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Irish planning decisions scrutinised

Planning decisions made by six local authorities in Ireland are to be investigated by a team of independent experts brought in from overseas.

The international investigators will examine “major” complaints against planners who rubber-stamped controversial developments during the boom.

An inquiry was ordered by environment minister John Gormley and will look at decisions by Dublin City Council, Carlow County Council, Galway County Council, Cork City Council, Cork County Council and Meath County Council.

Gormley refused to speculate on the outcome of the investigation, but the law allows him to remove planning powers from local authorities.

“If there is impropriety in any way that would be a serious matter, but let’s give the people an opportunity to respond in detail to these matters,” he said.

The minister signalled Dublin City Council has come under the spotlight because of its approval for a number of tall buildings in the capital.

In recent years, heritage campaigners An Taisce accused authorities of ignoring city plans by granting permission for tower blocks outside designated high-rise districts.

Carlow’s County Council has denied any planning irregularities after an investigation by the Department of the Environment’s local government auditors.

The probe highlighted concerns about corporate governance within the planning department, the use of special development contributions and the extension of planning time at quarries.

The council also attracted attention over an €11M (£9.1M) settlement for a tiny parcel of land needed to complete the Carlow eastern bypass and planning permission for developments on flood plains.

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