Edwin McGreal and Anton McNulty
Town councillors in Castlebar and Ballina have lashed out at the decision by the two town councils to budget money for both towns’ developments plans given that the town councils are due to go out of existence in 2014.
The controversial issue was raised at the budget meetings of both Castlebar and Ballina Town Council last week with councillors questioning why scarce resources are spent on a plan that may not be implemented.
In Castlebar, a budgeted figure of €80,000 for the Castlebar Town Development Plan was set aside, with Independent Cllr Frank Durcan describing the cost as ‘crazy’.
“There is no room for development in this county, I think it is ludicrous to draw up a plan for something that will never happen. The plan costs are crazy for an authority going out of existence,” he told last week’s meeting of the authority.
Town Manager Seamus Granahan said that the council have a legal obligation to have an updated development plan and included in that there has to be habitats, environmental impact and flood impact reports and that in 2014, if the town council goes out of existence, the plan will be assimilated into the County Development Plan. He said that the council were making every effort to ‘streamline and reduce’.
Cllr Durcan dismissed it as ‘bureaucracy gone stark raving mad’.
“The figure of €80,000 would solve a lot of hunger. Can we not do a few minor changes to the existing plan? We should not be spending €80,000 on a development plan that means virtually nothing,” he said.
The town council had passed a motion in 2012 to write to the Department of Environment and Local Government about whether they needed to have a development plan with the town councils due to go out of existence but they were told that they would not receive a derogation.
Cllr Michael Kilcoyne said development plans in general were ‘a waste of money’ as they could be changed by the Minister for Environment and Local Government.
Seamus Granahan agreed and said that had actually happened in Castlebar in the past but said that legislation requires that every six years you must update your development plan and it ‘involves a very rigorours process’ which the council must undertake.
There was a similar argument in Ballina where Independent Cllr Mary Kelly clashed with the Town Manager, Paul Benson on the need to spend money on the plan which could reach €200,000.
Cllr Kelly said this was an ‘astronomical amount of money’ to be spent and asked did the council need it if won’t be around. She proposed that every town council abstain from spending money on development plans and was supported by Cllr Frances McAndrew.
“It is ridiculous that we spend money on a plan that will not be seen through and I propose we not go ahead. To suggest we waste money on a plan that is not implemented is absolute madness,” she said.
However, Mr Benson said it was the law to start preparing a plan in 2013 and any town plan will be implemented into a local area plan for Ballina.
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