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Cluain Airne development inquiry unlikely

IT looks as if there will be no inquiry into the long running saga surrounding the controversial housing development at Cluain Airne.
In a letter to town councillors read out at this week’s meeting, county manager Tom Coughlan claimed there is no need for one, something that was described as “a cop out” by Councillor Gerry Flynn.
At a meeting in June, the councillors requested an inquiry into the development, which had raised issues in 2007 before a brick was ever laid. More than four years later, it has not been completed, although it is hoped this will happen relatively soon.
In his letter to the council, Mr Coughlan referred to a letter he received on the back of the councillors’ earlier request for an inquiry.
“The correspondence requests that I carry out an inquiry into three specific issues. The purpose of such an inquiry would be to determine the facts relating to those specific issues. I understand that the town manager, will, at the meeting being held on Tuesday, September 6, 2011, advise the elected members of the facts relating to the three specific issues referred to in your letter. If the members require any further facts, the town manager will arrange to have those facts presented to the council.
“As the purpose of an inquiry is to elicit facts and as the relevant facts are being advised to the elected members, the need for any such inquiry is not apparent and as all relevant facts have been or will be provided by the town manager, I fail to see the need for such an inquiry. If the members are of the view that despite the above, an inquiry is necessary, I would appreciate exact criteria which would necessitate such an inquiry.”
Upon hearing the contents of the letter, Councillor Flynn was immediately critical. “I didn’t expect anything more from the manager. I expected he’d support that line and not do what he was asked to do.”
The independent councillor added, “It’s a cop out and it’s nothing more than I expected. C’est la vie.”
Responding to the issues that councillors had demanded the inquiry into, town manager Bernadette Kinsella said the site in question was zoned in the South-East Clare Plan of 2003, and it was well located, in proximity to local amenities.
She said in June 2006 there had been a demand for quality affordable housing and consultants had been commissioned to look at the feasibility of the development. Ms Kinsella also said there was considerable local consultation before it was approved by the council in May 2008.
Ms Kinsella said there were no rights of way registered on the site but when an issue emerged about a walkway, the council began the process of extinguishing the right of way there. The members were told the council had accepted the recommendations made following an oral hearing regarding rights of way in the area and these recommendations would be implemented.
The town manager said the zoning of the site and the proposal for the development had been approved by the council and her role had been to implement decisions taken by others.
“The plan for the area and the development was approved by Clare County Council. What I’ve endeavoured to do since is implement the agreed policy and decisions of Clare County Council. Whether some people object to them or not is a different thing,” she added.
Councillor Sean McLoughlin asked why it had taken so long for the bondholder to appoint a second contractor. Ms Kinsella said while she couldn’t speak for the guarantor, extensive surveys had to take place on the outstanding works and the council had to satisfy itself regarding the quality of the work that had already taken place. She also said a public procurement process had to be completed. “A body of work had to be done and it wouldn’t have been good for anyone to short circuit it,” she concluded.

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