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September 10th 2003

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Revlin Park - Where do we go from here?

Nothing has generated more interest and debate in Donegal Town since the Times was first published than the recent decision of An Bord Pleanala to refuse planning permission for the proposed Revlin Park Development on the Killybegs Road. Keeney Construction Limited and the consortium of local businessmen behind the Revlin Park Development had proposed a range of much needed facilities for the town including a new supermarket, nursing home, education centre, community centre, and swimming pool. It was an outstanding opportunity for our town which, if we sit back and do nothing, we will not see the likes of again.
The Times has been inundated in recent weeks with visits from local people expressing their complete and uttter disgust with the decision reached by An Bord Pleanala. Whilst there was anger at the refusal of the Drumlonagher proposal by the Board last year, the Revlin Park blueprint was very different in nature in that it proposed something for everyone. With the enthuasiasm of Danny Keeney and his Partners in the project, no one, with exception of a few sceptics, doubted its deliverability. At a time when the town’s major employers are facing uncertain futures it is difficult to make sense of the Board’s decision to deny the opportunity of creating an additional 600 new jobs. (continued on right column)

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RGDATA (The Retail, Grocers and Dairy Traders Association) and An Taisce are the two organisations who are ultimately responsible for the refusal of the Revlin Park proposals. Had they not objected, the applications would never have been referred to An Bord Pleanala. Ian Lumley, who spearheaded An Taisce’s objection to the proposal, claims that he was acting in the public interest in doing so and continues to criticise Donegal County Council for failing to plan properly for the town. Whilst the creation of 600 new jobs in Donegal Town may not be important to the Dublin based Mr. Lumley and the anti-development organisation he represents, they are of utmost importance to the future prosperity of our town whether he likes it or not! He has also denied us much sought after leisure facilities and in particular a swimming pool which the community have been demanding for years. Will the Council now provide one on their Drumlonagher site?
Nobody we’ve spoken to in recent weeks can understand either of the reasons issued by An Bord Pleanala for the refusal of the Revlin Park planning applications. All think (and correctly so) that it was a well planned development by a team of renowned professionals who had taken the views of the local community into account from the start.
The first reason for refusal, which was backed by the National Roads Authority, related to traffic safety and to the construction of a new roundabout/junction on the N56 where a 60 mph speed limit applies. There are already two roundabouts on the town by-pass and another soon to be developed at Tullyearl, all of which lie within a 60 mph speed limit. Is An Bord Pleanala trying to tell us that these are not safe either? If the 60 mph speed limit is of such concern why can the stretch of the Killybegs Road between the new roundabout and the Texaco Garage not have a 30 or 40 mph speed limit imposed? Hopefully our local politicians at both Ministerial and Council level can do something about this and we challenge them to do so.
The second reason for refusal stated that the development would constitute ‘a directly competing retailing and commercial centre lacking synergy with the town centre and undermining the established uses, facilities and viability of the existing town centre.’ A number of contibutions to the last edition of the Times expressed concerns that if the Revlin Park development had got the go-ahead it would have damaged the town centre. Do these people not realise that our town would benefit from the spin-off effects of new development? Common sense would dictate that it is more beneficial for the town to have facilities at Revlin rather than forcing people to travel to Letterkenny and Sligo for their shopping and leisure requirements. Others, including the Inspector who recommended to the Board that the application be refused, have said that the facilities proposed at Revlin would be more appropriate in a location closer to the town centre. They all fail to realise that there are no sites closer to the town centre that would be suitable for the range of developments proposed. Even if sites were available, traffic and parking conditions in the town centre would be unable to cope.
Donegal County Council and the Community Chamber must restore confidence in the town following the disappointment of the Revlin Park decision and have an opportunity to do so through the review of the Donegal Town Local Area Plan. The efforts of Keeney Construction Ltd. and the consortium of local business men to bring much needed investment to Donegal Town must continue to be supported by the Council if our town is going to prosper for this and future generations. The County Manager (who continues to maintain a deafening silence on the Revlin Park proposals), the Community Chamber and in particular our local elected representatives have a duty on behalf of the local community to ensure that the Revlin Park site is zoned appropriately in the fothcoming Donegal Town Local Area Plan to allow this area to be developed.
They cannot lie down, as did An Bord Pleanala, and give into the demands and objections of organisations such as RGDATA and An Taisce whose views are not representative of the local population. Whilst these organisations will inevitably object again to any future proposals on the site, the prospects of success next time around will surely be much greater if an appropriate zoning is in place. The Revlin Park development is a unique development for our town. It is unlikely that we will ever have an opportunity to bring this scale of investment to the area again. The elected members of Donegal County Council unanimously supported this development when they considered it previously and it is now up to them to do it again by rezoning this site. We have every confidence that they won’t let us down.

The Donegal Times, The Diamond, Donegal Town, Ireland

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