TDs entitled to orders stopping use of car park

Luke 'Ming' Flanagan (above) and Finian McGrath brought case after 'chaos' in Tuam town centre

Independent TDs Luke “Ming” Flanagan and Finian McGrath are entitled to orders stopping any further use of a large split-level car park alleged to have caused “chaos” in Tuam town, to be a safety risk to local children, and to have adversely impacted on the medieval town’s architectural heritage, the High Court has ruled.

Mr Justice John Hedigan yesterday criticised the planning authorities over decisions relating to the car park beside the SuperValu in Tuam, noting the car park was one of eight unauthorised developments involving businessman Joseph O’Toole who had an “extraordinary planning history”.

Mr O’Toole has a “pattern” of constructing unauthorised developments and then seeking retention permission, the judge said. He had carried out eight unauthorised developments since 1996 and was the subject of six warning or enforcement notices but was “repeatedly” granted retention permission, most recently for much of the car park development.

That history showed “little regard” by Mr O’Toole, now aged 80 and involved in business locally for some 45 years, for the planning process and also reflected “little credit” on those charged with responsibility for the integrity of the planning process in Tuam, the judge said. He believed Mr O’Toole must have been aware the car park works were unauthorised.

Part of a public right of way at Palace Rd was removed to facilitate the development, he noted. He accepted “convincing and disturbing” evidence the car park is now being used as a dangerous means of accessing a school, swimming pool, and Palace Grounds. A service road built without planning permission to address safety concerns had not done so, he said.

The judge said he would make orders preventing use of the lands or structure at Town Parks, Tuam, as a commercial split-level car park but, solely to minimise inconvenience for the people of Tuam, would defer those orders to early January. He will hear submissions on the precise form of orders later this week.

He was giving his reserved judgment on proceedings brought by the two TDs and four residents of Tuam — Concepta Goss, Cllr Sean Cunniffe, school principal Stephen Lane, and Daniel Travers — over the 240-space car park. The case was against Mr O’Toole, his wife Helen, and OT Investments Ltd as operators of the SuperValu.


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