Green belt up for rezoning

Plans to rezone lands in north Dublin have met with criticism from local residents, who say that the area is not suited to industrial use and that the changes will benefit a landowner who has been accused of operating an unauthorised haulage business there. By Frank Connolly

A controversial proposal to rezone for industrial use land on the green belt near The Ward in north Dublin will be discussed by members of Fingal County Council in mid-November.

Fianna Fáil councillor Michael Kennedy has proposed a variation to the county development plan to change the zoning of 2.4 hectares of land at New Park, near St Margarets, from agricultural to industrial use.

Local residents and senior planners in Fingal have objected to the proposal, which they fear will open large tracts of green-belt land for commercial development.

They also claim that the variation of the plan will reward a landowner who has been accused of operating an unauthorised haulage business and commercial warehousing on the site for several years.

Joe Flood was granted permission for a grain store in the property in 1989 but his applications to develop other commercial activities have repeatedly been refused by the local authority.

In 1997, the High Court ordered Joe Flood to cease unauthorised actvities on the site, from where he and his brothers were operating the haulage and warehouse business.

In May 2005, Fingal County Council rejected a motion to change the zoning on the land from agricultural to commercial use but in March of this year Councillor Michael Kennedy proposed the variation in the development plan.

Paddy Ratcliffe, who lives beside the site, has complained that the road system is inadequate to sustain a haulage operation while there is no sewerage or mains water supply. He has lobbied councillors to refuse the rezoning motion which is due to be heard at a meeting of Fingal councillors on 13 November.

"The roads are not suitable and there is no water or sewerage," he said. "We have had problems with this unauthorised operation for 20 years with trucks coming in and out at all hours and at weekends. There is a retirement home across the road which makes it even more unsuited to commercial development."

Kennedy defended his decision to support the rezoning and told Village that his proposal would help to regularise a situation whereby Joe Flood was operating his commercial haulage and warehouse busness without proper planning permission.

"The reality is that there is a business there and I would like to see it regularised. Apart from regularising the situation, one of the planning gains will be the actual strengthening of the road. The owner has given a commitment to improve the road," Michael Kennedy told Villlage.Green belt

He said there was a continuing conflict between Joe Flood and his neighbours, including Paddy Ratcliffe, over the commercial activities on the land and he hoped this could be resolved if the rezoning was agreed.

Michael Kennedy agreed that senior planners were against the variation of the development plan and the rezoning to industrial use of the lands at New Park, but said that the roads department used the site to park their JCBs and other equipment.

Michael Kennedy said he did not know whether Joe Flood was a contributor to Fianna Fáil, although some of his family are members of the local cumann, as are members of the Ratcliffe family. Joe Flood recently purchased another large site at Kilshane for a sum in excess of €10m and has close family ties to brothers Michael and Tom Bailey, the controversial builders who were recently forced to settle with the Revenue Commissioners for €22m.

Sinn Féin councillor Felix Gallagher, who seconded the motion proposing the variation in March, has since changed his mind, having heard of the objections from Paddy Ratcliffe and the history of unauthorised activity on the land. "There is a lot of history I was not aware of when I seconded the motion in March. When I heard more of the background I changed my attitude," Felix Gallagher said.

Another local councillor, Tom Kelleher of the Labour Party, who has previously expressed support for Joe Flood's application, said that he would reserve his position until after he meets with Paddy Ratcliffe.

In March, a senior planner with Fingal County Council, Peter Tuck, strongly recommended that the agricultural zoning of the lands at New Park be retained.