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Portwest planning being ‘reviewed’ – Hynes

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REFUSAL An Bord Pleanála refused planning permission for this Portwest development at the Quay in Westport last October.

Anton McNulty


THE Chief Executive of Mayo County Council has suggested that there may be still a possibility that Portwest can develop their global headquarters at The Quay in Westport.
Last month, Portwest were refused planning permission by An Bord Pleanála to develop their €10 million global headquarters on a site at Roman Island. The Westport-based clothing company expressed disappointment at the decision of the planning authority adding that they will ‘continue to grow at its other sites around the world’.
The company is open to challenge An Bord Pleanála’s decision in the High Court but as of yet the management of Portwest have given no indication they will go down this route.
The matter of Portwest’s planning application was raised at yesterday’s monthly meeting of Mayo County Council by Westport-based Independent councillor Christy Hyland. Responding to comments made by Cllr Hyland, Chief Executive Peter Hynes suggested that there may be movement regarding the Quay application.
“I would suggest the least comment made on that particular situation [Portwest application] in the current climate the better. There are other options being pursued and reviewed and it will take a little time for that to resolve itself. Hopefully there will be a more positive outcome than what currently appears to be the case at the end of that period. I would suggest we leave hold the discussion at that,” he told the meeting.
Portwest Ltd received the full backing of Mayo County Council for the development located on the site of the old Pollexfen Mills, where up to 150 people were to be employed. The company first lodged their application with Mayo County Council in October 2017 and planning permission was granted 12 months later.
The decision was appealed to An Bord Pleanála who refused planning permission in October, stating that the proposed building 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’.

Critical
Cllr Hyland was very critical that the planning process took two years to complete and felt this is an obstacle to investment in the county. He said that the development had the potential to create an additional 50 jobs and claimed that these jobs could now be located to Portwest’s office in Manchester.
“We are a county who are supposed to be open for business. The process took over two years for a decision … the turnaround period for an application like that should be way shorter. Other companies looking at this will say why will we bother if they are faced with a situation of a two-year delay.
“We saw what happened in Athenry where those jobs are gone and what message does this send out to the people who what to invest and set up business in our county. I respect the process but my God how did it take over two years for a decision on this,” he said.
Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council Cllr Brendan Mulroy said that the decision to refuse planning permission to Portwest was ‘a sad day for Westport’. Mr Hynes added that it was agreed that it was time to review the time it takes for all planning applications.
“If we are a country which is open for business, it [planning process] should be faster, not in anyway short-circuited but it should be more efficient in giving people a positive or a negative answer. There is a case for some streamlining,” he said.