Sinn Fein Councillor, Christopher Jackson, has accused Mark H. Durkan of “letting down the ratepayers” of Derry and Strabane over his handling of a long standing planning issue near Prehen.
The issue relates to planning permission granted for the construction of four houses near Prehen Park in 2007.
The Chief Executive Officer of Derry City and Strabane District Council , John Kelpie addressed a letter to then Environment Minister, Mark H. Durkan on March 15, 2016 and Mr. Durkan replied on April 7.
Committee Members were told by the Lead Legal Officer that Mr. Durkan’s reply “did not, however, address the issues raised in the Chief Executive’s letter.”
In responding to this, Colr. Christopher Jackson, said he was disappointed with Mr. Durkan’s response.
“Minister Mark H. Durkan completely ducked the questions in the letter and quite frankly he is letting down the ratepayers of the council area.”
Colr, John Boyle, jumped to the defence of his SDLP colleague.
“I somewhat disagree with what Colr. Jackson has said - Minister Durkan has already pointed out that the responsibility for this matter lies with council.”
Mr. Durkan’s successor has yet to be selected but the committee agreed to send a letter to the new Environment Minister as soon as he or she has been appointed.
A spokesperson for the Prehen Historical and Environmental Society, a group which has protested against the planning approval, said they were disappointed with Mr. Durkan.
It said: “Planning matters aside, it is deeply disappointing that no action has been taken by the then Minister (Mark H. Durkan) and his colleagues to deal with the unfairness suffered by the Prehen Group and their genuinely concerned supporters.”
When contacted by the ‘Journal,’ Mr. Durkan said Colr. Jackson would be “better off applying himself to dealing with the issue.”
“When Environment Minister, I gave considerable time and made a genuine effort to resolve this particularly complex planning and legal matter. I am well aware of the views of the Prehen Historical and Environmental Society and do have sympathy with many of the points and arguments they put forward during my numerous meetings with them.
“I commissioned an independent review into the handling of this particular application. When the planning function transferred from the DOE to councils in April 2015 so did responsibility and legal authority for dealing with historic issues such as this.
“All relevant documentation has been forwarded to D.C.S.D.C. so, rather than casting aspersions over my handling of the case. Colr. Jackson would be better off applying himself to dealing with the issue.”