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Planning allegations denied

Senior planner denies ‘personal vendetta allegations in relation to Snugboro applications

Michael Duffy

THE SENIOR Executive Planner with Mayo County Council attended at Monday’s meeting of the Castlebar Electoral Area committee to clarify matters in relation to two planning applications which Cllr Paddy McGuinness claimed were refused because of a ‘personal vendetta’ against an applicant.
Mr Ian Douglas did admit at the meeting that files submitted by Mr Tomas McEveney, Loughill, Snugboro, Castlebar for housing developments at Tullycommons in Snugboro ‘could have been handled better’ by the planning department.
The senior planner told the meeting that two separate files submitted by the applicant in question had been dealt with by five different planners and that an in-house change in directive had led to Mr McEveney’s second application being refused.
Mr McEveney was first refused outline planning permission for a dwelling house at Tullycommons on November 28, 2003 while he was then refused outline permission for five houses on the same site on May 3, 2006.
Mr Douglas stated that Cllr McGuinness, who was unavoidably absent from Monday’s meeting, was now fully satisfied that there was no ‘personal vendetta’ against the applicant in this case. He said Cllr McGuinness had assured him that he had not brought the matter into the public domain to question the professional integrity of the planners, he just wanted the matter investigated and to see how the decisions to refuse permission were arrived at.
Mr McEveney first application was refused because of concerns in relation to the drainage of the site and its proximity to a stream feeding nearby Lough Mallard. However, the applicant was aggrieved as he had carried out a range of preparatory works on the site at the behest of the council after he attended pre-planning meetings.
Mr Douglas said he had met Mr McEveney in relation to the second application on the lands at Tullycommons. The application was eventually refused because it was deemed to be premature pending the completion of the Castlebar Sewerage Scheme, the start date of which was delayed by 18 months. Mr Douglas said the council had changed policy in relation to granting permission ahead of the completion of these schemes as some people had built houses and had no connection to a public sewer or ground suitable for a septic tank.
However, the senior planner added that the new Castlebar Town Plan would most likely see the lands at Tullycommons zoned residential and once the sewerage scheme was completed, Mr McEveney could again apply for permission. He did add that the layout of these small housing developments was vital and it was important not to design them as ‘suburban in nature’.
In conclusion, Mr Douglas stated that he accepted that the involvement of five different planners on two applications ‘could have led to some confusion’ but their was no evidence to support Cllr McGuinness’ initial allegations. He accepted that perhaps better notes should have been kept on Mr McEveney’s initial file but it was processed in the same manner as every other planning file before the council.
Cllr Johnny Mee said he had great sympathy for the applicant in question as he knew that he had spent a substantial amount of money on the site in question and he was prepared to provide a football pitch for the children of the area.
The other councillors at the meeting Cllr Cyril Burke, Cllr Sean Bourke, Cllr Al McDonnell and Cllr Henry Kenny all thanked Mr Douglas for attending at the meeting and explaining the background to the decisions.