COUNTY mayor Cllr Danny Collins said he has ‘no faith’ in the planning board, An Bord Pleanála, since it ‘washed its hands’ of the major Council-backed development for Dursey, after Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) sought a judicial review on the decision.
Planning was refused last May for the Dursey centre, which was to include a gift shop and 84-person café on the mainland, with parking for 80 cars and buses, as well as replacing the existing cable car. Environmental group FIE sought a judicial review into the matter, which was not contested by An Bord Pleanála.
Councillors recently discussed the long delays in decisions by the planning authority, which was raised by Cllr Seamus McGrath (FF).
Cllr Collins, who seconded the motion, said the situation which occurred with the Dursey project was a disgrace and devastating for the Beara peninsula.
‘We had the FIE – who have about four of five members –planning to seek a judicial review in court and when An Bord Pleanála saw that they were involved, they wiped their hands of it,’ claimed Cllr Collins, who added that FOE are ‘not friends of West Cork or the Beara Peninsula’.
‘If they gave permission from day one why, then, did they wipe their hands of it? It was devastating news for the Beara peninsula that this group can come along and destroy a peninsula that thrives on tourism. After that, I have no faith in An Bord Pleanála.’
Cllr McGrath said that while the government is preparing a Planning and Development Bill, emergency action is needed now to deal with the backlog and delays.
‘It’s totally unacceptable that decisions are being delayed by 12 months and there needs to be emergency appointments for members of the board,’ said Cllr McGrath.
‘At a time of a housing crisis, it makes absolutely no sense that valid permissions from local authorities would be held up for so long. People are trying to make life decisions here with many waiting on An Bord Pleanála to make a decision,’ he added.
Cllr Marcia D’Alton (Ind) said there are supposed to be 15 board members, but currently there are only six.
‘There are between 700 and 800 planning files sitting with the board and there aren’t enough members to make those decisions,’ said Cllr D’Alton.
Cllr Gobnait Moynihan (FF) said that temporary staff are urgently needed now to relieve the backlog, while her colleague Cllr Bernard Moynihan said that they actually need An Bord Pleanála to be working at ‘full speed’.
‘We should have a complete review of the organisation and bring them down to rural Ireland,’ said Cllr Moynihan.
Cllr Gearóid Murphy (FF) said he believes it’s not good policy to allow anyone at all to appeal a planning decision.
‘Ireland has put its own investment at risk in terms of industry development and the delays in these decisions,’ said Cllr Murphy.
Cllr Jack White (FG) said public confidence needs to restored in An Bord Pleanála and that filling the vacant posts is vitally important now.
Councillors agreed to write to Minister Darragh O’Brien.