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Possible judicial review of the local area plan of the county town of Mayo

Aerial view of Castlebar town centre. Photo: Jack Walsh

CASTLEBAR councilors must seek legal advice ahead of a possible judicial review of a ministerial order relating to the local area plan.

The plan has been rejected by the Minister for Local Government, Darragh O’Brien, a decision that was met with great disappointment by local representatives.

They have been ordered to reintroduce or change a number of zoning targets, and have hit back at the minister and the Office of the Planning Regulator for hindering housing development in the city.

Speaking at a Castlebar Municipal District meeting yesterday (Wednesday), Cathaoirleach councilor Al McDonnell said they had come up with what they considered the best plan for the future, which was to provide additional land, particularly for housing development.

All members echoed his ‘extreme disappointment’, with councilor Michael Kilcoyne saying the minister did not want the city to expand in any way.

It was “frightening”, he said, that the minister would rubber-stamp a report without consulting local representatives.

The planning regulator has far too much power and that needs to change, was the view of councilor Donna Sheridan. Otherwise they wouldn’t have houses built in the city.

The Castlebar urban area was one of the smallest boundaries in the country during its council days and nothing has changed since, councilor Blackie Gavin said. The new highway could build a new city in the area, he noted, calling the decision “shameful.”

‘This city cannot expand. Youth cannot get housing,” he said, adding that they should sit with the deputy minister and see what can be done.

It’s important the county town makes progress, councilor Martin McLoughlin said, and this was a step in the wrong direction. It wasn’t progress in any sense of the word.

If they had been zoned for more land, they would be in a better position for housing, councilor Cyril Burke said.

Councilor Ger Deere wondered what the point was of all those hours of work they had put into the plan. They knew what was best by listening to the people and working with the planners.

People want to live in the city and they had come up with a good plan, but this decision has put them behind again.

As all councilors were of the same opinion, Councilor Kilcoyne suggested that legal advice be sought regarding a possible judicial review.

The cathaoirleach summed up the mood: “It’s a sad day for Castlebar.”

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