Limerick council told to reconsider disclosure of environmental information

Limerick council told to reconsider disclosure of environmental information

Michelle Hayes

Limerick City and County Council has failed to justify its refusal to disclose information about potential lobbying by a property developer, the Office of the Commissioner for Environmental Information (OCEI) has ruled.

Environmental Trust Ireland requested information from Limerick City and County Council under the Access to Information on the Environment (AIE) Regulations in relation to the Punches Cross development.

In particular, it sought to establish whether councillors or council staff had been lobbied by the developer, including through emails.

The request for information was refused and this decision was upheld in an internal review, which has now been quashed. As a result of the commissioner’s decision, a fresh internal review must now take place.

Michelle Hayes, a solicitor and president of Environmental Trust Ireland, said it is “a very significant decision particularly in the light of the Planning Bill which is currently before the Oireachtas and which seeks to greatly restrict the rights of residents and environmental groups to public participation in the planning process”.

“The Environmental Information Commissioner’s decision illustrates the need for oversight and scrutiny by members of the public, residents, environmental groups and other organisations of planning applications made by developers,” she said.

“Undeclared communications to politicians and others has no place in a properly functioning planning process and Minister O’Brien’s determined efforts to push through such a faulty planning bill should be abandoned outright to prevent abuses of the planning system occurring.

“It is imperative that planning decisions are made in an environment where transparency and accountability are to the fore and where these are no secret communications between developers and politicians. Anything else undermines the integrity of the planning process.”

Share icon
Share this article: