Delegates to the Border Regional Authority, led by its chairperson and Leitrim councillor, Tony Ferguson, have come out strongly against the policies of An Taisce, and have called for the Government to cut back on the amount of funding given to the state funded body.
Leitrim delegates attending last Friday's meeting of the Border Regional Authority in the Slieve Russell Hotel, Cavan. hit out at An Taisce over what was described as its 'negative policy" in preventing families to build on their own property and for "stifling local socioeconomic development." Several delegates at the meeting hit out at the attitude of the National Heritage Trust, An Taisce, which is part funded by the Government, over a spate of planning objections in rural areas which, it was claimed by delegates, prevented many farm families from providing new homes for their off-spring on their own lands or pursuing viable economic ventures. The delegates from the six boder counties of Leitrim, Sligo, Cavan, Louth, Monaghan and Donegal decided it is time to ask the Minister for Environment and Local Government Mr Martin Cullen TD to re-examine the role of An Taisce and consider a reduction in the funding from the Exchequer. The body also agreed to request the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Mr Eamon 0'Cuiv TD, to immediately review the activities of the body. The debate arose when the Authority Director, Mr Matt Donnelly, said they had received guidelines from the Department of Environment and Local Government for implementing the National Spatial Strategy. He said spatial planning at regional level must work within the overall national approach. BRA chairman, Cllr Tony Ferguson, who is also a member of the Border Midland and Western Regional Authority. said there was a lot of concern over An Taisce's objections to rural housing and other developments important to the local economy of people in the Border region. He said this was a situation which they could not allow to continue. A closer look must be taken by the Government at the activities or this heritage body which has some members on An Bord Pleanala, Councillor Ferguson said. He claimed plans' of the building projects which were opposed by An Taisce had no detrimental impact whatsoever on the local environment. "This is denying people the right to set up a home in their own community, and it is forcing young people out of rural Ireland," he added. Cavan councillor, Andrew Boylan was also critical of An Taisce over its input in the refusal of planning permissions, and wondered if a case might be made for An Bord Pleanala to be regionalised? Another Cavan delegate, Cllr Gerry Murray, claimed there was widespread concern over planning restrictions throughout the region as a result of objections by An Taisce and he felt this would have a major bearing on any future framework unless the situation was resolved. Sligo councillor, Sean MacManus, said "It is time to call An Taisce to book. We must have an in-depth look at their make-up and the negative role they are playing over the last few years. Cllrs Danny Brady, from Cavan, and Noel Keelan, Monaghan, said An Taisce representatives appeared to have divided opinions on some issues but applicants for planning permission were "the victims.' After the debate it was agreed to refer the complaints raised to the Minister for the Environment, Martin Cullen, and also with the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Eamon 0'Cuiv. (c) Leitrim Observer 5th March 2003, front page
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