Mr Phil Hogan, TD, Minister for the Environment, Community & Local Government today (24 April, 2013) published the report of the Independent Review by Mr Seamus Woulfe SC of the Compulsory Acquisition of land at Charlesland, County Wicklow, by Wicklow County Council. Minister Hogan had commissioned the review following representations made by three Wicklow County Councillors ( O’Shaughnessy, Cullen and Nevin).
In carrying out his independent review Mr Woulfe visited the site, reviewed all relevant files and documents furnished by Wicklow County Council and met with Council officials and the Public Representatives. Mr Woulfe did not have any statutory powers in carrying out this review. He records however that he received the full cooperation of the Council, the Public Representatives and the Department.
Mr Woulfe reviewed the Council’s compliance with the legal requirements for compulsory purchase and concluded that “ In my opinion, for the reasons set out in Chapter 3, there was no deviation by the Council from the relevant legal requirements and administrative requirements or practices.”
Mr Woulfe addresses each of the specific concerns raised by the Public Representatives by reference to his review of the documents and his discussions with officials and Councillors. He states “I have concluded that almost all of the concerns are not well founded or are misconceived.”
Mr Woulfe recommended that consideration be given to putting in place a more comprehensive site selection procedure. He also notes that the multiplicity of different applications and different decision makers is a potential cause of confusion and may have caused some confusion for the public representatives in the present case.
Minister Hogan said “ I am pleased that the review has found that the allegations of the Councillors did not stand up. It is extremely important that the public have confidence that local authorities are discharging their functions correctly. That is why I commissioned this report. Having reviewed the report, I now regard the matter as closed.”
This report follows on Mr Woulfe’s review last year into the administration by the Department of an application by Wicklow County Council for loan sanction for the compulsorily acquired lands which exonerated the Department from any material departure from the relevant legal and administrative requirements that applied.
The report is available at http://www.environ.ie/en/Publications/DevelopmentandHousing/Housing/FileDownLoad,32866,en.doc