Councillors under pressure to rezone land for retail schemes


18 April 2010

by Niamh Connolly, Political Correspondent


County councillors in south Dublin are coming under ‘‘enormous pressure’’ from developers in relation to rezoning land for retail developments, a local councillor has claimed.


Aidan Culhane, leader of the Labour Party group on Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, made the claim in relation to zoning decisions affecting developments in Carrickmines and Cherrywood.


Last week, Fine Gael councillors tabled a motion to vary the county development plan and increase the retail zoning at The Park in Carrickmines.


The motion was passed despite a ministerial direction against rezoning issued by John Gormley, the Minister for the Environment. County manager Owen Keegan is now taking legal advice on the issue.


Culhane claimed there was pressure for the motion to be passed, which raised questions about democracy. ‘‘The question is whether a developer decides on planning or whether the council decides,” he said.


Eamon Ryan, Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources and Green TD for Dublin South, described the stance taken by the Fine Gael councillors as ‘‘remarkable’’.


He said it showed that ‘‘nothing was learned from the property crash and banking crisis, which were based on obsessive construction as an economic driver’’.


Ryan said that Gormley ‘‘had set out the right planning direction’’ for the county. It is widely expected that Gormley will respond with another ministerial direction not to proceed with the council’s plan. It seeks to increase retail zoning at The Park by 10,000 square metres, while reducing retail zoning at the rival Cherrywood project by 10,000 square metres.


Fine Gael councillors Tom Joyce, Jim O’Leary, Barry Ward, John Bailey, Maria Bailey and Marie Baker favoured the change, which was passed last week 15-13.Two Fine Gael councillors, Mary Mitchell O’Connor and Donal Marren, voted against it.


‘‘I am sick of big developers ringing me on their proposals, between Carrickmines and Cherrywood,” said Mitchell O’Connor, who said that large retail development affected small traders. ‘‘We’ve had 66 shops closed down in Dun Laoghaire in the last two years.”


However, Fine Gael councillor Ward accused Gormley of ‘‘an act of hypocrisy’’ by stepping in after promising to empower local government on planning decisions.


He said Cherrywood would take years to complete but Carrickmines was ‘‘up and running already’’.


The Park at Carrickmines is being developed by Park Developments, which is headed by Michael Cotter. It has said it will bring in Tesco as an anchor tenant and create 800 jobs if it gets the extended retail space.


The Cherrywood development is being done by Dunloe Ewart, owned by Liam Carroll.


It has spent €28.6million on infrastructure at Cherrywood and threatened legal proceedings if the motion was passed.

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