Six local authorities to face new investigations over planning irregularities

Procedures in Dublin and Cork city councils as well as Cork, Carlow, Galway and Meath county councils to be examined

Minister of State for Planning Jan O’Sullivan: ‘I am determined to uphold the integrity of the planning system.’ Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Minister of State for Planning Jan O’Sullivan: ‘I am determined to uphold the integrity of the planning system.’ Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Fri, Jun 14, 2013, 22:33



Six local authorities are to be subject to new investigations for planning irregularities by independent planning consultants to be appointed by Minister of State for Planning Jan O’Sullivan.

Planning procedures and practices in Dublin and Cork city councils as well as Cork, Carlow, Galway and Meath county councils had been examined in an internal review by the Department of the Environment.

“I am determined to uphold the integrity of the planning system,” Ms O’Sullivan said. “It is vital that scrutiny and evaluation of the planning process is not only fair and objective, but is also seen to be so by the public.”

Her announcement that a public tender for consultants to carry out new investigations followed a High Court order yesterday quashing part of the earlier “planning review” in relation to Donegal County Council.


Settlement
This order was made following a settlement between the Department of the Environment and former senior Donegal planner Gerard Convie of judicial review proceedings challenging the findings of the review as they related to him.

The department acknowledged the right of Mr Convie to a good name, acknowledged his “sincerely held concerns in relation to planning matters in Co Donegal” and agreed to pay him €25,000 in damages.

For his part, Mr Convie agreed not to bring any further legal proceedings against the department and related parties, and Ms O’Sullivan said she was “glad that this matter has been disposed of to the satisfaction of both sides”.

She said that the latest investigations under section 255 of the Planning and Development Acts were what former minister John Gormley intended to carry out before the Green Party left government in January 2011.

The apology was read in court yesterday to Mr Convie, a senior planner with Donegal County Council until he resigned in 2007, arising from findings in the department’s report put before the Dáil in June 2012 dismissing allegations by him of irregular planning decisions within the council. The department has also agreed to pay Mr Convie €25,000 damages, plus costs.


Negative impact
Under the settlement, the report’s findings relating to Donegal are quashed. The department also acknowledged the “sincerely held concerns of Mr Convie in relation to planning matters in Donegal and regretted any adverse comment on his motivation and any negative impact on his good name, professional integrity or reputation”.

The quashing of the findings, apology and damages are all part of a final settlement of proceedings brought by Mr Convie against the department, with the council as a notice party, arising from the report.

Mr Convie claimed Mr Gormley had agreed to set up an independent inquiry into claims by Mr Convie and others of planning irregularities in Donegal and several other councils but that decision was not proceeded with after the new government took office.