FIANNA Fail Meath County Councillor Tommy Reilly has come under fire from a Green Party local election candidate over his remarks last week criticising An Bord Pleanala chairman John O'Connor, who said that local authorities would have to undo some of the "indiscriminate and excessive zonings" of land that are "now completely out of line with current imperatives".
Mr O'Connor had said that local authorities faced high risk of substantial compensation claims if they continued to grant planning permission to unsustainable projects. He went on to warn local authorities for passing projects which were deemed unsustainable and were therefore overturned.
Cllr Reilly criticised Mr O'Connor's remarks, saying that extensive rezoning of land for industrial and commercial units was "no problem as long as you are inside the Dublin boundary" but it was a different question when it came to counties like Meath, Wicklow and Kildare. He called for large scale spending on infrastructural projects, such as a new regional hospital, schools and transport
Green Party local election candidate Fergal O'Byrne said: "We have seen excessive rezoning in Meath for housing in completely inappropriate locations. The flooding in Dunboyne, Duleek, in housing estates built on rezoned land which is part of a flood plain are some of the more spectacular examples of Meath County Councillors' decisions to rezone over he past years.
"The An Bord Pleanala chairman is right in his criticism and Meath is as bad an example as one can get. These rezoning decisions are making multi-millionaires out of developers and builders by their county council buddies at the ultimate expense of those first-time buyers who end up in new estates with little or no services."
He said that, if that was not bad enough, he should listen to what the chairman said when he warned that Meath County Council could face a high risk of very substantial compensation claims from developers who secured the original planning from the county council, added the Green Party representative.
Mr O'Byrne said: "In effect, bad rezoning decisions continues to make millions for the developers by way of compensation claims at the expense of the Meath ratepayers and taxpayers. Has Cllr Reilly learned nothing from the plethora of investigations and tribunals on bad planning and rezoning? We cannot allow bad planning decisions by Cllr Reilly and others to drain Meath of scarce financial resources while making millionaire developers ever richer."
Any future Meath development must firstly be serviced by water, sanitary services, telecommunications services including high-speed broadband, transport, childcare, recreational facilities and local employment opportunities as a bundle rather than the "wasteland" of house upon house with no services, "as has been most of the Meath experiences under the local governance of Cllr Reilly and his FF and independent colleagues", added Mr O'Byrne.
© Meath Chronicle 22.11.08
Fianna Fail sing from a new Hymn sheet-but Fine Gael are not happy with the tunes.!!
GOVERNMENT backbencher GV Wright once got a political donation from Frank Dunlop wrapped in a newspaper when the two met in the Dail bar.
But in October 2006 the Dublin North deputy said it was very hard to take Mr Dunlop's claim that the lobbyist had bribed Mr Wright to support a land rezoning near Dublin Airport.
He strenuously denied that Mr Dunlop had paid him €1,270 for his vote on the Cloghran lands.
He had always strongly supported that particular rezoning, which would have brought much-needed jobs to the area if the project had gone ahead.
Mr Wright has already accepted that he got three political donations worth €12,700 from Mr Dunlop for the General, Local and Seanad Elections in 1991/1992.
The first of these was for €2,540 and was wrapped in a newspaper and given to him in the Dail bar. And he got two further cash donations totalling €10,160, one of which was given to him in Mr Dunlop's office and the other in the environs of Dublin Co Council.
Mr Wright said he emphatically disputed that the €12,700 in political donations which he got from Mr Dunlop had anything to do with land transactions which the lobbyist was involved in.
Replying to tribunal counsel Patricia Dillon SC, Mr Wright said he was not in a position to identify where he put the monies which Mr Dunlop had given him. There was one lodgment of €3,800 to his bank account and it was possible that the balance was used for the elections.
THE same day as the nation was listening to these shenanigans at the Mahon Tribunal, Fianna Fail achieved a dramatic propaganda coup, which defused the adverse publicity their extremely busy councillors have been subjected to, in the Tribunal rezoning investigation arena, of late.
In an unprecedented clampdown on inappropriate developments, the Soldiers of Destiny invoked martial law in Laois and ordered the "Blueshirt" ( Fine Gael ) controlled council to overturn dozens of rezonings, " to halt the blight of urban sprawl."! and the onward march of enriched rival landowners in the Enda Kenny Camp.(Hungry Bastards!)
Environment Minister Dick Roche,s Damascus like conversion to the principles of good planning and development, was enunciated in a remarkable sabre rattling speech, in which he warned other county councils (Fine gael controlled ones?) that they would face similar curbs.!
According to Dickie, "It signals a significant block on the free-for-all planning that has allowed developments to spurt up in inappropriate places where there are hopelessly inadequate road, water, school and shopping services."
Mr Roche heavily criticised the "irresponsible madness" of Laois County Council in allowing so many houses to be built in such a short space of time.
He said such haphazard planning would destroy villages and towns and build up social and infrastructural problems for years to come.
He warned councils if they allowed some of the country's prettiest villages to be turned into vast housing estates he would intervene again.
It is the first time the emergency ministerial power, under Section 31 of the Planning and Development Act, has been used to scupper an agreed local authority development plan.
The council will now have to go back to the drawing board after the Government struck down the widescale rezoning of land for development around 24 Laois villages.
The action came because of fears that the villages affected by the "irresponsible" rezoning had inadequate infrastructure to cope with a massive increase in population. The move has wiped out potential profits for affected landowners in Laois running into hundreds of millions of euro.
They stood to make massive windfall profits from the agreed rezonings which have now been revoked by the ministerial order.
Development land in Laois zoned for housing can fetch up to €400,000 an acre, depending on location, compared with just €15,000-23,000 for agricultural land.
Mr Roche said yesterday that existing householders and new owners living in these villages faced inadequate water, sewage or school facilities if the plan, which involved dramatically increasing their population, had been permitted.
It would have created a new generation of long-distance commuters consigned to a desperately poor quality of life, the minister told the Irish Independent yesterday.
At the moment, there was enough land rezoned in Laois to cater for the entire region for another 15 years and the rezonings were only benefiting "a few landowners", he said.
Mr Roche said if Laois councillors - the majority of whom are Fine Gael - were not prepared to do their job properly, he would do it for them.
"I cannot stand over bad planning. It is the families who live there and those that will move in that will suffer," he said. "I am sending out a clear message that I am not going to tolerate bad planning. We should have learned the lessons of the past.
"This is madness and is grossly irresponsible. . . . They were planning to turn some of the prettiest villages in the entire country into vast dormitory ones for commuters and create communities which would have to wait a generation for the necessary infrastructure."
The Laois plan would have increased the county's population from 80,000 to more than 150,000.
The villages affected are: Arles, Attanagh, Ballacolla, Ballinakill, Ballybrittas, Ballyfin, Ballylynan, Ballyroan, Borris-in-Ossory, Camross, Castletown, Clonaslee, Clough, Coolrain, Cullahill, Emo, Errill, Killeshin, Newtown-Doonane, Rosenallis, Shanahoe, the Swan, Timahoe and Vicarstown.
The move was slammed by Fine Gael general election candidate Charlie Flanagan, a former TD, who claimed the decision was politically motivated. "This is clearly an attempt to hijack voters" he said,continuing, " The message this sends to all landowners is that unless you are a member of Fianna fail and you vote for Fianna fail you will never become a very wealthy man"
Michael Lalor (FG), cathaoirleach of the council, said most of the rescinded rezonings had not been supported by Fianna Fail councillors and he also believed the minister's decision was politically motivated.
"These were zoned with the best of intentions," he said. "We have never witnessed anything like this and I don't know what's at the back of it. All those villages will be developed and we were putting things in order to allow that happen."
Based on an article by Treacy Hogan and Paul Melia
"Dick, we hope your new found zeal will extend the the Mansfields and the Bailey Brothers, and all your own cronieswhen the time comes.However you are about 20 years too late for the hundreds of thousands of young people you have already consigned to a daily commuting nightmare,and the lowest quality of life in western Europe."
The "Phoenix Magazine" is always provocative and usually first with the new shit before the fan is switched on.This delightful "stealth " scam to prepare bogland for building is a stroke worthy of Bertie himself. January edition 2005;
"Matt Dempsey, the editor and ceo of the Irish Farmers’ Journal (IFJ), who is a real mover and shaker in the agricultural establishment, has been having planning problems of late in relation to lands adjoining his magnificent country pile at Griffinrath in Celbridge, Co Kildare. Last year An Taisce complained to Kildare County Council, claiming that a 20-acre site owned by the IFJ editor was being used as a wastedisposal facility. However, Dempsey, who is also chairman of the RDS management committee and is a director of Kildare Hunt Club Ltd, gave short shrift to all of these allegations. An Taisce claimed that construction, landfill and hazardous waste was being the past four years for which proper planning permission and a waste licence were required. They also claimed that Dempsey has farmed out the alleged landfill operation to a contractor. An Taisce referred the matter to Kildare County Council under Section 5 of the Planning and Development Act and requested that the !
local authority should determine whether “the filling on site constitutes development or is an exempt development”. The County Council decided last May that it was not an exempt development and that it required planning permission. Dempsey appealed this decision to An Bord Pleanála, denying all of An Taisce’s allegations. The RDS chairman claimed in his appeal that “bona fide land reclamation works” were being carried out on the lands and, while he accepted that builders’ waste, rubbish and debris had been deposited on the lands, he said that the material was for the purpose of land reclamation. He also claimed that “at no stage has any landfill been undertaken to warrant it being a commercial activity”. He obtained a licence for the purpose of land reclamation from Kildare County Council and he claimed that the “filling” on the site was in accordance with the permit. that all of this infilling was for the purpose of transforming boggy lands into good arable land, interest!
ingly Kildare County Council’s executive planner’s report concluded that;
“it is doubtful that agricultural or forestry reclamation is the primary object in this case”. It also noted that the “developer does not appear to be the person dumping the waste and there is no evidence that those dumping the waste are land reclamation contractors”.
An Bord Pleanála ruled before Christmas that the “deposition of material on the land constitutes a material change of use … by reason of the materials deposited” and that therefore it was not an exempted development. Matt Dempsey is not giving up. The IFJ editor told Goldhawk that he intended to submit a formal planning application to Kildare County Council for land reclamation in the coming weeks."
Building on more bogs in Laois: Fianna Fail & Fine Gael, lining one anothers pockets agains the will of the people who elected them.Can Gormley reign in the greed of councillors and their farming friends and developer cronies.?
INDEPENDENT councillor Michael Moloney has this week (January 2008)pointed to the extensive flooding of areas in Portarlington last week as vindication for his position that councillors who voted to rezone flood plains in the town were reckless.
He accused other councillors from all parties in Laois of engaging in reckless behaviour when they voted last October to allow developments on some of the town's flood plains.
He said they had disregarded concerns from the OPW and from the Minister for the Environment John Gormley about voting to allow developments on these areas.
He went as far as saying the other councillors who voted in favour of the move were out of touch with the felling of local people on the issue.
"In the context of the extensive flooding of the flood plains in Portarlington last week I have to insist that my comments last week regarding Minister
Gormley's move to curb councillors' powers in zoning lands must now be apparent to anyone that might have been skeptical of my position.
"Flood plains are a natural holding area in time of extensive rainfall that holds back waters from destroying homes and businesses. When councillors ignore professional guidance from the highest levels and zone such areas they allow themselves to be viewed in a very poor, if not cynical light.
"When one looks at the context in which the zoning of these flood plains last October by Laois councillors took place, one can see that in a very short period of time the population of Portarlington has exploded from 4,000 to over 6,000 and that this will rise towards 7,000 by the time all the developments now being built are complete. This being the case no excuse can be made for such actions by my fellow councillors. With 23 councillors in the council chamber on the day not one councillor seconded my objection to zone the flood plains.
"Dealing with such disregard to proper planning Minister Gormley is left with little option but to impose new guidelines on councillors and in the process curtail our remit in land zonings."
© Laoise Nationalist 18.01.08
BnM gets $150m loan to expand waste unit.
BORD na Mona has raised $150m in the United States to cover the cost of a major investment programme which will expand its interests in the energy and waste management industries.
The decision to go to the US for the funding was based on the reaction it received from institutions during an investment roadshow undertaken earlier this year.
Bord na Mona's director of finance Michael Barry said that while there had been a positive reaction in the UK, the US offered better value.
The funds were immediately swapped from dollars into117m worth of fixed rate euro loans with an interest rate of 4.4pc.,a lot more than joe Nobody gets for his savings in the local bank or credit union.!
Mr Barry said the funding is key to the implementation of Bord na Mona's Government approved strategy for future development, through business expansion and diversification. "It enables the company to fund the first stage of its planned investment in renewable energy, power generation and waste management projects," he said. Mr Barry said the issue had been heavily oversubscribed, a fact which will allow the company to return for further funding when needed - probably in a little over two years if all goes well.
With regard to its investment plans, the Bord has already secured planning permission for a 320MW wind station in Mayo as well as planning for a new land fill waste management site at Drehid in Co Kildare.
Apart .from landfill, Bord na Mona will engage in waste collection, recovery and recycling at the site.
The decision to seek private funding is a clear signal that the privatisation of the company is not on the agenda, at least in the short term. It is also a sign of the commercial health of the business that the issue was snapped up so quickly, with a clear appetite for more from the financial institutions involved, drawn mainly from the insurance and pensions sectors.
The loan notes carry no state guarantee,but the fact that a semi state company is borrowing is security enough in itself.
The funding has three separate maturity dates, comprised of seven, 10 and 12 year Senior Notes, meaning the notes are repayable in full in 2013, 2016 and 2018.
The Irish Planning Institute has called for the establishment of a planning inspectorate to which land rezonings may be appealed. The call follows complaints by the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) that too much unserviced land is rezoned by councillors, often against the advice of qualified planners.
The institute said the decisions of elected councillors on zoning should be subject to independent scrutiny by a national inspectorate.
Not over dead bodies -Fianna Fail or Fine Gael ones-will that happen boys.!
Rogue Transport Minister Martin- "The Clown in the Cabinet"- Cullen rejected advice from the head of the Dublin Transport Authority (DTA) in November 2006.She immediately resigned.
Her resignation came as the Government rejected a key DTA proposal to sort out the traffic mess.
Prof Margaret O'Mahoney stepped down, (citing a promotion at TCD), and denied that her move was in any way linked to this rejection.
The DTA recommended that local authorities in the greater Dublin area should get approval from the DTA for development plans to ensure they are transport-friendly. But she only found out from the minister during a press conference in November that the Government had, surprisingly, thrown out this recommendation.
Ms O'Mahoney was sitting beside Mr Cullen in the conference room of the Transport Department and facing the assembled media when he arrogantly dropped the bombshell that one of her key proposals was being ditched.
The DTA will have overall responsibility for delivery of the €14bn Transport 21 projects
The embarrassing disclosure meant that the Government has effectively clipped the wings of the new authority before it is even up and running.
The proposal to have a single authority in charge of land use and transport has been urged by a raft of reputable agencies to avoid long-distance commuting and urban sprawl.
The aim was to stop developers and local authorities allowing massive housing estates to be built in outlying places not served by public transport and with poor quality and often dangerous roads.
But the proposal was binned by the Government because of concerns that it would "unnecessarily dilute the democratic accountability of the planning process"
Read ; " We the Soldiers of Destiny, as represented by our corrupt county councillors countrywide are the only authority in the land , and shall remain so, with reguard to rezoning lands for the Bailey (Bovale) brothers and other cronies/members of the "Circle of developer friends of Fianna Fail".!
WHAT'S the price of a vote?
According to FG councillor Anne Devitt, it certainly isn't a dinner of Sea Bass and Creme Brulée.
That is what she shared with Frank Dunlop and other councillors.
And it definitely had nothing to do with a dinner engagement at Dublin's Dobbins restaurant which she went to with her co-signatory on a rezoning motion, the late Cyril Gallagher (FF), plus developer Joe Tiernan and two Christian Brothers. The Brothers' community owned 70 acres at Balheary near Swords, Co Dublin.
The feisty Ms Devitt let fly at the Mahon Tribunal yesterday, accusing tribunal counsel Henry Murphy SC of implying that her integrity could be compromised by Sea Bass and Creme Brulée.
She said she accepted that councillors had a quasi-judicial function in their rezoning role, but it was insulting to suggest that a dinner with a lobbyist or developer was the same as a judge having a meal with a party in a case before him.
Ms Devitt added: "I am stunned that you would ever ask such a question."
The dinner in Dobbins - a couple of weeks after Dublin Co Council had voted to rezone the Balheary land in May 1993 - had been a social event - nothing more, nothing less.
"I am stunned by what you are asking, that going out for a meal would cloud my judgment in other decisions," Ms Devitt added.
Tribunal chairman Judge Alan Mahon pointed out that the dinner had not been an ordinary social event. The presence of the two Christian Brothers had presumably had some connection with the rezoning .
Ms Devitt said the group had not discussed the Balheary lands at the dinner. "That business was over."
Mr Murphy said the business was only half way through. The confirmation vote on the rezoning had yet to take place.
Ms Devitt said the tribunal was now prying into her private life.
She was not going to say how often she went to dinner with developers.
Judge Mahon said the tribunal was merely asking how frequently she had gone out with developers during a time when, as a councillor, she was in the process of dealing with the Draft Development Plan.
FORMER senator and councillor Liam Cosgrave has accused the Mahon Tribunal of protecting lobbyist Frank Dunlop.
In an emotional outburst to the planning probe, the former Fine Gael Cathaoirleach of the Seanad said that he was again the victim of unsubstantiated allegations by Frank Dunlop.
Describing the lobbyist as "the perjuring parrot", Mr Cosgrave said that all he wanted from the tribunal was fair play but that it was discriminating against him and protecting Frank Dunlop .
Tribunal chairman Judge Alan Mahon said that was a very serious allegation to make.
Mr Cosgrave said he utterly rejected a claim by Mr Dunlop that he had been paid €1,270 for his vote on the rezoning of 70 acres of land at Balheary, near Swords, which was owned by the Christian Brothers.
During robust exchanges, Judge Mahon told Mr Cosgrave not to shout at him."Your attitude and aggressive tone are completely unnecessary," he said.
Mr Cosgrave said he was not an aggressive person but he had been subjected to a lot of stuff from the media. The tribunal was discriminating against him and all he wanted was fair play. "You are getting it," said Judge Mahon.
Mr Cosgrave told the tribunal he had known developer Joe Tiernan well as Mr Tiernan was actively involved in Fine Gael. Mr Tiernan had given him a donation for one election, and he was not surprised to get it as he was fighting an intense political battle.
But he had never solicited money from Mr Tiernan and he never asked Mr Dunlop for money for a vote or received €1,270 from him in the Gresham Hotel after the rezoning of the Balheary lands went through.
Asked by tribunal counsel about four An Post saving certificates for €1,270 each in the summer of 1993, Mr Cosgrave said he didn't recall the source of the funds but he would have had plenty of cash at that time, as he was in the Oireachtas, the Co Council and his law office.
"These savings certificates were absolutely not bought with funds from Frank Dunlop," Mr Cosgrave told the tribunal.
Lorna Reid (Irish Independent)
FUTURE Prime Time Investigates programmes on RTE should begin with a health warning to the effect that what is about to be screened will impact adversely on the blood pressure of those who care about this country and the mess it is in. The exploration of the local authority planning scandals aired on Monday night was frightening and infuriating in equal measure.
Some contributing councillors smirked, whinged and winked their way through the programme, unapologetic and unrepentant about the enormous damage that is caused to some areas by the links between developers and local politicians and by the failure to ensure local plans comply with spatial strategies and national guidelines.
Wisely, the programme-makers offered continual reminders throughout that the purpose of councillors is supposed to be about serving "the common good". A minority of them have been doing the opposite for many years now, ignoring the advice of professional planners and refusing to leave meetings when an issue is being discussed that represents a conflict of interest for them.
If they have "a pecuniary or other beneficial interest" in the matter being discussed they are required by law not to involve themselves. It is also clear that some have ignored the laws requiring them to submit a form declaring in full their interests despite the fact that it is a criminal offence not to do so.
This is parish pump politics at its ugliest and it raised the question of whether the "tough new ethics laws" that were introduced in recent years actually mean anything in practice when the worlds of local politics and local business and developers collide, with no consideration given to sustainability or quality of life.
The result? The rezoning of flood plains, no public transport or school places to back up housing developments, a determination to create an army of commuters in order to line the pockets of those who own the rezoned land. Most gallingly of all, instances have been highlighted of a complete failure to keep local communities informed of what is going on, where private bargaining and clandestine meetings with landowners are substituted for public consultation and transparency.
As one of the residents in the small village of Puckane in north Tipperary put it, "why would you put hundreds of houses in a small scenic area? Somebody must be gaining". This was a reference to the rezoning of 105 acres in that area, described by the county manager as "unwarranted, unsustainable and inappropriate". Following his rejection, the councillors withdrew the proposal, then merely shifted the goalposts and voted for the rezoning anyway. Puckane was chosen because it is 25 miles from Limerick, with the likely outcome another army of commuters with homes they barely get to spend time in and a dearth of community facilities.
It is all very well to use the argument that local communities have the power to vote the councillors damaging their communities out of office at local elections; the problem is that it is often too late at that stage because the damage has already been done. Councillors, of course, are not the sole offenders here; many are being put under inordinate pressure by vested interests to support rezoning that any rational assessor would deem inappropriate. Clearly, there are not enough checking mechanisms in the planning legislation.
Environment Minister John Gormley has made much of the fact that he is not entitled to interfere with local area plans, but the proposed idea of making it compulsory for councillors to produce reasons for their decisions is far too timid and is not something that will prevent bad decisions. Gormley has also made much of the fact that the only power he has at the moment is to overturn a development plan after it has already been agreed, which thankfully he did in July in relation to the plan in Monaghan that would have involved rezoning enough land to triple the population in six years.
The councillors are furious with him and utterly uninterested in the logical arguments against their almost criminal insanity. One councillor summed up his attitude and the problem with local government generally in Ireland, by smugly asserting: "I only care about Clones."
Gormley has promised a green paper on local government to be published next year, but what about the guidelines that are already in place? What about the Standards Commission that already exists? Does it have any teeth?
Last year, 28% of councillors did not make a declaration of their interests in the required period. It is also clear that there is a lack of even cursory supervision in relation to all this, as 37% of declarations were not even date stamped.
Understandably, given the way local government developed in the course of the last century, councillors were left feeling sore about the amount of powers that were taken away from them in an increasingly centralised State. But it is clear that the powers they retained are being grossly abused in some regions. It raises the question of how councillors see their own role; why is it that the Irish have more of a feeling that they belong first and foremost to their own locality rather than the country as a whole, and make decisions on that basis alone?
Earlier this month, John O'Connor, chairman of An Bord Pleanala, accused rural local authorities of bad planning and improper zoning leading to flooding, ad hoc development of towns and villages and water pollution.
He made the point that was emphatically underlined by the Prime Time programme - in some areas planning is more influenced by pressure from developers than by sustainable development.
THE number of appeals to An Bord Pleanala is at record levels and is expected to reach 7,000 by the end of the year, an increase of 1,000 on last year; so much so that the planning board cannot fulfil its statutory objective to process cases within 18 weeks.
Mr O'Connor also reported that developers were being granted permission for large housing schemes which required private sewerage systems where no thought is given to who will maintain the system in the future.
The Prime Time programme also demonstrated that the councillors who vote for reckless rezoning decisions, and who complain about the lack of other powers for themselves, are, through their actions, ultimately offering the strongest argument yet for the abolition of local government structures in Ireland.
There is truth in the assertion that local authorities are badly resourced and often ignored, and that they have a credible record, historically, in the areas of housing, libraries, parks and community facilities.
It is also true that some councillors find their workload intolerable, continue to be put under unacceptable pressure and that county managers also have questions to answer about decisions they make in the privacy of their own offices without consulting elected councillors.
Mr Gormley needs to continue to be forceful in preventing reckless rezoning when he can. It is also imperative that he finds a solution that will ensure councillors
managers can be made accountable for
their decisions in a transparent way in order to rebuild the trust that has been damaged in far too many communities.
(c) Irish Examiner