LIMERICK councillors have criticised the local authority over its engagement with the public over plans for the Mungret College site.
At this week’s metropolitan area meeting, members were presented with the public consultation for a park to be built on the site.
But they have postponed making a decision on the project - the first stage of a huge redevelopment of the area - after complaints that the engagement with local residents was “superficial”.
The council was accused of “just going through the motions” when seeking public opinion.
The park, to be built on lands in front of the college building, includes a playground, exercise equipment and cycle tracks.
Some 26 submissions were received, mainly from local residents.
Included in this was a call for an assembly hall for meetings and sports, alongside concerns over traffic going to the site, plus the level of parking.
Security issues were raised, with some feeling the taking in charge of the neighbouring Mungret Woods estate should come first.
Under planning law, the council had to respond to each submission.
But Cllr James Collins, Fianna Fail, said he did not have enough information to make a decision.
“I thought when I came into the meeting today, I would have the relevant information to make an informed decision. I am not happy with the manager’s report, the detail is not there. I have been told by a resident that the commentary on many submissions is superficial. This is not good enough. It looks like they have chosen to answer the easy things, but airbrushed ones which were more difficult,” he said.
The Dooradoyle councillor said when he asked for a traffic management plan to be put in, he was told it was “outside the scope” of the application.
“But when residents call to move the park, they are told it is a traffic hazard,” he said.
Cllrs Collins and Joe Leddin, Labour, were also critical of the council for not holding a second consultation meeting on the project. Senior planner Gerry Sheeran indicated his staff could not organise a second meeting due to other local area plans being prepared.
He said the local authority is not obliged to have consultations.
“I do not think the location will affect the amenity. I think there is a fear of the unknown,” he said.
Cllr Leddin initially called for the decision to be put on ice.
“I feel the process has been rushed from the time of the first consultation meeting,” he explained.
“I had proposed a second and third meeting take place which never happened. I felt when the submission date closed, the council would assimilate the information and bring councillors in privately.”
He said Mr Sheeran’s claim they were not obliged to hold consultation meetings was “an unfortunate use of language”.
“It is not a small little playground like the one they put in beside the County Council building. People have been so affected by a lack of facilities, the last thing I want to see is something going in, but not doing so properly. When the cement tanks go in and pour the concrete on the ground, there is no going back,” he said.
After Cllr Maria Byrne asked if they accepted the plan, whether any changes would be possible, Mr Sheeran said: “We can make some small changes, but not as far as putting it somewhere else.”
Independent councillor John Gilligan then quipped: “Just different coloured swings then”.
A further meeting is expected to be held as early as this week.