Board slammed for “scurrilous” remarks about Tramore people

Eoghan Dalton reports

A Tramore Councillor was left “drowning in despair” at An Bord Pleanála for its handling of an oral hearing involving a house in the town, into which the Council is attempting a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO).
Cllr Joe Conway (Ind) said the board had failed to ensure that the contributions from the property owner were respectful, with the result that she was able to make accusations that “were deeply offensive, scurrilous and without basis in fact”.

Unhappy: Cllr Joe Conway

Unhappy: Cllr Joe Conway

Cllr Conway raised the matter at last Thursday’s sitting of the City and County Council in City Hall, where he said he “endorses and applauds the Council’s efforts” at bringing vacant private houses in public ownership. Following the oral hearing, he sent a letter to An Bord Pleanála to express his unhappiness.
He wrote that the property owner was allowed to make her accusations “without challenge or restrain from the chair…The appellant went on at length to obfuscate the issues with a litany of irrelevancies”.
These ranged, he wrote, from the terminal illness of her spouse and her struggle to make ends meet, to Swiss clinics and bats in the attic of the house.

“Not once was a stop put to this cant,” he added. Closing out his letter to the board, Cllr Conway said: “In close to a half-century of representational politics – I have never witnessed such gormless and ineffectual conduct of a formal meeting as I countenanced on that day. I am drowning in despair at the performance of An Bord Pleanála then.”

In response to his letter, the board told him that the chair of any oral hearing has the discretion for how it conducted, with a view to having it proceed “without undue formality” and in a speedy manner.
This is in accordance with section 135(2) of the Planning and Development Act 2000, the board’s representative told him. Therefore, it was “satisfied with the conduct of the oral hearing in this case”.

Aside from the Tramore property, the owner was defending against a CPO of two city houses at the oral hearing. It’s understood the three houses have all been vacant for some time, hence the Council’s decision to enact a CPO. If successful, the houses would be used for social housing to help clear up Waterford’s housing waiting list. A decision on the three properties is expected in the New Year.

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