Councillor seeks more transparency

Carolyn Farrar

Reporter:

Carolyn Farrar

Fianna Fáil Cllr. Seamus Ó Domhnaill has called on Donegal County Council to review the planning application process for all large-scale developments.

Fianna Fáil Cllr. Seamus Ó Domhnaill has called on Donegal County Council to review the planning application process for all large-scale developments.

“What I would also be seeking is that the whole procedure be changed so that it becomes much more transparent and user-friendly,” Cllr. Ó Domhnaill said yesterday.

At the Glenties Electoral Area meeting on Tuesday, councillors discussed concerns that Glenties-area people had raised, following news last Friday that a proposed wind farm at Straboy, outside Glenties, had received planning approval. Local people opposed to the project had questioned why several objectors’ submissions had been returned weeks later because of a technicality, after the deadline for submissions had passed.

Speaking at the meeting, Cllr. Ó Domhnaill suggested that “some sort of policy be drawn up whereby the applicant engages in much better public consultation with objectors or the local people.” At a meeting on the issue in Glenties on Sunday night, local residents said there had been no public consultation with the applicant.

“I actually do think the council need to sit down with the people who objected and who feel they have been let down,” Sinn Féin Cllr. Marie-Therese Gallagher said Tuesday. “There needs to be dialogue in a case like that,” Fianna Fáil Cllr. David Alcorn said, after the meeting.

Frank Sweeney, area manager for planning, explained that when a planning applicant submits additional information that is significant, the council must notify anyone who has made a submission. If those people wish to make an additional submission, they do not have to pay a further fee if they submit a copy of the acknowledgement of their original submission. In the past, Mr. Sweeney said, a second submission without fee or acknowledgement was still accepted when the office knew the acknowledgement was on file.

“But it was raised by one of the parties that we were not in strict accordance with regulations,” he said. Legal advice sought by the council agreed. At that point, he said the council determined any submissions without acknowledgement or fee would be returned and treated as invalid.

Mr. Sweeney said, “What I would like to go out there as well, submissions were returned to people who already made a submission, so their right to appeal is still there.”