Donegal Town must develop from the centre
Revlin, Drimlonaghar, Mullans, Mart, Magee, Millers Hill, Ardlenagh/Lurganboy everybody in the locality knows the thread that links these names. They are, of course, the main development sites either within the town or immediately surrounding it. All are valuable to the area and, in time, will fulfil their potential. However, in our opinion, the process should start from as close to the centre of town as possible. Of the locations mentioned, Millers Hill, Magee and the Mart primarily meet this criteria.
Donegal Times exclusively revealed Michael Kellys plans for the Hill in our last issue. Three aspects of this blueprint stand out; extensive frontage along Quay Brae, multi-storey car park, and 25,000 sq ft anchor store. The cinema is also important, but possibly also appears on the Keeney plan for Magees. It strikes this writer that if the Kelly development is passed by the planners, those businesses on Main Street and the Diamond that do not have frontage (or backage) onto the car park should be planning to rectify this. Maximum advantage should be taken of the increased footfall that this mall will generate. Downside: huge excavation and disruption while complex is being constructed.
Magee and the mart combined is the prime development site in town, set centrally, and next to our greatest national and historical assets, the river and castle. With potential vehicular access from Drimlonagher, pedestrian bridges and river walks, commercially and socially this location would most benefit the old town centre. Conditionally under the control of two different developers, these 15 odd acres are key to the future success of the town. Whether Keeney and Bennett work separately or together, a masterplan is essential for this area so that each players vision complements the other. It would still be our plea that the two companies get together to jointly develop this site it could create a masterpiece of town centre evolution. Downside: Bennett Construction has to get permission for a new mart at Tullyearl and then build it before it gets possession of the old mart site. Between planning requests, possible objections and appeals, it could take a considerable time before construction of a new agri-facility happens. It still baffles the ordinary Joe why shareholders voted against Ardelenagh where full planning was in place. Consequently development, that could already be underway on the old mart/Magee site, has been delayed by up to five years.
A decision on the Mullans has been deferred at Bord Pleanala level, possibly for two months. If Bennett gets permission for this site and uses it to build a multiple and ancillary retail units, its hard to figure what use he would have for the old mart site. However the Mullans location would be next preferable to benefit the old town. Downside: very near bypass and Doonan roundabout, possibly crossing traffic congestion and tailbacks. Also, judging from computer images, not the most attractive of developments. However we wish Mr Bennett all the best as he awaits the Bords decision.
The other sites mentioned at the beginning of this piece ie. Revlin, Drimlonagher etc., will find their own level. The essential is that primary development takes place as close to the town centre as possible. As stated, this would mean commencing according to the sequential test Millers Hill, Magee and Mart.
From there, onwards - and outwards!
Sadness and Gloom hangs over Hospira as workers return
from holiday for final time
Its a year this week since the announcement of the closure of the Hospira plant at Lurganbuoy. At the time it seemed long away but is now imminent. Some 85 operatives left in June and when those remaining returned to work last Monday, after their annual summer holiday, it was with an air of despondency and gloom. Their sojourn will be a short one, with the plant due to close at the end of November with a loss of 550 jobs. Indeed 150 of these will cease in September. The plant will then be re-invented as Abbott, but it is felt that few of the existing work force will remain.
On their return to work last Monday, a Donegal Times contributor at the factory spoke to some of the workers. Many have been employed there for more than 20 years and the sense of foreboding and loss was palpable. Among comments from workers: For many of us it could be the last holidays well ever be paid for - Strange coming back after 3 weeks holidays to know that youll be leaving for good in six weeks again - lots of empty spaces as more and more machines are shipped away to far-off places - no one holds out much hope of being re-employed but at least the plant isnt closing down, so thats a good thing it would be awful to see the place in darkness.
Some of the employees will be staying on for a longer period to ensure a smooth take-over by the Abbott company. But despite the gloom among the staff, management was slightly more upbeat. There is an air of apprehension among the staff which is understandable, but everybody is working well commented site director Dermott Murphy.
The factory opened in 1981 and has produced work for hundreds of employees over the years. Hospira has been the biggest sole employer in south Donegal for decades, a place where lifelong friendships and indeed partnerships were formed. The company was renowned for the care it took of its workers over and above monetary considerations eg. VHI membership, time off and out-of-work training courses. The social club at the factory was an important aspect of most Hospira workers lives, running sports days, Christmas parties, annual dinner dance - and various nights out to celebrate special events.
The bright light, if there is one, is that a generous redundancy package was agreed by union SIPTU - in fact the best ever given in the country seven weeks per year of service, including statuary entitlements.