Sunday 21 January 2018

Councillors 'have vested interest in rezone plan'

Anita Guidera A PLANNING row has been sparked by two Fianna Fail councillors who voted to rezone coastal land owned by a family member in one of Ireland's most scenic coastal areas.

The niece and brother-in-law of Bundoran hotelier Brian McEniff have backed the application before Bundoran Town Council to change the use of eight hectares of land - currently protected as a Coastal Conservation Zone in the town's own development plan - to residential use.

The decision, which will now be the subject of a public consultation process, has sparked a furore in the Donegal seaside town over the future of a cliff walk considered by many to be the jewel in the crown of the bustling resort.

The land in question is part of a panoramic 8km cliff walk which stretches along Roguey Headland from Tullan Strand, north of the town, to the mouth of the river Drowse to the south.

The land in question is part of a

panoramic 8km cliff walk which stretches along Roguey

Headland from Tullan Strand to the river Drowse

Locals reacted in shock yesterday to the possibility that the much-loved 8km cliff walk, possibly the oldest recognised legal walkway in Europe, was in danger of development.

Access to the walk was the subject of a legal battle between the Landlords' Association of Ireland and locals more than 100 years ago which ended in triumph for the local side.

Local Atlantic Aparthotel owner, John O'Connell said that Bundoran's primary attraction was its beautiful sea cliffs and beaches.

Some 6.5 hectares to the north are owned by Brian McEniff and the remaining 1.6 hectares south are owned by Gerry McGurk and Brian Loughlain.

Among the three councillors to vote for a 'draft variation' to the development plan on Tuesday night were Cllr Elizabeth McIntyre (FF), a niece of Brian McEniff, and Cllr Philip McGlynn, a brother-in-law of Brian McEniff and the manager of his Great Northern Hotel.

Sinn Fein councillor, Michael McMahon also voted in favour of the proposal, which was opposed by the Council's chairperson Tiernan Brady (FF) and Fine Gael Councillor, Denise Connolly.

Reacting yesterday to allegations of vested interest, Cllr Elizabeth McIntyre insisted all she had voted on was putting the issue up for public consultation.

"Although this has been up for discussion before, the issue of ethics was never raised and I dispute it.

"I am satisfied everything is out in the open and I feel comfortable in letting this matter go forward for public consultation," she said.

Cllr McGlynn, who has also insisted he had "no vested interest" in the lands in question, claimed that only 50pc of the land owned by Brian McEniff was coastal and was not being considered for development.

But a furious Cllr Denise Connolly said she believed that the Code of Ethics for councillors, which was read aloud at the meeting should have come into play.

"As far as I was concerned, it was very obvious that the proper and moral thing for those two councillors to have done was to have withdrawn from the debate and vote," she said.

She described the area in question as Bundoran's "shop front".

Council chairman, Tiernan Brady (FF) said that a motion he had tabled 18 months ago for the area to be zoned as a coastal conservation zone, was passed.

The matter was raised again when the council voted 5-3 to grant planning permission for a house within the protected area at Roguey.

This was appealed to An Bord Pleanala and the application was withdrawn.

The zoning issue came up for a third time when the Council met to consider its five-year development plan which adopted unanimously.

"This is the fourth attempt to do something that they know is unpalatable, unwanted, unpopular and will be to the detriment of the people of Bundoran and the tourists," he said.

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