Kerry, the home of councils over-ruling the decisions of planners, has yet again shown just how little say planners have. Prima facia this rezoning warrants some investigation. Emphasis is added in all cases.
Killarney Town Council has voted to rezone 20 acres around the Gleneagle Hotel for town-centre development against the advice of planners.
Fianna Fail councillor Patrick O’Donoghue, who is also managing director of the Gleneagle Hotel Group, which he owns with his family, confirmed after the meeting that he had lobbied support for the motion. Cllr O’Donoghue is also a director of Failte Ireland.
Yes, it is funny isn’t it. It’s not just Fianna Fail though.
Fine Gael councillor Sheila Casey, who voted for the rezoning and was one of the proposers of the motion, is an employee of the Gleneagle Group.
Yesterday Ms Casey said the idea of any conflict of interest had not occurred to her.
And what are the planners saying about all this?
The town planner and town clerk told the meeting they had no objection to the proposed regularisation of the site for tourism-related facilities, which they felt was “an appropriate designation”.
But they pleaded with councillors not to dilute the core objective of current town plans and that the proposal would effectively attach a town-centre zoning to the site.
“The executive are strongly opposed to the application of associated town-centre facilities to the proposed rezoning as it will effectively attach a town-centre zoning to the site,” executive planner Fiona O’Sullivan said.
Ms O’Sullivan outlined up to 20 uses permitted by a tourism facilities designation including a museum, neighbourhood retail, outdoor and indoor leisure and conference facilities as a more appropriate zoning.
Under town-centre zoning, retail apartments, offices, residential and financial institutions as well as high-density housing and a complete mix of uses would be allowed, she added.
Fianna Fa¡il councillor Brian O’Leary, supporting the town-centre zoning for the hotel, said the large land bank belonged to people well known for developing tourism in Killarney.
Does anyone think it odd that a man who will materially benefit from a rezoning is voting on that rezoning, and that the rezoning is against the advice of the town planner? Can anyone see a conflict of interest there?
And this is, as far as I can tell, happening all over the country. Maybe we will read about in a Tribunal in 20 years time.