Congratulations to Willie Joe and Alice Stewart who celebrated their Golden Wedding anniversary recently with family and friends. A mass was celebrated by Fr. Francis McLoone and then a party in Pier 1.
Now, boys and girls, sit up and pay attention. I am going to ask you a few questions. Lots of issues have cropped up in Donegal Town over the past seven years and I want to see if you have been concentrating. Here we go!
• How many development requests have been referred to An Bord Pleanala since the Millennium - how many have the Bord passed?
• In February 2003, a mart meeting was held in the Millpark to decide which of Bennett or Keeney would be preferred bidder for the mart site at Milltown - who won the vote?
• How much was the deposit agreed?
• How long was allowed to sign the contract?
• How long after the contract was signed until the deposit was forfeited?
The preferred bidder is now the other party.
• How much of a deposit has been agreed?
• How long has been allowed to sign the contract?
• What time scale, if conditions are not fulfilled, till the bidder loses right to ownership of the old mart?
• How often have shares in the mart been sub-divided? How many new shareholders has this created? Why are some people allowed to divide up their shares - and others are not?
Note: Each shareholder has one vote whether he holds one share or ten - but the person who holds ten can create nine other voters by passing them one share each - if permission of the top-table is forthcoming.
• The committee was returned without change at the last AGM of the mart. But how and when are the officers elected?
• What does James Campbell actually do?
• Is the IDA holding up progress in Donegal Town?
• Back in 2002, our new sewerage scheme started - is it a success - or has the council made a balls of it?
• Is the new sewerage pumping station an edifice of outstanding aesthetic beauty - or an ugly monstrosity blocking one of the most beautiful views on this island?
• Do the manhole piles in the Eske enhance the beautiful river or desecrate it?
• When will the sewerage scheme be finished?
• Five years ago a project started to beautify our quays and Abbey walk area - is a good job being done on it - or has the council made ........... ?
• Has anyone ever seen the fresh water pearly mussel that inhabits our river near Gorrell’s bridge?
• In the year 2005, we had approximately 800 manufacturing jobs in Donegal Town - how many do we have now?
• Miller’s Hill was sold for €4.2 million by Donegal County Council. How much of this dosh was retained for sorely needed local authority developments in town?
• Why was our new Service Centre built without air-conditioning, cool air intake - or sewerage treatment plant?
• Why was the 9 acres surrounding the Centre sold to Bennett for €1 million?
• If the council knew that the Magee site was designated retail and commercial, why did in not have the foresight to restrict the dimensions of Cruagorm House to widen Water Street?
• Every weekend, over 2,000 young people descend on this town to party - how many guards are on duty to deal with any anti-social fallout from the revellers?
• Was the town CCTV proposal form properly filled out and submitted on time?
• Will the proposed office facility at Lurganbuoy ever be built?
• What is holding up the planned new sporting and recreational facilities at the Abbey Vocational School?
• Will the courthouse ever be removed to reveal the full splendour of the O’Donnell Castle?
• Will the county GAA team all become pioneers?
• Is Donegal a ‘quality’ town?
• Is the town progressing - or regressing?
• And, crucially - are our people happy?
Now boys and girls, time is up. Fold up your answer papers and put them in the box provided. These will be placed in a secure place and not shown to anyone - as has happened to all submissions made for the betterment of our town over living memory.
No odds, sure it will get your brain working for a while!
R.T.E.’s Prime Time to feature planning issues in Donegal Town
National broadcaster in contact with local people seeking information
Tongues have been wagging like mad in the locality since the Donegal Times revealed some weeks ago that ‘Prime Time’ is broadcasting a programme on developments in Donegal Town. To be screened in October, it will look into planning practices at Council level, particularly in relation to changes made to local area plans.
The Democrat picked up the story and Elaine McGee wrote in last week’s issue: ‘Twenty nine Donegal County Councillors each received a letter early this week from senior planner Gerry Richards. Titled ‘Query from RTE ‘Prime Time’ regarding land zoning’, the letter had attached to it the information requested by ‘Prime Time’ as part of their investigation.
A reporter from the programme has asked for various documentation, including the most recent Donegal Town Development Plan and the manager’s report on the plan, as part of research into ‘land zones which have been included in development plans against the advice of manager/professional planners’.
A further letter from Gerry Richards to ‘Prime Time’ was included, outlining the documents that had been furnished to the programme researchers.
A number of councillors have been contacted by ‘Prime Time’ to take part in the programme and some members of the Donegal Town community have agreed to discuss planning issues on camera. The investigation is understood to be focused on the actions of county councillors regarding local area plans.’
Speaking to Donegal Times, the Chairman of Donegal Co. Council, John Boyle, confirmed he had received the letter from Mr. Richards. However he categorically stated the Councillors have nothing to worry about as far as decisions on the county development plans are concerned. Cllr. Boyle said everything was totally above board “the only change the councillors made to the Donegal Development Plan was to extend the town boundary on the Tullyearl side, move it out to Drumlonagher and take in the Mountcharles Road - all in the best interests of the town. All this was agreed within half an hour at a Council meeting in Lifford - after all it was a six year plan that was adopted.”
Since the year 2000, numerous planning requests for commercial development in the Donegal Town area have been shot down by an Bord Pleanala. The latest proposal for a development on Miller’s Hill by Michael Kelly now sits with the Bord - and Bennett’s plans for a mart at Tullyearl junction were deferred at Council level at the request of the Westmeath developer. Meanwhile the town stagnates, lacking either a commercial or manufacturing base.
A spokesman for Keeney Construction Limited confirmed that ‘work was due to commence on the construction of two houses for the O’Toole family in September which will pave the way for the construction of the access road to the site on the southern side of the River Eske. Works on the Magee site can commence as soon as the Industrial Development Agency (IDA) grant us the necessary permissions to lay an access road across lands in their ownership on the northern side of the River.
‘We have been in discussions with the IDA in relation to this matter since February 2007, and while they have been very supportive of our proposal must, as a public body, ensure that the process is transparent and that due diligence procedures have been properly complied with. By definition this is often a lengthy and time-consuming exercise - but as soon as it is concluded we will be in a position to sign up one of the two multiple supermarket operators currently vying for the site, appoint contractors to commence construction works, and provide the jobs that we are committed to delivering in the town’.
In tandem, a notice appeared in last week’s Democrat for the transfer of the Schooner pub licence to the name of Paul Duncan, a member of the Keeney consortium. It is presumed that the laneway alongside the bar will be one of the pedestrian routes to the development site.
The old Magee factory itself is now completely cleared out and, according to the spokesperson, ‘can be demolished anytime - the first priority however is to create an alternative residence for Mr. O’Toole and start construction of the bridge across the Eske.’
In the meantime, Michael Kelly awaits a decision from An Bord Pleanala on his site at Miller’s Hill. We understand a lengthy submission has been sent by the Glebe contractor to the Bord - drawn up by a highly reputable firm of Dublin consultants. However Keeney is reported to have countered this with a document contesting many of Kelly’s claims, mainly on traffic issues.
With all the controversies that have taken place in this town over the past seven years, ‘Prime Time’ should have no problem in filling a whole programme on the development saga in this area.