Where does the mart go from here?
Reports that the mart executive has written to Keeney Construction declaring that the Mart Society have no interest in a new facility at Lurganboy/Ardlenagh could lead to some animated debate at the organisations Annual General Meeting on Thursday - if discussion is allowed. It will be interesting to watch the next move of the newly elected board, following the ending of Keeneys interest in the existing site, and the forfeiture of his €110,000 deposit. Reports suggest that certain members of the mart committee have been keeping in contact with Christopher Bennett and Son, and that this developer may be ready to step in again once Keeney has departed the scene.
If so, Bennett, as Keeney, will have the onus of supplying a new mart to the shareholders, before he can lay claim to the old site. At the meeting in February 2004 that decided Keeney as the preferred developer, Bennetts presentation declared his location for the new mart as Tullyearl, just off the new roundabout. Such a proposal would seem to contradict National Roads Authority policy and the County Development Plan, which prohibit new access points onto a national primary road where maximun speed limits apply.
So back to square one - the only certainty being - mart shareholders will have to think long and hard between now and Thursday evening - and possibly keep in mind the old maxim about a bird in the hand.
Pupils from the St Francis National School, Barnesmor, who made their First Holy Communion at St Agathas, Clar Charlie Gallagher, Joshua Cahill, Garret McCarthy, Mary McGeehan, Ciara Boyle, Megan Kerrigan, Aislinn Browne, Daniel Martin, Conal McCrudden, Fr Seamus Dagens, Master Callaghan
DONEGAL TOWN LIVESTOCK MART FACING UNCERTAIN FUTURE
Stormy Annual General Meeting Expected
As shareholders of the Donegal Co-operative Livestock Mart Limited gather for their Annual General Meeting this week, a cloud of uncertainty hangs over the future existence of a mart in Donegal Town.
The marts current contract with Keeney Construction Limited expires at the end of this month. The contract, which had been supported by shareholders of the Society at the beginning of 2004, required Keeney Construction to secure planning permission for a new replacement livestock mart by the end of May 2005, and to have it constructed and ready for use by August 2006.
Keeney Constructions application for the mart at Tullyearl was refused by Donegal County Council on 7th April, 2005. An Bord Pleanala has confirmed that they have received an appeal from the applicants against the Councils refusal, but a decision is not expected for the next few months.
Keeney Construction Limited is understood to have sought an extension to the contract period to enable the Board to issue its decision on the appeal, but the request has been turned down by the Mart Committee. It is rumoured that Bennett Construction Limited may be preparing a fresh bid for the mart site, once Keeney Constructions contract expires. If this is the case, it is expected that Bennetts bid for the site will contain a proposal for the erection of a new replacement mart at Tullyearl, with access arrangements directly off the Tullyearl roundabout.
Such a proposal would be little different to that put forward by Keeney Construction Limited for this location. It is also likely to face opposition from local members of the Tullyearl Action Group who objected to Keeney Constructions application at Tullyearl, claiming that it would be in contravention of the County Development Plan and that it would be grossly irresponsible and negligent for the Council to grant permission for a livestock mart at this location. Any application by Bennett Construction Limited, or any other interested party, could take up to two years to determine and would almost certainly face similar opposition from members of the Tullyearl Action Group.
Keeney Construction Limited, having secured permission from An Bord Pleanala for their site at Ardlenagh/Lurganboy, near the Hospira Pharmaceutical Plant, could start to build a new mart almost immediately. It is also understood that the company has been approached by, and are in discussions with, Donegal Creameries who are interested in acquiring land beside the proposed mart for the development of a new outlet selling agricultural and general hardware products.
Notwithstanding the ability of Keeney Construction Limited to provide a new state-of-the-art livestock mart, and the interest shown by Donegal Creameries in the Ardlneagh/Lurganboy site, we understand that the Mart Committee has already written to Keeney Construction Limited stating that the Mart Society have decided that they do not want a new mart at this location. Such claims have generated unrest amongst some shareholders who support Keeney Construction. They claim that Keeneys proposal to build the mart at Ardlenagh/Lurganboy was never brought in front of a Society Meeting.
The character of the existing mart has changed dramatically in recent years and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future. With new developments coming on stream, a mart will be seen as increasingly unacceptable in the centre of town. Changes in European and Irish legislation in relation to pollution and animal welfare are also being formulated, with the result that the mart will face almost certain closure in the near future, if a new site is not found.
A spokesperson for Keeney Construction issued the following statement to Donegal Times in advance of the mart AGM:
Keeney Construction Limited remain committed to providing the Donegal Co-operative Livestock Mart Limited with a new state of the art livestock facility. We have worked tirelessly during the past eighteen months in attempting to secure a new replacement mart and, having been granted permission by An Bord Pleanala, we can deliver this facility on our lands at Ardlenagh/Lurganboy, should the Society wish us to do so. The mart we are proposing to build is 25% larger than was originally requested by the Mart Committee. Furthermore it will be a much more valuable asset for the Society than than a mart at Tullyearl, in view of its zoning in the Donegal Town Local Area Plan. The lands at Ardlenagh/Lurganboy are also the only lands in the locality that have been zoned for the erection of a livestock mart by Donegal County Council.
Those with concerns about the erection of the mart at this location had the opportunity, and availed of it, to make their concerns known to both the County Council and An Bord Pleanala. These concerns and objections were considered but they were adjudged to be unwarranted. We are therefore satisfied that the site is an appropriate location for the mart and that it will not impact adversely on surrounding land uses. Following the Mart Committees decision to reject our request for a contract extension at Tullyearl, it could be the only available opportunity for the society to retain an operational livestock mart in Donegal Town.
Unlike Bennett Construction Limited, we remain of the opinion that the present mart site has the potential to become part of an exciting project which could see the regeneration of huge tracts of land on both the northern and southern sides of the River Eske. These regeneration proposals are by no means dependant on the Mart site, but they would benefit from its inclusion. We do not agree with the assertions made by Bennett Construction Limited in their planning application for the retail development at the Mullans/Drumcliff that the Mart site is inappropriate for development in view of infrastructural constraints. These can be overcome with a bit of effort and imagination.
If the shareholders of the Mart decide to accept our proposal to develop the replacement livestock mart at Ardlenagh/Lurganboy in exchange for their existing site in the centre of the town, we are prepared to honour the terms of our existing contract by commencing work on the new mart immediately, with a view to completion next year - and by handing over €1.6m for immediate distribution amongst the shareholders.