Wednesday 21 July 2010

An Taisce accused of slur against council staff

DUBLIN CITY manager John Tierney has accused An Taisce of “gross misinterpretation” of facts and slurs against the integrity of council officials in its claims which prompted a planning investigation by Minister for the Environment John Gormley.

Mr Gormley last month ordered a review of the planning systems of six local authorities which he said were the subject of “substantial complaints” in how they implemented planning laws and policies. Dublin and Cork city councils and Galway, Cork, Meath and Carlow county councils were chosen for review.

The Dublin City Council review was based on a complaint from An Taisce that it had given permission for developments which were in breach of the city development plan in relation to height, scale zoning and conservation issues.

An Taisce complained to Mr Gormley that the council “acted systematically in disregarding” the plan, contravened ministerial planning guidelines and showed “serious impropriety in the conduct of its functions”.

It also claimed unnamed senior officials were “encouraging landowners and developers to lodge planning applications in breach of the Dublin City Development Plan and ministerial guidelines”.

An Taisce made specific complaints in relation to the council’s handling of 23 planning cases including the high-rise complex for Seán Dunne’s Jurys/Berkeley Court site in Ballsbridge and the Carlton and Arnotts sites in the city centre.

In his strongly-worded response, Mr Tierney said he would not comment on each case because of the “legislative position” where the Minister does not involve himself in individual planning applications.

Mr Tierney said he would only refer to specific cases where it was necessary to correct inaccuracies in the submissions. He said in all cases, the council had full regard to the development plan and national and regional policies and guidelines where relevant.

He said An Taisce’s submissions contained “substantial inaccuracies, misrepresentations and unsubstantiated allegations against this planning authority and its executives in the carrying out of our statutory duties”.

Statements by An Taisce that a number of senior personnel were not fit or competent to hold their positions were a “slur against the integrity [and] professionalism” of these officials and should be withdrawn. Mr Tierney said this particular matter was receiving “further consideration”.

An Taisce had misrepresented the facts in blaming the council for the property bubble, which showed its less than balanced approach to the council, he said. An Taisce yesterday said it was considering Mr Tierney’s submission to the review and would respond.

Irish Times

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