PEOPLE power prevailed at the Town Hall in Dundalk last Tuesday after councillors opted not to vote on the rezoning of a controversial 10.85-acre piece of land on the Lower Point Road having been lobbied by members of the public on their way into a private meeting to discuss the matter.
The meeting – which was deemed “not for press” by one member of council staff – was a behind closed doors affair aimed at discussing the zoning for land next to the Sewerage Treatment Plant, which owners McCaughey Developments Ltd hope to build 44 houses on.
The land was the subject of legal proceedings earlier this year when a High Court judge decided that the McCaugheys had been deprived of fair procedures when Dundalk Town Council voted to change the zoning from residential to recreation, amenity and open space in November 2009.
Justice Hedigan said that the matter should be reconsidered after Martin McCaughey said that he knew nothing of the council vote to zone the land recreation, amenity and open space having previously been informed by the Town Clerk and a councillor that residential zoning had been secured.
Mr Justice Hedigan said the McCaughey’s had been deprived of a crucial opportunity to make a case to restore the residential zoning.
The council must now vote again on the matter and had gathered to discuss it on Tuesday last, despite the fact that Cllrs Ollan Herr, Oliver Morgan and Sean Bellew were absent, as was County Manager Conn Murray.
Residents of the Lower Point Road and members of People Before Profit Dundalk and the Louth Environmental Group are vehemently opposed to the land being given residential zoning, however, and they lobbied councillors – including some county councillors – as they made their way into Tuesday’s meeting. They insist the land is a floodplain and is too close to the Sewerage Treatment Plant to allow such a development to proceed.
After briefly discussing the matter with the majority of those present and handing out a one page leaflet on the subject, it appears people power prevailed with the councillors refusing to vote on the matter on the night.
They have instead decided to take the somewhat unusual step of meeting amongst themselves tonight (Tuesday) without officials to discuss the matter before voting on it at the end of the month.
Since last Tuesday’s meeting a number of councillors have investigated the matter further with Cllr Oliver Morgan among those who has been going door to door in the area to get the residents’ opinion on the matter.
Meanwhile, Mark Fitzsimmons the acting secretary of the Louth Environmental Group has taken legal advice after being denied access to Tuesday’s meeting. He claims he was told the meeting was private by a member of the council, which he says contravenes Standing Order 52, which states that the matter should have had to be voted on.