Planning practices to be reviewed

A major investigation into alleged planning irregularities in Donegal is on the cards following a High Court decision on Friday.

A major investigation into alleged planning irregularities in Donegal is on the cards following a High Court decision on Friday.

In a sensational development a report which found no evidence of wrongdoing in Donegal County Council’s planning department has been quashed. In the High Court on Friday, the Department of the Environment agreed to the overturning of its own findings in relation to how planning was conducted on dates mostly in the 1990’s.

Former senior planner with Donegal County Council, Gerard Convie, who made the claims, was apologised to by the Department and awarded 25,000 euro in damages, plus costs. The apology, was read in court to Mr Convie who resigned from Donegal County Council in 2007, arose from findings in the Department’s report presented to the Dail in June 2012 dismissing allegations by him of irregular decisions within the council.

Under the High Court settlement, the Department “acknowledges the sincerely held concerns of Mr Convie in relation to planning matters in Donegal, and regrets any adverse comment on his (Mr Convie’s) motivation and any negative impact on his right to a good name, professional integrity or reputation.”

The settlement also means that Mr Convie agrees not to bring any legal proceedings against the Department, the Minister or Minister of State arising from the report of findings related to him (Mr Convie) in that report. Mr Convie claimed former Minister for the Environment, John Gormley, had agreed to establish an independent inquiry into claims by Mr Convie and others of planning irregularities in Donegal and several others councils, but that decision was not proceeded with after the new government took office.

He claimed the Department instead had embarked on an internal inquiry which, he alleged, was totally inadequate, “deeply disturbing” and failed to address his complaints in a meaningful way. The Department conducted no proper examination of 20 case studies provided by him which, he claimed, provided evidence of irregularities.