Monday 28 June 2010

Planning review to focus on Drogheda

THE REVIEW of planning in Meath ordered by Minister for the Environment John Gormley is to focus solely on the southern Drogheda local area plan which was adopted by Meath County Council last year.

The council is one of six local authorities facing reviews of their planning systems as a result of a decision announced last week by Mr Gormley.

The Drogheda local area plan was controversial mainly because of plans for a €35 million 10,000- seat stadium for Drogheda United football club on lands in Bryanstown, on the southern edge of the town.

In a deal the club did with developer Bill Doyle, the new stadium was to be funded by the sale of houses he wanted to build in Bryanstown, but he first needed residential zoning on the lands. However, in the local area plan, they were zoned as open space.

Mr Doyle and his supporters said this zoning, along with the National Roads Authority decision to appeal planning permission for the stadium to An Bord Pleanála, dealt the project a fatal blow.

A spokesman for Meath County Council confirmed that the department’s review “relates to the southern Drogheda local area plan” and that the department had written asking it to “gather documentation” relating to the process that was gone through before the plan was adopted in April 2009.

It is understood that complaints made by Mr Doyle about the council are among those which prompted the department to include Meath in the review of planning decisions made by six local authorities.

Details of some of the complaints have been given to the council in Meath. Its spokesman said: “We will gather all the information requested by the department and respond by the date given.”

The southern Drogheda plan also sparked controversy because it included residential and other zoning on lands identified in an already adopted plan – prepared jointly for Meath, Louth and Drogheda local authorities – as a strategic land reserve and therefore not to be developed.

Four county councils – Galway, Cork, Meath and Carlow – and two city councils, Dublin and Cork, comprise the six being subjected to the review.

Mr Gormley said “substantial complaints” had been received about the planning processes of the six. One other local authority, Donegal County Council, is already the subject of a similar review.

The first phase of the inquiry announced last week will require each council to provide information about its planning system within four weeks and to answer specific questions about complaints and allegations that have been made.

These will cover areas such as zoning, the scale and height of certain structures and concerns raised in local government audit reports.

The review is being carried out in the context of the new planning Bill, which is expected to become law by the summer.

Mr Gormley has expressed concern that the legislation will be ineffective unless all 34 local authorities can fully implement its measures.

Irish Times

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