Cork County Council is to seek a judicial review regarding the Government’s opposition to plans for a Kildare Village-style retail village in East Cork.
Councillors voted in favour of a judicial review on the basis of legal advice sought on January 11. It was sought in response to a direction from Minister of State for Local Government and Planning Peter Burke to stop the development proposed for Carrigtwohill.
Mr Burke made the direction on a recommendation from the Office of the Planning Regulator.
The council meeting, which followed a behind-closed-doors meeting on Friday, took time for an in-depth discussion on the issue. The vote was passed 46 for, six against, with no abstentions.
The Green Party appeared to be split in opinion. Cobh councillor Alan O’Connor argued for the case of judicial review, which Midleton councillor Liam Quaide strongly opposed.
“Local democracy has to be subject to national and international agreements on environmental sustainability, just as the decision-making of our Government on Covid measures should be directed by public health experts,” Mr Quaide said. “I remember the incredulity and outrage that met former councillor Holly Cairns’ attempt in 2019 to alter the County Development Plan in order to protect the natural environment in a part of West Cork.
“A very different attitude has greeted an attempt to alter the County Development Plan in favour of a large international corporation. I think we need, as a council, to get our priorities right.”
Mr O’Connor said that, while he was against the retail outlet village, he was also concerned by the interference from the Office of the Planning Regulator and the local government and planning minister. However, Mr O’Connor voted against the judicial review.
Fianna Fáil councillor Patrick Gerard Murphy said, as a councillor for 13 years, he had witnessed the “continuous erosion of power” and this was a “grab for power by Dublin”. Colleague Frank O’Flynn said the council needed to “stand up and fight”.
Fine Gael councillor Anthony Barry, who is from the Carrigtwohill area, said the matter is about more than the retail village.
“We have a strong and robust planning process and to be told we can’t do this is fundamentally undemocratic,” he said. “We are backed into a corner; we don’t have a choice.”
Fine Gael councillor Gerard Murphy said the direction from the minister was “unconstitutional, unacceptable and not good for the county”.
Fianna Fáil councillor Bernard Moynihan said the council had “no option but to proceed in the strongest possible manner in the context of preserving the role of Cork County Council”.
County mayor and Independent councillor Mary Linehan Foley said the judicial review is a “no brainer” and said the retail outlet village was a chance to fight for something for the people of Cork county.
Fianna Fáil councillor Gillian Coughlan said she had reservations regarding the legal challenge. She said she was concerned about the cost and time the council would have to dedicate to the case and she felt the case was “baseless.” The Fianna Fáil councillor also said she felt there were more “pertinent priorities” within the council.