Sunday 24 May 2009

Gormley criticises zoning 'frenzy'

Those voting in the forthcoming elections needed to be aware of the role of councillors from the main political parties in “excessive rezonings”, Minister for the Environment John Gormley said today.

The Green Party leader said he would publish a new Planning Bill very shortly and that he had been supported by Fianna Fáil in his efforts to improve local government, and that the party had not attempted to prevent his intervention in rezoning cases.

He called for a full debate on the role that local councillors have played in creating the so-called ‘property bubble’.

Mr Gormley said “serious, excessive and inappropriate re-zonings” over the last decade had been “a big factor in inflating development land prices around the country”.

“Fine Gael and Labour have been very quick to point fingers of blame about the property boom. Yet with 44 per cent of all council seats, they bear a responsibility they have yet to acknowledge,” Mr Gormley said.

He said the lands involved were sold on “for massive sums on the strength of these questionable re-zonings”.

“The single most important powers councillors have are the drawing up of development plans and the zoning of land.”

He said there was “no attempt to prevent his intervention in council zoning cases in Mayo, Monaghan and Dungarvan”.

“People in the forthcoming elections need to be aware that many of the councillors from the main political parties were behind these excessive re-zonings - taken against the advice of planners – and benefited small groups of landowners and speculators in their local areas.”

Mr Gormley said Fine Gael councillors in particular had 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 with one case in Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny’s home base of Mayo.”

Irish Times

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