External planning probes will be conducted ‘if merited’

External inquiries into planning matters in seven local authorities will be carried out if merited, Jan O’Sullivan, the housing and planning minister, has said.

An internal review of complaints made against councils is taking place within her department and will be completed by the end of April or start of May.

The Green Party claimed the investigation had been halted by the Government, suggesting this was because most local authorities are controlled by Labour and Fine Gael.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan accused the Government of “arrogance”, saying more urgency was needed in investigating serious complaints.

“If you’re in power and have control of councils all over the country, why would you want to question things? Why would you want to rock the boat? Why would you want to change the system if that system is working for you at that particular time?”

Mr Ryan said his colleague and ex-environment minister, John Gormley, had established a group of planning consultants to look at a range of complains about planning decisions, councils ignoring their own development plans and inappropriate relationships with developers.

Mr Ryan said the group was “sitting up, ready to go” when the government changed a year ago.

“All the new Government had to do was to say, ‘yes proceed with that, this is going to be inexpensive and it makes sense.’ But instead they said, ‘we’re going to stop that, we’re not going to do it’,” Mr Ryan said.

Ms O’Sullivan said her officials had informed her there were no external experts appointed by the previous administration.

She said there had been a short preliminary report compiled on the complaints. When her predecessor, Labour TD Willie Penrose, came into office, he “reviewed the file and decided that there should be an internal review within the department prior to deciding on investigations”, she said.

“He wanted to find out exactly what these investigations were to be about and there was going to be a cost to the public purse in terms of using outside consultants to carry out investigations.”

That review is “ongoing”, she said, promising to publish the findings in full. “If any of these inquiries merit external investigation, that will be carried out.”

The inquiries concern planning matters between 2007 and 2009 in Cork City and county councils, Dublin City Council, and Galway Carlow, Meath and Donegal county councils.


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