Monday 23 April 2018

Gormley to crack down on planning breaches

Leader lashes out at 'cronyism' in councils

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

ENVIRONMENT Minister John Gormley will set in motion investigations into local authorities across the country accused of breaching planning guidelines.

The Green Party leader announced the probes last night -- and attacked Fine Gael stating their councillors are still indulging in the "crony capitalism" that led the country into the economic crisis.

"This evening I want to announce to you that because of complaints I have received on planning issues from around the country, I will very shortly announce a number of investigations using my powers under the planning legislation," Mr Gormley said during his opening remarks at the party's national convention in Waterford.

The probes, which will examine the planning performance of local authorities, are to be carried out into as many as six councils.

Further details will emerge early next month but it is understood the investigations will focus on whether councils have been adhering to their own development plans and enforcing their own planning rules.

Mr Gormley has previously made planning interventions in Mayo, Monaghan, Waterford and Donegal county councils.

And he was strongly critical of councils that continue to engage in "crony capitalism" when granting planning permission.

In last year's local elections, Fine Gael became the biggest party nationally, while the Green Party was largely wiped out, falling from 18 seats to just three.

"Despite all that we have been through, the ghost estates, the unfinished office blocks and the deserted retail parks -- all of which resulted from bad planning -- some councillors are still engaging in crony capitalism," Mr Gormley said.

"With business as usual in our council chambers, the noble words on reform and accountability by some political party leaders ring hollow."

He said councillors in south county Dublin had recently tried to undermine plans for a new town centre by trying to push through the development of a supermarket beside a motorway.

"A thin veneer of job creation claims are now being used to mask questionable rezoning motions. This type of developer-led planning, the type that got us into this current mess, does not create jobs.

"The barter of giving permission in return for the promise of investment is going back to the old-style cronyism that got our country into its present difficulties.

"It is no surprise therefore that our planning bill, which seeks to end the crony capitalism approach to planning, but which still leaves zoning power in the hands of councillors, has been opposed tooth and nail by some opposition politicians."

Mr Gormley also said that the party would be focusing over the weekend on rebuilding the party from the ground up.

"Much of our talk this weekend will be about planning the way to restore the Green Party's electoral fortunes to ensure, especially, that local councils are not without a strong Green presence for very long."

He also welcomed his newly promoted junior ministers, Mary White and Ciaran Cuffe, and also Trevor Sargent, who had to resign his post after it was revealed he had made representations to a garda on behalf of a constituent.

And he said Fine Gael's recently announced plans for political reform were welcome. "But we should judge the commitment of other parties to reform not by their words but by their deeds," he added.

Irish Independent

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