The McHale Park planning row will roll on to the end of October following a meeting of Castlebar Town Council on Tuesday night. The special meeting had been convened to consider a motion put forward by Independent Councillor Frank Durcan which called on the council to refuse the granting of planning permission for the retention of the TV broadcasting tower at the multi million euro development at the ground.
Following a robust debate Cllr Durcan withdrew his motion, to allow the planning process that is currently under way to continue until it is concluded, but on the proviso that the motion could be reintroduced at a later date and be put to the council again at a special meeting which has been arranged for October 22.
Cllr Durcan said he was calling for the refusal of the retention of the planning permission for a number of reasons, but the councillor’s statement caused controversy in the chamber.
“The Mayo County GAA board have treated the 2001 Planning Act, the 2001 Planning Regulations, the town plan, and the people of McHale Road and our own town with nothing but utter contempt,” Cllr Durcan told the meeting. “Obviously they could not have done so without collusion with officials of this council and Mayo County Council. The whole thing is suspect and it could not have happened if they had not got the nod from some high ranking official. The big question remains a mystery why weren’t the developers issued with the necessary enforcement notices, as other people doing similar kinds of development would be.”
Mayor Michael Kilcoyne asked Cllr Durcan to reword his statement to take out the word collusion, but initially Cllr Durcan refused saying “I can’t. I’m prepared to stand over everything I said, and there is a court house over there and they can bring me to it and I’ll tell the judge.” Later on in the meeting town manager Seamus Granahan strongly rejected the inference that there was collusion between either him or his officials in relation to this application.
“I have to take exception to the fact that it has been said that I or any of my officials have been involved in any kind of collusion,” Mr Granahan said. “I do take exception to that, I would like you to take the word out.” Mayor Kilcoyne once again asked Cllr Durcan to take back the word collusion, and Cllr Durcan finally relented after telling the meeting: “I’m not speaking about the manager personally, but someone was, I don’t know who. If it makes the manager happier I’ll take it out.”
It was explained to the councillors that the section 140 motion that was before the meeting which would have seen the councillors take control of the whole planning application from the council planning officials could have serious implications for them. “I have obtained legal advice and one of the things the members have to be aware of is that if the members of the local authority take on the function of the town manager, they have to be au fait with all elements of the planning permission. This means dealing with every aspect of the planning permission including conditions and reasoning for having these conditions. The members also need to be aware that the manager can’t make a decision on a planning application for a five week period since it was received by law, and if this motion is passed it does not comply with that direction and the members have to ensure that they don’t leave the local authority and the members themselves open to litigation.” Following more discussion by the members Cllr Durcan withdrew the motion.