Residents of Treacy Park protesting in September at plans to develop a Blueway car park on part of Sean Healy Park
An action group campaigning to stop part of a Carrick-on-Suir riverside park being turned into a Blueway visitors’ car park is fundraising to mount a High Court judicial review against the planning approval granted for the €16.5m Carrick-on-Suir Regeneration Scheme.
News of the legal challenge the Save Sean Healy Park Committee is preparing came as a narrow 3-2 majority of Carrick-on-Suir Municipal District’s five councillors voted for a second time on Monday morning to approve the regeneration scheme’s Part 8 planning application.
The action group set up a GoFundMe page called Save Sean Healy Park Legal Challenge last Friday with the target of raising €5,000 to engage a barrister to represent the group in their legal challenge. The group has already engaged a planning consultant to advise it on appealing the regeneration scheme plan.
They initially believed they could appeal the council decision to An Bord Pleanála but this option isn’t available under the Part 8 planning process the regeneration scheme was approved.
Mary O’Shea, secretary of the Save Sean Healy Park Committee, said they were “prepared to go all the way” in their fight to overturn the plan to turn part of Sean Healy Park into a car park. The group believes the car park will detract from the beauty of Sean Healy Park and also pose a health and safety risk with cars entering and leaving it on the busy N24 road.
She pointed out that this car park was opposed not just by residents of Treacy Park estate, which is situated opposite Sean Healy Park, but by many people in the wider community in Carrick-on-Suir.
The council received 284 submissions from the public opposing the Sean Healy Park car park proposal and a petition of 540 signatures during the public consultation phase for the planning application.
Ms O’Shea stressed the action group was not asking to halt the Carrick-on-Suir Regeneration Scheme just to locate this car park at an alternative venue. She argued there were many other locations suitable for the car park that the council hasn’t adequately explored.
In the New Year, the action group plans to organise a number of fundraising events to further boost their fighting fund for the High Court challenge.
Meanwhile, the regeneration scheme planning application was voted on for a second time at an 11th hour special meeting of Carrick-on-Suir Municipal District’s councillors convened at 9am on Monday.
The meeting was convened after Carrick-on-Suir Cllr Kieran Bourke of Fianna Fáil lodged a complaint that the first vote breached the Standing Orders of the meeting as councillors names weren’t called in alphabetical order.
Monday was the deadline date under the statutory planning process for adopting the planning application.
The outcome was the same as the first vote taken at Carrick MD’s monthly meeting on November 18 with the two Carrick councillors voting against the approval of the application in view of local opposition to the Sean Healy Park car park and a radical reduction of 27 car parking spaces on Main Street. The three rural-based councillors voted to approve the application.
Before the vote at the special meeting, Cllr Bourke appealed to councillors and council officials to “scrap” and “abandon” the current Part 8 planning application for the regeneration scheme and start again.
He said he spoke to a representative of the Association of Irish Local Government (AILG), the representative body for councillors, last Friday. They believed the planning process for this planning application was “now flawed” because of the way the vote was carried out on November 18 and voting again on the application only compounded this.
“I also got advice from a senior counsel and he concurs with what the AILG member said. There is a number of possible procedural flaws with what happened in the planning process.”
He continued that five possible flaws have been identified, the most important was the proposed revisions to the planning application not being subject to further public consultation.
Cllr Bourke contended that this was backed up by a letter Carrick-on-Suir Business Association sent to Carrick Municipal District’s administrator. The letter requested a copy of changes made to the original regeneration scheme plan passed by the council, as many of its members were concerned about the part of the plan concerning the reduction in car parking spaces on Main Street.
“I think we should abandon this and start afresh. I believe this (planning application) is going to a legal challenge and will cost taxpayers a lot of money.”
Cllr Dunne agreed. He said there was no way the council should go ahead with this planning application if it was being legally challenged.
“If there is a challenge, it’s going to be expensive on everyone,” he said.
Despite the Carrick-on-Suir councillors’ intervention, the vote was taken on the motion, proposed and seconded by Cllrs Imelda Goldsboro and Kevin O’Meara, to approve the Part 8 planning application as recommended in the council CEO’s report with amendments that the Sean Healy Park car park be reduced in size to ensure no parking in front of Treacy Park and allow vehicles with trailers for kayaks and bicycles.
Following the 3-2 vote approving the application, there was a tense exchange between Cllr Bourke and Carrick Municipal District Director of Services Brian Beck when the Carrick councillor asked whether the period for appealing the council’s decision began from Monday when the second vote was taken or from November 18 when the planning application was first voted on.
Mr Beck replied that if someone wanted to appeal they would get their own legal advice on the matter. “I wouldn’t want to be giving legal advice for other people at a council meeting,” he said.
Cllr Bourke pointed out he was asking the question as an elected councillor taking part in this Part 8 planning process. Mr Beck replied that he was not a legal advisor but if he was being asked, it was his opinion that the starting point for the appeal process was Monday, December 6.
District Chairman Cllr Fitzgerald suggested the council’s planning section could clarify the matter for Cllr Bourke.
Subscribe or register today to discover more from DonegalLive.ie
Buy the e-paper of the Donegal Democrat, Donegal People's Press, Donegal Post and Inish Times here for instant access to Donegal's premier news titles.
Keep up with the latest news from Donegal with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.