CONTROVERSIAL An artist’s impression of workwear manufacturer Portwest’s proposed HQ at Westport Quay’s Roman Island.
PORTWEST’S plans to locate its new global headquarters at The Quay in Westport have today been dealt a major blow. An Bord Pleanála has refused planning permission for the major development at Westport’s scenic Quay area, after an appeal against the development was lodged with the authority.
In a statement on their official website, Mayo County Council confirmed that it received notification from An Bord Pleanála, informing it that ‘the Board has upheld an appeal lodged against the decision to grant permission to Portwest Ltd for an office building and café at Roman Island, the Quay, Westport’.
Last October, Mayo County Council granted planning permission for the €10 million development, a decision that was subsequently appealed to An Bord Pleanála by up to 20 people who expressed concerns that the site at The Quay was at risk of flooding.
In giving its decision to refuse permission for the development, the Board stated that it was in ‘an area which is at risk of flooding’ and they were not satisfied that it would not remain vulnerable to flooding, and would ‘therefore, be prejudicial to public health’.
“In deciding not to accept the Inspector’s recommendation to grant permission, the Board considered that a precautionary approach to flood risk should apply in this instance...In conclusion the Board considered that the proposed development would, therefore, be contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area,” An Bord Pleanála stated.
The project had received the full backing of Mayo County Council with the council’s Chief Executive, Peter Hynes, recommending its approval – despite serious reservations and objections raised by a senior planner in Mayo County Council and the Westport Town Architect.
Mayo County Council described An Bord Pleanála’s decision was ‘an unfortunate outcome’.
“This is an unfortunate outcome after a long and expensive process. It will preclude the development of an iconic 21st-century building at the Quay, which would have involved a multi-million investment and would have brought significant employment and economic activity to the area on an all-year-round basis.
“In reaching its decision the Board overturned the recommendation of its own inspector to grant permission. Mayo County Council will await sight of the Inspectors report before making any further comment,” the statement read.
The location of the site at The Quay, a scenic local amenity, was one of the most controversial aspects of the development. The 0.615 hectare site had originally been zoned for Marine Related Tourism, and a material contravention was needed to rezone it. A special meeting of the West Mayo Municipal District was called in September 2018 to discuss a material contravention, with six local councillors voting in favour and one voting against.
Mayo County Council’s own senior planners had recommended refusal for the project, but a peer review of the project by an three-person independent expert panel recommended granting planning permission subject to 37 recommendations.
One of the recommendations was that the Westport-based workwear-clothing manufacturer would have to indemnify Mayo County Council against any liability in the event of the site and building being flooded by a weather event and any issues arising from such an event.
The Portwest building was to be located on the site of the old Pollexfen Mills on Roman Island and was designed by Dublin-based MOLA Architecture. The architecture firm stated that the design was inspired by ‘local rock outcrops and coastal tower houses’.
The four-storey development was to consist of approximately 2,593 square metres of office space and include a gym, a shower and changing facility, a canteen, a café and an ICT room. A five-storey stair and lift core was to provide access to a screened ‘plant area’ at roof level. The building was intended to accommodate approximately 150 employees.
While there was a number of objections to the development, there was also support among many of the business people at The Quay, who believed it would be of significant benefit to the area and would ease the burden of the slow winter-retail season.
An Bord Pleanála’s decision for not granting planning permission for the Portwest development is expected to be made public later this week.