Planning ‘crisis’ delays development

A job-creating development in Bridgend has been delayed due to staff shortages in Donegal County Council’s planning department, Inishowen councillors have been told.

Councillors have expressed their concern over delays in the processing of some applications as well as the shortage of staff, with Colr John Ryan describing it as a “crisis that is nobody’s fault.”

He said a commercial development in Bridgend may not now go ahead, with the developer “thinking of pulling out altogether.”

Stressing that the issue was not reflective on the “excellent work” of the staff who are in place, Colr Ryan said there were “jobs at stake” with the Bridgend development, the application process for which has been ongoing for a year.

He told how he had received a text from the developer stating their motivation for the project was “drifting away” due to the delays, which councillors were told was partly due to unplanned absences.

Colr Ryan told the Inishowen Municipal District meeting the application was “straightforward” and would have “major benefits” for the area. He pointed out how there were previously around 90 staff working in the planning section, compared to around 30 now.

He added it was “almost impossible” to get applications to pre-planning stage, pointing out how one senior planner was signing off on the whole county, which was “unfair.” Councillor Bernard McGuinness said he had also asked for a senior planning official to be based in Carndonagh once a week, adding the planning statistics for Inishowen were “up there with the rest of the county.”

Councillor Paul Canning said it was an “ongoing problem” to move forward planning applications.

Senior planner Eunan Quinn said there was currently a “blip” in relation to unplanned absences which they could not account for, but said applications were still being decided within eight weeks and the “vast majority” within six weeks. He said there had been “serious discussions” in relation to the issues raised, adding he would bring all concerns to the director. Mr Quinn said the team had statutory obligations to fulfil which took priority but that decision making was being “covered well.”