Volunteers angered over dog charity decision

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Volunteers with a local dog rescue charity blasted members of Council’s Environmental Services committee on Tuesday as ‘ridiculous’ after they voted to keep a discussion about a noise abatement order slapped on the charity by Council ‘in committee’.

The volunteers, of Causeway Coast Dog Rescue, were in the public gallery at Cloonavin, but a proposal by DUP councillor George Duddy to discuss the issue in the open was voted down by fellow councillors.

Referring to the Local Government Act, the DUP man pointed out that the item on the agenda was in the ‘public interest’ and had an ‘impact’ on Council, so it could be heard in the open chamber.

He pointed out that those in the public gallery and the press were ‘well aware’ of what was happening with the charity.

As a result of the order, the charity’s rescue centre at Castleroe has been temporarily closed.

The charity claims that procedure was not followed correctly by Council in placing the noise abatement order on them.

Director of Environmental Services, Aiden McPeak pointed out that the item had previously been debated in committee and that there was a ‘legal aspect’ to it.

Cllr Duddy argued that it wasn’t the legal aspect he wished to debate in the open, but Council’s actions. “It’s about the process and how we got to where we are,” he said.

“I would like to investigate the actions and highlight the actions of what we as a Council have done.”

UUP councillor Joan Baird said that the item should be kept in committee, because it will ‘open us up to risk.”

SDLP Alderman Gerry Mullan added: “I am for openness and transparency but it’s on the agenda as in committee. Could we defer it and have it in our papers at the next meeting?”

PUP councillor Russell Watton asked if the matter could be deferred to allow someone from the charity a chance to speak “This charity is saving council money, “ he said.

UUP councillor Richard Holmes agreed with councillor, saying: “We are setting a huge precident if we don’t hear this in committee.”

On being put to a vote Duddy’s proposal to debate the item out of committee was lost by five votes to eight.

As the volunteers left the chamber they barracked councillors asking ‘what they had to hide’, describing their decision as ‘ridiculous’.