Planning irregularity report ready


CARLOW COUNCILLORS are to be briefed tomorrow on the first of two reports into allegations of planning irregularities in the county.

Members of Carlow town and county councils will be joined by members of Bagenalstown Town Council for the in-camera briefing on the contents of a report compiled by former Louth county manager John Quinlivan.

His report was commissioned after a Local Government Audit Service review of 2008 raised concern over a number of planning issues.

Among these were what the auditor described as “corporate governance issues” related to the setting of special development contributions or levies.

Typically, special development levies are put in place where the developer would benefit from public infrastructure such as new roads, new sewerage or public transport.

The audit service report noted the council settled a claim relating to a small parcel of land required for the eastern relief road around Carlow town.

The settlement was for more than €11 million, according to the audit.

This deal left the council €3.5 million out of pocket immediately, with provision that the rest would be made up through future development contributions.

The audit report also noted a landowner won compensation for delays in council provision of access to the main drainage scheme in Carlow.

It concluded that specific undertakings given by the council resulted in losses which had “a significant impact on the council’s finances”.

Another problem identified by the auditors was a commitment to remove telecom services from development land at a location called Plas Na Saoirse, which again led to a claim for compensation.

Mr Quinlivan, who acted as Carlow town clerk in the 1970s, ultimately retired in Co Louth with the rank of county manager. He is understood to have substantially completed his report in September and to have submitted the final draft to the Carlow county manager in the last month.

Yesterday, a spokeswoman for the council said copies of the Quinlivan report would be made available to the media on Thursday.

A second investigation ordered by Minister for the Environment John Gormley has asked Carlow County Council to respond to specific items of concern.

While it is understood the reports from Mr Quinlivan and the department cover some of the same ground, a spokesman for the department emphasised the Quinlivan report commissioned by the council “was a matter for themselves”. The two reports were “separate and distinct”, he said.

The spokesman said responses had already been received from Carlow County Council to a number of issues. But he added the department was determined these responses should be addressed by independent planners and a panel would be established “in the near future”.

Carlow county manager Tom Barry is on record as describing the controversy as rumour and allegations. Mr Barry said he was confident the department “won’t find any wrongdoing”. Carlow is one of six councils being questioned by the department over alleged planning irregularities.

Minister of State for Equality Mary White, a former Carlow councillor, said when she was a councillor, she had been contacted by constituents who had concerns about planning irregularities, such as planning guidelines not being enforced and planning permission being granted on floodplains.

However, Fianna Fáil councillor Arthur McDonald said in 22 years as a councillor he had seen “only hard work”.

“In terms of planning it is the most pro-active and the best in all of Ireland . . . a lot of things were done for good reason and maybe some of them went wrong, but Carlow has a lot of very nice housing estates and few of them are unfinished.”

He criticised Ms White for her comments, remarking that the ratio of good decisions to bad had been “99 to one”.