Claims that plan is `developer led' are rejected


Claims that the Fingal County Council development plan was "developer led" were rejected last night by the county manager.

Speaking at the latest in a series of special council meetings on the plan, Mr William Soffe said he wanted to "nail the lie" that the authority was not motivated by proper planning guidelines or had been improperly influenced by developers who had made submissions in relation to the plan.

His comments followed claims from Cllr David Healy (Green) that the planning authority's commitment to sustainable development was "tokenistic" and that submissions from developers were favourably treated in the plan.

"In light of the experiences in 1993 when developers targeted councillors for the last development plan it appears they have found the pressure too great and have targeted the manager instead."

Cllr Tom Kelleher (Lab) criticised Mr Healy for being "sensationalist". He said new housing was desperately needed in the area in order to cope with an increasing population and that it would have to be provided by developers.

He said, however, the local authority should ensure that developers provided amenities in return for planning permission so that the existing community would also benefit.

In relation to Lusk, Cllr Ken Farrell (Lab) said the town was "bursting at the seams" and welcomed moves to provide more housing. He said he didn't see the plan as "developer led but as development friendly".

The draft map for Lusk, which would rezone 188 acres of agricultural land for residential use, doubling the size of the town, was adopted by 19 votes to one. Mr Joe Higgins TD (Socialist Party) voted against with Cllr Healy abstaining.

Earlier, Cllr Sean Ryan TD (Lab) said some councillors appeared to be representing developers in proposing amendments to the plan. Referring to a motion proposing the rezoning of a further 6 1/4 acres at a scenic location in Skerries, he accused councillors and the county manager of supporting the proposal without any justification.

The location, on a hill beside the coast at Balbriggan Road, was "one of the most sensitive in the whole area", he said.

Cllr Sean Gilbride (FF), proposing the motion, said no representations had been made to him from developers, adding that he was "trying to ensure that the young people of Skerries would have land for housing".

Mr Soffe said he supported the proposal as an acceptable compromise, having originally received a request from Mr Gilbride for the rezoning of nine acres.

Cllr Healy described it as a compromise between "the public interest and landowners' interests".

The motion was carried by 13 votes to six with one abstention.

The council also discussed the proposed rezoning of 145 acres of land at Courtlough for industry as well as science and technology uses.

Mr Soffe said the location, just off the M1 on the Dublin-Belfast axis, had been identified as having "huge potential" for industrial development.

Mr G. V. Wright TD (FF) said the proposed development would put Fingal in a position to benefit economically from the Northern Ireland peace process as well as provide new job opportunities.

An attempt by Cllr Healy to delete from the plan a proposal to rezone 42 acres for science and technology uses was defeated by 17 votes to three.

Another heated exchange arose from a motion to rezone an area of agricultural land bordering a golf course in Donabate at Turvey Avenue for a maximum of seven luxury houses.

Cllr Anne Devitt (FG) said it was important that high-quality housing was made available in the area to those who could afford it in order to stop them "moving to the south-side".

Cllr Ryan said the proposal contradicted a written statement in the plan that housing should not be located near golf courses. The motion was passed by 12 votes to eight.