By Dan Walsh
Wexford County Council has decided not to take advantage of an optional Ministerial Act to delay the draft County Development Plan by one year and instead to press forward with the Plan. This decision was made at last Monday’s monthly meeting of the Council held with Microsoft Teams in line with Covid-19 guidelines and protocols.
Deputy CEO Tony Larkin told the meeting that the Minister has indicated that he is bringing in a procedure to allow local authorities to consider County Development Plan’s – the Bill has passed in the Dail and the President has signed it – and the Act is expected to be enacted this week.
Members were circulated with the document and the choices were for members to bring a resolution to initiate the extension procedure or to push on without an extension which would require a special meeting.
Cllr Pip Breen suggested the Council proceed as planned. “It is as good as it’s going to get,” said Cllr Breen, who added; “We passed this Plan last October and we should proceed with it as we are now.”
Cllr John Hegarty seconded Cllr Breen’s proposal and pointed out that there is no clear indication that any better Plan would emerge and he hinted that there is every chance it could potentially end up with less satisfactory or worse Plan. “There is a huge amount of work gone into taking it to this stage and I now note that there are more and more external voices who are interfering with the process. Us as councillors are the only ones with responsibility for producing a Plan for County Wexford,” concluded Cllr Hegarty.
Cllr Michael Whelan favoured carrying on to the next stage and felt that the matter could be looked at later, but he wondered if it were sending a message to the Regular by people of Wexford and other counties, that would consider themselves rural counties, that they are not happy!
Cllr Jackser Owens said he would not support the Plan, “if people are not allowed to build where they are born. If they want to live in the country, they should be allowed. I will not vote to stop people from living in their own area.”
Cllr Michael Sheehan said he could not see how going for an extension would improve the Plan. “I would like to continue on, but I would be happier if we could continue ‘in person’, in the County Chamber, or some other chamber, as we are finding to our cost online is unsatisfactory, and we are better off reconvening that meeting in September when we can all sit around the same room and sort out whatever issues needs sorting out and move it on from there.”
Speaking on behalf of the Independent members of the Council, Cllr Pat Barden claimed that “contrary to what John (Hegarty) said about ‘external influence’ I don’t believe there is any ‘external influence’, we got very good advice and if Fianna Fail and Fine Gael want to get advice they are entitled to do so as well, We have a proposal that we extend it for one year. There is a lot of stuff to be considered and I do not think we should be rushing it through. There is the situation with the densities and with one-off housing – two huge issues.”
Cllr Fionntán Ó Suilleabháin stated that “as councillors we are almost neutered of powers” but favoured proceeding with the existent Plan, “otherwise it could be a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire and I say that as someone who is one hundred percent in favour of rural living.”
Cllr Joe Sullivan felt there was nothing to be gained by extending the timeframe and he believed that the executive planners had worked well with the councillors in the composition of the Plan and he was happy to proceed.
Cllr Oliver Walsh said it was the fourth County Development Plan that he was involved in as a member and was well used to the procedure and he said “the previous three, while not perfect in every way, I think they have worked well for the county and the draft Plan is ‘our draft Plan drawn up by the members of this County Council with the help of the executive planners and I don’t see any point in delaying this process.”
There were also contributions from Cllrs Willie Kavanagh, Davy Hynes, Cathal Byrne, John Fleming, Jim Codd, Kathleen Codd-Nolan, Andrew Bolger, Lisa McDonald, Anthony Connick, Aidan Browne, Garry Laffan and George Lawlor.
Cllr Garry Laffan proposed to proceed with the Plan, but only when convenient to do so, ‘in person’, and Cllr Michael Sheehan seconded.
It was decided to meet ‘in person’ on September 6th with Covid-19 guidelines approval?