Cllr Angela Feeney
Legislation which could mean that councillors have little or no say about the sale of land by Kildare County Council has come under fire.
Councilors have rounded on a proposal in the Land Development Agency bill which they say overrides the decision making role of elected councillors.
They said it would undermine democracy and threaten the ”proper planning” of County Kildare.
Cllr Nuala Killeen said that the concerns that councillors have will be bypassed and publicly owned land could be sold to private developers — if this is seen as more cost effective.
Cllr Killeen said lands should not be transferred to the LDA without a council vote taking place.
“We want the elected members to consent to this,” she told a KCC meeting.
She said it was important for councils to retain a role in the zoning of land.
Cllr Angela Feeney said councillors should retain the right to prepare and plan for council owned land. She added that the issue goes to the core of democracy and “we need to ensure that the little power we have left isn’t eroded. If it sees the light of day it will take away control of how public owned land is used,” she predicted.
Cllr Aidan Farrelly said that the claim that this would speed up the development of social housing is disingenuous as was the strategic housing development initiative (which allowed developments of 100 units or more to to An Bord Pleanala rather than KCC).
“This legislation makes a disingenuous claim to speed up the delivery of housing, notably social and affordable housing. It will do the opposite. Communities have been spun this lie before with the introduction of the Strategic Housing Development legislation which has been evidenced as an absolute failure.
“We’ve seen appeals being sent to the European Court of Justice — which can take years to be decided.”
He said the legislation will not expedite the delivery of any housing, but will absolutely take the power away from communities and local authorities.
“If we are happy to continue this eradication of local democracy, where will we draw the line ?” he asked.
Cllr Noel Connolly said he would have serious concerns about forcing a policy which focused too much on private development.
If it comes to pass, said Cllr Bill Clear, councillors “will be reduced to fixing footpaths and potholes”.
Cllr Clear described the agency as a quango that doesn’t have the community in mind.
“People will have no say in anything that impacts their community. This gives the decision making capacity of our towns to people not invested in our community, added Cllr Clear.
Cllr Chris Pender said the move was effectively taking power from the community “not the councillors”.
Cllr Pender also told the meeting that the councillors are best placed to ensure that there are mixes of development in areas across County Kildare.