By Colm Gannon
A four person delegation from the elected members of Mayo County Council, supported by officials from the council, has been selected to engage with senior officials in the Department of Environment over the Mayo County Development Plan 2014 -2020. The four elected members are Fianna Fáil councillor Al McDonnell, Fine Gael councillor Gerry Coyle, Independent councillor Richard Finn, and Cathaoirleach of the council, Cllr Damien Ryan.
Back in April the former council had passed their version of the plan, but it did not comply with ministerial guidelines in a number of areas, such as rural housing and spatial planning, along with some environmental directives from the EU. This necessitated the chief executive of the council, Peter Hynes, making a number of variations to the plan and putting them out on public display before the variations came back before the council for approval, which was at last Monday’s meeting.
Cllr McDonnell spoke at the meeting saying that he was disappointed that the variations made by the chief executive had been put out for public consultation while the councillors were on their summer break. He said that the plan the former council had put together was a good plan and for the betterment of the county and the rural areas of Mayo.
The delegation was selected at the behest of Cllr McDonnell, who told last Monday’s meeting of the local authority that he had spoken to a senior official in the Department of Environment at a recent event in relation to the plan and that there was scope for compromise on the plan between the two parties. He proposed that either the council reject the variations proposed by the chief executive or defer the matter and engage in discussions with the officials in the Department of Environment. He got full backing to defer the plan and for the delegation to be set up. This is not the first time that Mayo County Council has come into conflict with the Department of Environment over a development plan. The previous plan for the county saw a delegation from the council make an appearance at an Oireachtas committee to fight for the plan they wanted, after it was rejected by the then minister for environment, John Gormley, in 2008.