THE somewhat routine task of agreeing the takeover of a residential estate was anything but at last week’s meeting of Westport Town Council, where the proposal for the local authority to assume responsibility for the public areas of the Deerpark East estate on the Newport Road became the most contentious issue of the meeting.
Councillor Michael McLaughlin led the chorus of dissent, asking was the embankment at the rear of the site - which faces onto the GAA grounds - to be included in the takeover? The response he received to this was that is was not to be included, and he then wanted an explanation as to why this was the case.
“The embankment in Deerpark has been the subject of litigation between developers and residents and I do not propose to expose the council to any part of it,” Martin Keating, Senior Executive Officer in the Westport Area, informed him.
At this point, Deerpark East resident Henry Horkan - who was sitting in the public gallery - jumped to his feet and interjected; “Sorry Mr Keating, there was no litigation about the embankment.”
Cathaoirleach of Westport Town Council, Christy Hyland - who was chair of the meeting - called for calm and silence from the public area, but the issue did not end there.
“As part of any takeover of this estate there is supposed to be a stability assessment of the embankment by the council. That is in the file on the site from the former Town Engineer, Gerry McDonnell. I asked a question and my question was not answered. As an elected representative of Mr Horkan, I want clarity on this issue,” Cllr McLaughlin responded.
“Obviously Ger was worried about the embankment and recommended we should get a report on it if we were taking it in charge,” Mr Keating responded. “We do not propose to take over the embankment, it is of no value or concern to the local authority in terms of providing public space, so we do not need a stability report. We are taking over the roads, services and other green areas, but not the embankment.”
Cllr McLaughlin then proposed that Mr Horkan be afforded an opportunity to address the council “to set the record straight on inaccuracies that have been stated about this issue.” His motion was seconded by Cllr Martin Keane.
At this point Acting Town Manager, Mr Joe Beirne, became involved, saying; “I am most concerned about this proposal. It is not fair, proper or legal to do that and it would be totally out of order.”
This was also asserted by Martin Keating, who remarked there had never been a case of an individual making a representation about another person to the council. He added that there are procedures and avenues open to individuals and corporate bodies to raise issues or concerns, namely through appeals, the office of The Ombudsman or ultimately through the courts.
Proposal by Adams
In her long public career, Cllr Margaret Adams also stated that she had never seen such an occurrence, and proposed that Mr Horkan write to each member of the council outlining what matters he would like to address them on, and then they will collectively decide where the matter should go next. Councillor Brendan Mulroy added that if Mr Horkan’s concerns justify him addressing the council, he will vote for it to happen. It was then agreed upon that this is what would happen.
Amidst some uncomfortable silence around the table, the council did agree to take over the estate, but not before Cllr Christy Hyland asked were they satisfied that all conditions of the original planning for Deerpark East had been adhered to. The council also agreed to take over the Clareview Estate at Westport Quay.
Councillor Hyland then welcomed the fact that the council are now in charge of these two estates. He stated that he was driving on these takeovers since he went on the council. “It is only last winter 12 months when the weather was at minus 17 degrees that people in these estates were worried about their areas.” Cllr Hyland also stated after the meeting that it was sad that it took so long for these areas to be taken in charge, and lessons must be learned as to why there was such a long delay, especially in the Deerpark Estate.
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