Wednesday 8 June 2011

Judge orders planning vote rethink

A HIGH Court judge has directed Galway city councillors to reconsider part of their development plan following a controversial vote earlier this year.

Mr Justice George Birmingham said all 15 members of the council should retake, by July 11th, their votes on a material amendment to the plan that would designate lands at Westside retail-commercial area as a district centre. The council had voted to reject that amendment.

Part of those lands at Rahoon are owned by former Fianna Fáil councillor Michael O’Higgins, who made submissions as part of the development plan review in support of a district centre designation. He hopes designation will facilitate the development of a Tesco outlet.

Following last January’s vote rejecting the district centre designation, he brought High Court proceedings against the council over the manner in which the vote was exercised.

The vote was held after a row earlier in the meeting between the mayor (Fianna Fáil Cllr Michael Crowe) and Independent Cllr Catherine Connolly.

The mayor considered remarks made by Cllr Connolly offensive and sought to have her leave the meeting.

The councillors voted by seven votes to five, with three abstentions, that she should leave the meeting.

She did not leave but the mayor did, after which the deputy mayor took over the chair.

The vote on the Rahoon lands was tied at 7/7 but, with the casting vote of the deputy mayor, the motion to designate them as a district centre was defeated.

Mr O’Higgins claimed Cllr Connolly was required, under the council’s standing orders to leave and, had she done so, the vote would have been in his favour.

Mr O’Higgins, Taylor’s Hill, Galway, and his company, T O’hUiginn Comhlucht Teoranta, sought orders overturning the vote relating to his lands.

He also sought orders providing for a district centre designation or, alternatively, an order requiring the council to retake the vote in accordance with its standing orders.

Yesterday, following legal argument, Mr Justice Birmingham said he wanted a new vote to take place on the amendment and knew all councillors would cast their votes “in good conscience”.

The question of who could vote on the matter was fundamental to the validity of any decision and therefore the outcome of the meeting was irregular, he said.

He did not believe other councillors had effectively waived their earlier decision that Cllr Connolly should leave but rather were of the view they should get on with the meeting.

He also indicated Cllr Connolly could participate at the meeting to reconsider the vote.

He said she had only been asked to leave the January meeting, not any other.

He awarded two-thirds of the costs of the proceedings to Mr O’Higgins.

Irish Times

No comments: