Cork County Council voted to defend their decision to vary the County Development Plan 2014 to allow for the development of a Tourist Outlet Village in East Cork.
The council voted to vary the County Development Plan in December 2019. Land was not rezoned but the councillors voted to provide strategic planning policy support for the provision of a Retail Outlet Centre in the N25 Corridor area, (Midleton-Carrigtwohill area).
In February 2020, the OPR wrote to the Minister of State for Housing and Urban Development Damien English recommending amending the variation. Minister English issued notice to the Council intending to make the recommended measures and the council then had to decide to contest this by writing to the OPR and the Minister or accepting the decision.
Following a lengthy debate at a special meeting held at County Hall today, councillors voted 43 for and three against sending a submission to the Office of Planning Regulator (OPR) and Minister English.
Fianna Fáil councillor Gillian Coughlan said there was a democratic deficit in the decision of the OPR to write to the Minister regarding the variation. Ms Coughlan said despite reservations she might have about the retail outlet village, making variations to the County Development Plan was a democratic right of the council.
Her party colleague councillor Seamus McGrath said today's decision is about the protecting local democracy and the council’s rights to perform certain functions.
Fine Gael Councillor Anthony Barry said it was a constitutional issue and Fianna Fáil Councillor Patrick Gerard Murphy said he has a letter from the OPR that said they were not a policy-setting body and therefore felt they were overreaching.
Independent Councillor Marcia Dalton, along with Green Party Councillors Liam Quaide and Alan O’Connor, voted against contesting the decision of the OPR and the intended Ministerial direction from Mr English.
Green Party Councillor Liam Quaide said he welcomed the judgement of the OPR: “Protecting our environment is foundational to a functioning economy.
"I welcome the judgement of the planning regulator on the proposed variation to the Co. Development Plan and I do not believe we should be challenging it.”