During Monday afternoon’s county council meeting, councillors vented their anger at the Planning and Development (Amendment ) Bill 2009 which is being debated at present in the Dáil.
Fine Gael Councillor Joe Mellett said that the change in population threshold from 2,000 to 5,000 for development plans is “crazy”. His party colleague Cllr Jarlath Munnelly concurred, saying that the bill would make “Joseph Stalin proud”, as it is taking away power from local government. He said that if under the new bill only Ballina, Westport, and Castlebar would be the towns in the county to have a local area development plan those proposing this change “are for the birds”.
Ballina based Cllr Michelle Mulherin called the bill “sinister”, “undemocratic”, and “anti-local government”. The Ballina councillor said that the Minister has no respect for the council or for the people in the county to self determine, in particular in relation to zoning.
Fianna Fáil Cllr Al McDonnell said that alongside some good proposals there are also some “dangerous/disturbing ones”, while Belmullet area Cllr Gerry Murray said that the bill is “berserk” and “the school of common sense has been shut down”, particularly as the bill will “forget about rural way of life”.
Sinn Fein Cllr Rose Conway Walsh said that corruption in planning is the reason the document is before the Dáil, however “it goes against all the principles of collaborative planning” and “smacks of centralisation”.
Her party colleague Cllr Gerry Murray said that there is a crisis in small towns which need a blueprint for development and said that a practical solution from central government and local authority is needed to bring retail life back to the town core.
Independent Cllr Frank Durcan said that Fianna Fáil and the Green Party are to blame and he asked Fianna Fáil representatives to go to their leader and throw down the gauntlet by “resigning from the party” as they no longer represent the views of the people of Mayo. The Castlebar councillor claimed that “we’re in Russia now” if the bill is passed as “no one should strip us of the powers which Michael Davitt gave us”, and concluded that the west of Ireland should not be penalised for the planning corruption which took place in Dublin.
Director of services Joe Loftus said that further submissions will be entertained until January 19 and told councillors that submissions sent in from the council executive will be circulated to councillors which will help them in drafting their own submissions.