DONEGAL TIMES

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October 10th 2001

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Keeney Construction Shows Off Plans
‘A Rising Tide Lifts all Boats’ By Margaret Gallagher

DONEGAL TIMES SAYS -
WITHDRAW THE OBJECTION

An exhibition by Keeney Construction and Tesco in the Central Hotel showed off the scheme mooted for their 26.5 acre site at Revlin Park. Hosted by local man Derek Scott, the layout put detail on sketches previously shown on the front page of Donegal Times. Comprising a mix of leisure, business and retail, the plans also include a linear park running from the main Killybegs road to Rossylongan Strand. (see adjoining story) While still waiting for re-zoning before the planning process can kick-in, Mr. Scott declared himself confident that this would be forthcoming. In the meantime, projected anchor tenant Tesco has lodged an appeal to An Bord Pleanala to prevent Dunnes Stores commencing construction on a competing site at Drumlonagher. This latter project received Council permission at the end of June.

At the exhibition in the Central three books were displayed - the one to be signed depended on whether you were for the development, against it, or just didn’t know. According to a statement from the planning consultancy, the vast majority (93%) were supportive.

However Donegal Times doesn’t think this case should come down to which project you are for. Probably most local people support both, and if the Council and Dunnes ran a similar exhibition, the voting tally would be the same. Donegal Town is presently at the stage Letterkenny was about 20 years ago, before that town’s explosive expansion began. Why cannot both these local developments go ahead, thus providing the impetus to enable this town take-off in a similar manner. Our suggestion is that the bickering should stop - withdraw the objection and let both sides get on with their separate projects, for the common good of Donegal town and environs. And to make it a level playing field, we would urge the Council to change the zoning at Revlin to commercial and residential. It is going to be done sometime in the future anyway - why not now?

Keeney Construction Ltd. in conjunction with Tesco, last week held an exhibition in the Central Hotel to show off plans for the proposed new development at Revlin Park.

Speaking with Michael Sullivan, Store Development Support Manager for Tesco, at the presentation, he explained “Our proposed store is 18,860 square feet, creating over 100 jobs, we don’t want to scoop up all the business, that’s why we are not coming in with a massive store.” When asked what effect this would have on the town itself, he replied “A rising tide lifts all boats, if the town does well, we will do well”. Michael is very impressed with the total proposed development and feels it will enhance the town.

His own Tesco would incorporate in-store bakery, meat, deli, fruit and vegetables, grocery, frozen foods, off-licence and household goods. There would be over 200 parking spaces.

In a letter to the people of Donegal contained in the exhibition brochure, Maurice Pratt, Managing Director, Tesco Ireland said “We recognise Donegal Town as a vibrant and energetic community with a growing population, including a particular trend of young people wishing to set up home in the town. It is important to ensure that all modern services are in place to meet the growing needs of the community well into the new millennium. The proposed new supermarket will help satisfy those requirements, enabling us to offer the range of products and the quality of services that the shoppers of today demand. This will in turn assist in reducing retail leakage to other towns with an established supermarket presence.”

In a further correspondence Danny Keeney had this message for the locality: “As a person who was born and brought up in the area, I am delighted to have the opportunity to inform you about our plans for the development of the Revlin Park site in Donegal Town.

A corsortium of local businessmen purchased the site in September 2000 with the aim of developing it for a mixed-use purpose, which will address the area’s current deficiencies in retail, leisure, community and business facilities.

The entire development will create employment opportunities for 600 full and part-time staff. In addition some 300 jobs will be created during the construction phase. It is hoped that the majority of these jobs will go to local people.

On behalf of the consortium may I take this opportunity to thank all those who have expressed their support for the development and trust that you will find this brochure of interest”.
I asked Ernan McGettigan (Deputy Mayor) what he thought of the plans, “It’s a wish list but a wish list with foundation, extra employment for the town. It is a fantastic development and I wish it every success”, he said.

Jackie McGroarty said he was very impressed with the plans and felt that all the amenities which the town is presently lacking are covered by this project.

In a speech to open the presentation Derek Scott said “Welcome to the exhibition of the Revlin Park Proposals. My name is Derek Scott and I am representing Keeney Construction Limited today in my capacity as their Planning Consultant. Next to me is Michael Sullivan, the Development Support Manager with Tesco Ireland who have now purchased one of the sites and are our anchor tenants in the development.

It is very fitting that our first guest at the exhibition is the Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and the Town’s Deputy Mayor (Ernan McGettigan). Unfortunately both the Local Councillor, Peter Kennedy and the Mayor, Alex Reid are unable to attend.

The exhibition has been set up to provide the people of Donegal Town and the surrounding area with an opportunity to inspect the plans that have been submitted to Donegal County Council and to discuss the proposals with both Michael and myself. As the consortium have said on many occasions:

‘This is a development for the people of Donegal and it is important that they are provided with an opportunity to have their say.’ We will be asking each visitor to complete a response sheet before leaving this exhibition which will be analysed by our design team and fed into the design process. We want to know if the people of Donegal are In Favour, Against or Undecided about our proposals.

As you know the ‘Revlin Park’ site, as it has become known, is located just to the south of the Killybegs/Mountcharles Road. It was purchased by a consortium of local Donegal Town businessmen in September 2000 with the aim of developing it for a mixed use proposal involving retail, leisure, business and community uses. That consortium is led by Danny Keeney, who was born and bred in Donegal and is now the Managing Director of Keeney Construction Limited, who are a highly respected Development and Construction Company, working on projects throughout Ireland and the UK.

My own involvement with the proposal began when I read about Danny and the consortium’s purchase of the site in Donegal Times. I tracked him down, spoke to him and my firm were subsequently appointed as lead consultants on the project. Like Danny, I too was born and bred in Donegal and am very proud of my roots and the town that I still, and always will call ‘home’.

The site itself is 26.5 acres in area and was last used for agricultural purposes. It is bounded to the north for 650 metres by the Killybegs Road and to the south by Rossylongan Strand. It is a unique site with outstanding development potential for the following reasons: (i) It has an extensive road frontage; (ii) It is located close to the town; and (iii) It has an extensive frontage onto Donegal Bay.

Our brief from the consortium was to design a high quality leisure, business, retail and community park for Donegal Town, the like of which had never been seen before in the North West of Ireland. Given the outstanding attributes of the site, we saw immediate merit and indeed need for the provision of a significant area of open space within the scheme. This, we are proposing through the creation of a Linear Park which will run from the Killybegs Road to Rossylongan Strand incorporating walkways, water features, sculptures and areas of both hard and soft landscaping which will act as a green spine to the overall development.

The position of the Linear Park dictated to a large extent the various development zones that have subsequently been identified. The site frontage with the Killybegs Road was an obvious location for the Retail and Public Buildings as it enjoyed particular prominence.

The area immediately next to the Bay and adjacent to the Linear Park has been reserved for the development of a Luxury Hotel and Holiday Apartments, adding to the other fine establishments already in the town. It is envisaged that the hotel and holiday apartments would spill out onto the Linear Park in addition to enjoying the attributes of a waterfront location.

Within the south eastern corner of the site we have proposed a quasi-residential/health zone with new housing, a nursing home and a health centre.

In the area between the retail zone and the hotel zone we have reserved a site for the development of a Cinema and Community Centre, which again has a strong relationship with the Linear Park.

Our final development zone is located to the south of the Tesco Supermarket and will be developed for business related purposes, such as those identified on the plan. We have, in short, an outstanding mix of uses on this site and full credit is due to the consortium in generating so much interest in this site and this town.

The entire proposal when complete is predicted to generate up to 600 jobs with an additional 300 jobs created during the construction phase. When I left Donegal Town in 1988 there were very few employment opportunities in this area. This development provides an opportunity to reverse this situation and keep our young people in the town and in the country.

I hope you enjoy this exhibition and look forward to hearing your views during the course of the next few days.


Hugh Dillon Retires

The Dillon family pictured at Hugh’s retirement function - Shane, Tara, Tina, Suzanne, Hugh, Fiona, Lorraine

There was large gathering of Gardai, retired Gardai and friends in the Allingham Arms Hotel, Bundoran to mark the retirement of Donegal town man Hugh Dillon from the Garda Siochana, after 37 years service.

Hugh, with his wife Tina, son Shane, daughters Tara, Suzanne, Fiona, Lorraine and sister Agnes occupied the places of honour at the top table. They were welcomed by Tom Needham, an excellent MC on the night. Prior to the meal a special prayer was said by Fr. Raymond Munster.

Hugh joined the Garda on 7th January 1955 and his first station was Claremorris, Co Mayo followed by Achill, Killmaine, Pettigo, Ballintra and, on the 6th July 1974, he was transferred to Ballyshannon where he remained until his retirement on that day nobody will ever forget- 11th September. Hugh was remembered lately by a resident of Achill as ‘the Guard with the long hair on the bike.’ The reason for the long hair was revealed- it took an entire day to get by bus from Achill to the nearest barber in Westport - so Hugh didn’t bother!

After the meal the following paid tribute to Hugh Dillon- Sgt John Kennedy, Ballyshannon; Garda Larry Walsh, Donegal, representing the GRA; Detective Sgt Dessie Sheridan, representing the Detective Branch; ex-Sgt John Durcan, Donegal, representing retired members; Garda Joe Lynch, Letterkenny, President Irish Branch International Police Association. Sgt Con Sweeney, Ballyshannon; Garda Jim Green, representing Garda golfers of the Cavan/Monaghan Division; Liam Gillespie, Sgt i/c Ballyshannon and, finally, Supt John McFadden, Officer i/c Ballyshannon District.

Tributes were paid by all of the above attesting Hugh’s dedication to his work and his great skills at putting together complex files which have been praised by the highest law officers and courts in the land. His golfing exploits and his great sense of humour were not overlooked.

Hugh, in response, thanked all his fellow Gardai and friends. Before finishing he said ‘There is one file which I left open on my desk- that of little Mary Boyle who disappeared at Cashelard. I have been assured by Supt McFadden that this file will never be closed and it is my hope that this mystery will, some day, be brought to a successful conclusion for the peace of mind of her family.’

One of the more interesting stories that was revealed during the course of the speeches was the fact that Hugh Dillon has two Tinas in his life - his wife and another Tina.

Hugh’s work took him to Dublin on many occasions on complex crime enquiries and high-court cases. Recent investigations have discovered that lots of those trips coincided with Tina Turner concerts, at which his companion was none other than Paddy Woods - another Tina fan.

All here at Donegal Times join in the good wishes to Hugh. We extend to him our hopes that he enjoys a long and happy retirement.


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