Councillors vote for
by Jamie Deasy
Southside People, 22nd April 2010
COUNCILLORS in Dún Laoghaire Rathdown have controversially voted to begin the process of rezoning land for retail development on the Southside despite an order by Environment Minister John Gormley directing them not to increase retail space in the area.
Minister Gormley instructed county councillors not to rezone land at The Park, Carrickmines, off the M50, to increase its retail space when they created their county development plan last month.
Fine Gael councillors Tom Joyce, Jim O’Leary, Barry Ward and John and Maria Bailey, as well as Cllr Gearóid O’Keeffe (Ind), tabled a motion to increase retail zoning at Carrickmines from 6,000 to 25,000sqm.
Part of the motion also included reducing the retail zoning at a site in Cherrywood, also off the M50, by 10,000sqm.
Park Developments, which has proposals for a large shopping centre on the Carrickmines site as well as other facilities, had promised 800 jobs and a “guaranteed” anchor tenant, as well as interest from other retailers should the motion be passed.
Speaking in support of the motion, Cllr Tom Joyce (FG) said a number of companies had contacted him in connection with developing a cinema, supermarket, leisure centre and restaurant at the site.
“I received a delegation from a number of companies and I have to accept their bona fides,” Cllr Joyce said. “I don’t see that I should have any doubt that they were coming up with the best possible motives.”
Fine Gael councillors have argued that by directing them not to increase the zoning at the site, Minister Gormley is effectively putting in jeopardy hundreds of jobs that they believe would becreated if the scheme was to go ahead.
Cllr Barry Ward (FG) said he was not initially sure that building another shopping centre on the Carrickmines site was the “right idea”.
“But I took on board those concerns and looked into it and I have satisfied myself that this is something that makes sense,” he said. “I genuinely believe that supporting this is the right thing to do here because it creates jobs.”
However, Cllr Aidan Culhane (Lab) said the proposal to rezone the land was contrary to regional and national planning guidelines.
“It is an appalling piece of bad planning to put this up at this stage,” he said. “I find it staggering that councillors would come back so soon after the development plan, in Carrickmines of all places, as if the place hasn’t been through the mill enough in planning over the years.
“This is not planning for the county; it is not planning for retail,” he added. “It has got nothing whatsoever to do with planning. It will compromise all of our existing town centres.”
Cllr Richard Boyd Barrett (PBP) said the rezoning proposal was like “moving the deckchairs around on the Titanic”.
“It is utterly misguided,” he stated. “You do not create real sustainable jobs or sustainable growth just by building another shopping centre.”
Cllr Victor Boyhan (Ind) urged councillors to vote against the rezoning motion because he said they would ultimately have to comply with the minister’s direction not to increase the retail space on the land.
In the end 15 councillors were in favour of the motion and 13 voted against. Those who supported the motion included all Fianna Fáil councillors and all Fine Gael councillors with the exception of Cllr Mary Mitchell O’Connor (FG) and Cllr Donal Marren (FG).
All Labour councillors and People Before Profit councillors voted against. Independent councillors Tony Fox and Gearoid O’Keeffe voted in favour while Cllr Victor Boyhan voted against.
County manager Owen Keegan said he would take legal advice about the decision and return to councillors with a report on how they could proceed with steps to vary the development plan.
A spokesman for the Department of the Environment noted that the council had passed a motion requiring the county manager to prepare a report on how the council could proceed with steps to vary the newly adopted plan to re-introduce the Carrickmines provisions.
Read the on-line version of this article here.