Planning rejections spark fury among councillors

The rejection of two planning applications because of the variation of the County Development Plan by the Minister for Environment John Gormley sparked anger at the monthly meeting of the Castlebar Electoral Area committee this week. The debate led to one councillor calling the Minister a coward. Mr John McMyler, Senior Planner for the Council confirmed that he and the planning department were working off the amended plan because they were directed to do so. Both applications were turned down because they were in areas identified as rural areas under severe urban influence. Cllr Al McDonnell said that “this all sounds a bit ministerial”, while Cllr Johnny Mee stated that “it’s not like there are 1000 houses going up in Belcarra, I don’t think that one house will increase the urban influence of the village”. The possible removal of 30 metres of hedgerow was also cited as a reason for the refusal in the Keelouges case. Cllr Johnny Mee said, “I’m very fond of hedgerow myself, but 30 metres of hedgerow or giving someone the chance to start a home it seems easy to me. And to say that Keelouges is under strong urban pressure is madness, come on it’s Keelouges. Cllr Sean Burke told the meeting that, “I was born two miles away from there and to say that it’s under strong urban influence, well I don’t know what to say to that.”

Councillors turning into beggars

Fine Gael Cllr Paddy McGuinness stated that because of the rigidity of the Minister’s variations councillors are having to act like beggars when it comes to planning applications and there is nothing the planners in Mayo can do, because they are bound by the directives of the plan. Cllr McGuinness also informed the meeting that the Minister wrote to Mayo County Council to get them to stop mentioning in refusals for planning permission that it was because of his variations to the plan adopted by the council. At which point Cllr Johnny Mee interrupted, saying, “He’s a coward Paddy. They should paint a yellow streak down his back.” Cllr McGuinness went on to expresses his amazement that no contact had been made between the Minister’s department and the elected councillors yet there is constant communication between the department and the council officials. He concluded by saying that “the people I really feel sorry for are the two people who we are talking about today who are caught up in this.”


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