Refusal to consider complaints over alleged planning irregularities in Donegal challenged

Refusal to consider complaints over alleged planning irregularities in Donegal challenged
Gerard Convie, who lives in Strabane, Co Tyrone, claims the commission's refusal to consider his complaints about nine alleged irregularities was wrong in law and unreasonable.

A planning consultant is seeking to bring a High Court challenge over the refusal of the Standards in Public Office Commission to consider his complaints about alleged planning irregularities in Donegal County Council.

Gerard Convie, who lives in Strabane, Co Tyrone, claims the commission's refusal to consider his complaints about nine alleged irregularities was wrong in law and unreasonable.

On Monday, Mr Justice Charles Meenan said Mr Convie would first have to put the commission on notice of his intended proceedings before the court considers whether to give him permission to bring a judicial review. He said the case could come back in September when the Commission will have received notice.

Evan O'Donnell, counsel for Mr Convie, said his client is a former planning officer with Donegal Council who resigned in 2002 and became a planning consultant.

Mr Convie first made submissions to the council itself in relation to the alleged irregularities but these were rejected and he then appealed to the commission, counsel said. On March 20 last, the commission wrote to him refusing to consider the nine planning matters he brought to its attention.

In his statement of grounds, Mr Convie says one of his complaints relates to the non-disclosure of an interest/conflict of interest as required by those involved in planning control administration.

Another relates to an alleged failure by the council to take any action over unauthorised development at Knockalla Fort, Letterkenny, in 2010. Mr Convie claims the council acted in breach of its own code of conduct such that their failure to act within a certain time meant it was no longer possible to bring legal proceedings over the matter.

He complained about the grant of permission for a housing development in Ballyliffin, Donegal, because a similar proposal for the same site had previously been refused and where there had allegedly been no change in circumstances to justify the granting of permission.

He also complained about the failure of a planning officer to register an interest in relation to the granting of permission for a house on a site which had previously been refused permission.

He further complained about issues relating to a report from the Donegal county manager in September 2009 which he says illustrated a breach of the code of conduct.

Three other complaints related to another unauthorised development where allegedly no action was taken.

Mr Convie claims the commission refused to furnish a formal decision in relation to each of those cases he complained about or did so at a time so remote from its decision that it was seriously prejudicial to him. This was improper and contrary to fair procedures, he says.

He also says the commission acted wrongly in seeking to deal with his nine separate complaints in one single determination without any or adequate analysis.

The commission had also erred in law by determining that where a complaint was investigated by another body it cannot currently pursue it further, he claims.

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