The zoning of an area of Forest Park industrial estate for heavy industry sparked a lengthy row among councillors at this week’s county council meeting, as they clashed on whether or not a closed meeting was necessary to discuss the issue.
While the county manager has already released his report on the submissions made by members of the public, Cllrs Peter Burke and Johnny Penrose asked that a meeting be held ‘in committee’ to allow people to discuss the report and make “oral submissions”.
However, Cllrs Ken Glynn and Robert Troy strongly objected to the necessity of such a meeting.
“I have no problem with oral submissions, but I wouldn’t want any decisions to be made in committee,” said Cllr Glynn.
“I can’t see the purpose of the meeting if there can’t be modifications. I think it is only window dressing. Councillors have made themselves available to the people who made submissions, I don’t see the necessity of this,” said Cllr Troy.
Cathaoirleach Cllr Fintan Cooney ventured that the meeting would help those who had already made submissions, and that there was “nothing sinister” in the proposal.
However, county manager Dan McLoughlin reminded councillors that any meeting held now would not result in any changes being made to the plan, as the deadline for submissions has already passed.
“This is not part of the statutory process. The report is in the public domain. It is the members’ own right to call a meeting to reflect on the report, but that doesn’t mean my report will be amended. That won’t happen,” he said, adding that he could not attend the meeting but that a member of the planning section would attend to facilitate the meeting.
There was further confusion when it was revealed that only those people who had already made written submissions could be invited to attend the meeting.
“If it will only facilitate people who have already made submissions, what is the benefit of the meeting? The oral presentations will offer nothing different to what has already been said,” said Cllr Glynn.
However, Cllr Burke reiterated that the purpose of the meeting was to afford people who hadn’t yet seen the manager’s report to view his responses to their submissions.
“I can’t believe people are making such a song and dance about this. It is an opportunity to explain the manager’s report to people, we are not asking to change it.”
Following calls from several members to move on with the rest of the agenda, Cllrs Glynn and Troy eventually withdrew their counter proposal, and the proposed meeting is to go ahead.