Planning circular is 'an insult to the intellegance of councillors, officials and the people we represent' — Cribben

A circular issued by an official from the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government saying that discussions on planning applications should not take place at municipal district, area committee or county council level was described as "an insult to the intelligence of councillors, officials, and the people we represent" by one councillor this week.

Fine Gael councillor John Cribben made that statement at the Claremorris Municipal District's April meeting which took place this week, he was just one of a number of councillors who hit out at the circular which was issued to the councillors at the meeting.

Fianna Fáil councillor Damien Ryan took up the baton against the suggestion that councillors should not discuss planning issues first at the meeting.

"I am 20 years sitting as a local elected representative and I never in my life saw abuse of power or privilege in relation to applications,” he said.

“The only time we spoke on applications is where we would have been contacted by the applicant if there was a decision or proposal to refuse an application."

He added: "It should be the role of the elected representatives to make observations or concerns as they see fit" and, "it is an attack on the power of the elected representatives."

Independent councillor Richard Finn told the meeting: "We are the people who the public elect to represent them in the public interest, and so is the Minister who employs these people, he is supposed to represent the public interest also.

"This boils down to single rural dwellings essentially, in country areas we have a right, we come from rural areas, we live in the west of Ireland, we have a right to represent those people in relation to any planning application

"It does not mean we are trying to influence the outcome of the application, we are there to represent the feelings of the general body of the people in the west of Ireland."

"It is another attempt to take away power from local councillors, the districts, and even planners in the local area I would say."

Fine Gael councillor Patsy O'Brien added: "We are here to try and help our level best to have every person be able to live their lives in this community, and we try and we often go to planners to see is there a better way to do this, how can we work within the guidelines.

“We are not in there when they make up their minds, and they have that function."

Sinn Féin councillor Gerry Murray said if the Department did not want these things being discussed by councillors they should change the legislation: "Currently we are entitled to be informed under the development management guidelines, it specifically states that councillors are entitled to be informed under section 28, that is the latitude we have, this letter says we have an entitlement to be informed and to comment under section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000.

“We have the entitlement and we should respond and say if you want to take it from us change the legislation."

Head of the municipal district, Padraig Flanagan, told the meeting that the council had looked for clarification on the issue and was waiting to hear back.

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