Rezoning 'didn't make sense', planner tells court

The trial of four Councillors accused of accepting bribes to rezone over 100 acres of land has heard that the rezoning went against the advice of the then county manager.

Rezoning 'didn't make sense', planner tells court

The trial of four Councillors accused of accepting bribes to rezone over 100 acres of land has heard that the rezoning went against the advice of the then county manager.

Former county manager of Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown County Council Donal Marren warned in 1997 that it would be “premature” to rezone the agricultural land as industrial, due to inadequate road access and water supplies.

Giving evidence at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown Senior Planner Richard Cremins said he also felt the 1998 rezoning “didn't make sense in planning terms”.

He told Tony McGillicuddy BL, prosecuting, that under the proposed rezoning, “you had to go across agricultural lands to get the Luas stop, it didn't make sense.”

However, he said that by 2004, the situation had changed and with the South East Motorway (now the M50) finally in place, the rezoning then made sense.

Rezoning motions were put forward in 1997 and 1998 by sitting Independent Councillor Tony Fox (aged 72) of Churchtown and former Fine Gael Councillor Liam Cosgrave (aged 57) of Blackrock, Dublin.

Both men deny accepting cash bribes of IR£7,000 each from ex-lobbyist Frank Dunlop in return for their support for the rezoning.

Former Fianna Fáil councillors Donal Lydon (aged 74) of Stillorgan Park Avenue and Colm Mc Grath (aged 56) of Saggart have also pleaded not guilty to receiving corrupt payments of IR£3,000 and IR£2,000 respectively from Mr Dunlop in return for their votes.

Businessman Jim Kennedy (aged 66) of Cormorant's Quay, Gibraltar denies giving IR£25,000 to Mr Dunlop to buy Councillors' votes.

The court heard that then County Manager Donal Marren had recommended no change to the existing agricultural zoning on 108 acres of land, most of which was owned by Mr Kennedy's company Jackson Way.

Mr Marren's report in late 1997 warned that 88 acres of the land lay outside the line of the South East Motorway, which was regarded in the Dublin Transport Initiative Strategy as an “appropriate boundary” beyond which there should be no development.

Mr Marren's report into a further parcel of almost 37 acres part-owned by Jackson Way said although the land would be suitable for rezoning in the medium to long term, there was at that time inadequate access to roads or water supplies.

Nonetheless, a motion to rezone that smaller parcel as industrial was passed by a majority of 13 to 11 votes at a special meeting of Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown County Council in December 1997.

A further motion signed by Councillor Tony Fox (formerly of Fianna Fáil) to rezone 88 acres of land as residential was defeated by 16 votes to 10 at a meeting in January 1998.

The court heard that current Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore voted against both motions at the council meetings.

Mr Cremins said that the draft development plan for Dun Laoghaire Rathdown went on public display for a second time in April and May 1998, during which 244 objections were submitted.

The amended development plan to rezone a total of 108 acres was passed unanimously by Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown County Council on June 16, 1998, however there were four conditions attached.

These were that no zoning could occur until the South East Motorway was in place, until there was adequate road access and a public water supply, and until an Action Area Plan had been drawn up for Cherrywood.

Mr Cremins told Declan McGrath SC, defending Mr Kennedy, that the lands in question remained zoned as industrial in the development plans of 2004 and 2010, and had never been down-zoned since.

“I'm not aware of any down-zoning anywhere in this country; as far as I know councillors baulked at the idea of down-zoning for fear of a judicial review,” said Mr Cremins.

Key prosecution witness, Frank Dunlop, is due to resume his evidence next week.

The trial continues on Monday before Judge Mary Ellen Ring and a jury of seven women and four men.

It is due to finish by the August 2.

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