The Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council, Cllr Blackie Gavin, has submitted a request for a special meeting of Mayo County Council to be convened on Monday July 30 in order to have planning items reinstated on the agenda for municipal district meetings of the local authority.
Last April a circular was issued by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government noting that the discussion of the merits of individual planning applications at local authority meetings does not form part of the statutory process for the consideration of such applications and should not be used by elected members to advocate that a particular decision be made on an individual application.
Since then the issue of planning has given rise to highly charged discussions at a number of local authority meetings and 'planning' as an item has been removed from agendas for the municipal districts.
Cllr Gavin told the Mayo Advertiser yesterday (Thursday ): "The proposal to re-instate planning as an item on the agenda was a cross party motion from the councillors. We had a meeting this week and all councillors in attendance agreed to this, and I will be handing the request in to the meetings' administrator today."
He said the submission reads as follows: "To discuss the reinstatement of planning as an item on the agenda for each municipal district and heretofore provide planning staff as per the custom and previous practice."
Cllr Gavin added: "I have been an elected representative since 1994 and planning was always an item on our agenda in the urban council, town council and area meetings of the county council.
"We want to know what is going on, now we don't know what is happening with planning in our local towns and villages
"Once this is passed by the council we will be circulating this motion to all other local authorities in the country. The councillors in Mayo are going to take a lead on this.
"We are the people on the ground dealing with the people who live here and we want to take back local goverment to the local level, in all my years as a public representative nothing like this has happened before and we are looking out for the people on the ground."
Erris-based Fine Gael councillor Gerry Coyle told the Advertiser: "I'm mad. What is our purpose in the council? We are there to speak for people who can't speak for themselves. I have never spoken about planning or rezoning areas, it's about the person who only has the land they have and wants to live in the areas they come from.
"People should be encouraged to live in these areas, we have great communities in villages and townlands that would never be allowed to develop these days because of regulations on this and that, there are protection orders for everything but people.
"We do have disadvantages in rural areas, but the one big advantage we have is the people. Anyone who was in Eachléim last year [after the R116 helicopter crash] saw that, and that is what we are trying to protect."