News Courts

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Council chief said rezoning plan was 'premature', bribes trial told

Jessica Magee

Published 20/07/2013 | 05:00

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James Kennedy: outside court in Dublin yesterday

THE trial of four councillors accused of accepting bribes to rezone more than 100 acres of land has heard that the rezoning went against the advice of the county manager.

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Former councillor Donal Marren warned in 1997 that it would be "premature" to rezone the agricultural land as industrial, due to inadequate road access and water supplies.

Giving evidence at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown senior planner Richard Cremins said he also felt the 1998 rezoning "didn't make sense in planning terms".

He told Tony McGillicuddy, prosecuting, that under the proposed rezoning "you had to go across agricultural lands to get the Luas stop. It didn't make sense."

However, he said that by 2004 the situation had changed and with the South East Motorway (now the M50) in place, the rezoning then made sense.

Rezoning motions were put forward in 1997 and 1998 by sitting Independent councillor Tony Fox (72), of Churchtown, Dublin, and former Fine Gael councillor Liam Cosgrave (57) of Blackrock, Dublin.

Both men deny accepting cash bribes of IR£7,000 each from ex-lobbyist Frank Dunlop in return for their support for the rezoning.

Former Fianna Fail councillors Donal Lydon (74), of Stillorgan Park Avenue, Dublin; and Colm McGrath (56), of Saggart, Co Dublin, have also pleaded not guilty to receiving corrupt payments of IR£3,000 and IR£2,000 respectively from Mr Dunlop in return for their votes.

Businessman Jim Kennedy (66), of Cormorant's Quay, Gibraltar, denies giving IR£25,000 to Mr Dunlop to buy councillors' votes.

ACCESS

The court heard that then county manager Donal Marren had recommended no change to the existing agricultural zoning on 108 acres of land, most of which was owned by Mr Kennedy's company Jackson Way.

Mr Marren's report into a further parcel of almost 37 acres part-owned by Jackson Way said although the land would be suitable for rezoning in the medium to long term, there was at that time inadequate access to roads or water supplies.

Nonetheless, a motion to rezone that smaller parcel as industrial was passed by a majority of 13 to 11 votes at a special meeting of the council in December 1997.

The court heard that current Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore voted against the motion.

Mr Cremins said that the draft development plan for Dun Laoghaire Rathdown went on public display for a second time in April and May 1998, during which 244 objections were submitted.

Key prosecution witness Frank Dunlop will resume giving his evidence next week.

The trial continues.

Irish Independent

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