning gold rush” were now suffering from some of the highest jumps in unemployment.

Mr Gormley yesterday also unveiled eight candidates from immigrant backgrounds who are running for the Green Party in local elections, saying better representation was the key to progressing immigrant issues.

Irish Times

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