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Council debates future of Colonel’s Wood

Town Council debates future of Colonel’s Wood

Anton McNulty

There is ‘no hope in hell’ of Coillte leasing Colonel’s Wood to Westport Town Council on a long-term lease, according to the Westport Town Manager.
Joe Beirne made his comment at a meeting to discuss variations to the Town Development Plan which included a proposed area plan for Colonel’s Wood. Coillte, which owns part of the Woods, had proposed to rezone the land to allow the development of a nursing home on the site, but this was rejected by councillors.
Cllr Michael McLaughlin proposed that the area plan be changed to ensure that building is not allowed on the woodland. His motion was seconded by Cllr Margaret Adams. Cllr Tereasa McGuire proposed that the Council and Coillte enter a 99-year lease for Colonel’s Wood, which would benefit both parties in the long term.
However, Town Manager Joe Beirne bluntly dashed the idea, saying there is ‘no hope in hell of Coillte doing that’. However, Cllr Margaret Adams said that there was a Tourism Minister and a Taoiseach in the county, and they should enter discussions about the possibility of getting the lease.
The proposal for a long-term lease was also supported by Cllr Brendan Mulroy and Cllr Martin Keane, who argued that the Council should back it.
However, Martin Keating, Senior Executive Officer said that the reality was the Coillte could run the woods as a commercial forest, and he pointed out that the semi-state body could get a felling licence if it wanted to. He said there was no compulsion on Coillte either to do develop or to enter into a lease – it could do what it liked with the woods.
The councillors rejected the recommendations in relation to the nursing home but they agreed with a second recommendation to carry out road improvements along the local road serving Knockranny from the junction at the Castlebar Road to the proposed entrance to the recreational area of Colonel’s Wood.
Cllr Mulroy said the road was a major concern but Mr Beirne said the possibility of getting money for the road was ‘fairly remote’ – because it was to be found in the development levy for the nursing home.