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Council accused of thwarting job creation in Castlebar

Castlebar misses out on jobs - Durcan

Council turn down chance for nursing home development

Edwin McGreal

MAYO County Council have been accused of turning their backs on the creation of up to 150 jobs. The claim was made by a developer whose planned site for a 100 bed nursing home outside Castlebar was turned down by the council at the pre-planning stage for reasons including zoning and lack of services.
Local auctioneer and councillor Frank Durcan owns the site in question which is located at Aughaluskey, Castlebar on the Windsor road, just off the N5 road to Ballyvary. He has accused the council of frustrating the development and the jobs that would go with it.
“We talk about the need to create jobs and here is someone like me willing to take a risk and create jobs and I am being frustrated by the council. There’s plenty of talk about creating jobs but when the council have to come up with actions, yet again they fall badly short,” Mr Durcan told The Mayo News yesterday.
He added that the development would create up to 50 jobs in construction and a further 100 full-time jobs at the nursing home on completion.
However, replying to a pre-planning application by planning consultants working for Mr Durcan, the planning department of Mayo County Council outlined a number of reasons why the application would likely be turned down if a full planning application was made.
They include that the eight acre site in question is zoned of ‘rural character’ under the Castlebar and Environs Development Plan 2008-2014 and that no public services - water and foul sewer - are available at the location. They add that whilst there is a public sewer at the nearby Ballynew pumping station, the council would have serious reservations about bringing the sewer across the N5 to the proposed site at Aughaluskey.
Among the other issues raised by the council was the ‘substandard’ local road. However Frank Durcan argues that not enough regard was given to the creation of jobs which would arise from the development.
“If I was a Japanese industrialist building a factory and creating 100 jobs, the council would bring the sewerage service over to me and would improve the road. Regional Planning Guidelines for the western region for 2010 to 2022 support the location of nursing homes subject to proper planning.
“The irony of the zoning matrix here is that I would be allowed to develop an agricultural machinery outlet on the site, which would be much more invasive in terms of noise and traffic but I cannot develop a tranquil nursing home. It beggars belief,” he added.
Mr Durcan also argues that the failure of such job creation efforts is forcing local young people to emigrate for work.
“Fifty nurses qualified from GMIT in Castlebar last year and they all had to emigrate for work. The same will happen this year’s class. These people turning down these applications don’t have to stand at Knock Airport and witness parents waving good-bye to their children emigrating who may never work in Ireland again.”
Mr Durcan called on the Area Manager of the Castlebar Electoral Area, Seamus Granahan, to initiate a material contravention of the Castlebar Development Plan to allow the project to proceed.
“There is an existing nursing home at AbbeyBreaffy further out the N5 and that does an excellent job but there is still a need for an additional home. People from Castlebar are scattered all over the west of Ireland in nursing homes and care centres and this place would provide all the necessary care for the elderly,” added Mr Durcan.
In a letter sent to Mr Durcan’s planning consultants, Gabriel Dolan and Associates last December, a planning officer of Mayo County Council said the following: ‘having regard to … the fact that a mixed use development at this location would be premature having regard to the zoning objectives for the area, the applicant is advised to consider alternative development sites that are appropriately located and zoned’.