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‘Big business’ planning triggers spat

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Councillor Richard Finn

South Mayo councillors clash over planning permission for multinationals


Anton McNulty

Two south Mayo councillors have locked horns over how Mayo County Council should approach planning applications by large multinationals in towns around the county.
The topic was raised at last week’s meeting of Mayo County Council, during a debate on the new County Development Plan and a proposal to extend the timeline for its adoption.
Claremorris-based councillor Richard Finn was critical of the council for refusing to grant planning permission for a Lidl supermarket – a decision that was overturned last month by An Bord Pleanála.
The Independent councillor said the council should be welcoming these investments, and that if there were any planning concerns, it should be up to An Bord Pleanála to address them.
“If I were a developer coming to a town or village, I would not be dictated to about which site I was going to put my business in. Any developer should be able to decide which is the most viable site to invest six-, seven-, eight- or ten-million euro.
“There aren’t many counties who can welcome that type of investment, which should be welcomed with open arms. Leave it to An Bord Pleanála to refuse it, but let’s not refuse it ourselves and then have the decision overturned,” he said.

Fair play
However, Ballinrobe-based councillor Michael Burke said that multinationals should not be allowed to do what they like just because they are large companies. Fair play must be given to all businesses, he insisted.
“Local people and businesses whose families and businesses have been there for maybe 100 years have the right to object and expect Mayo County Council to support them,” he said.
“I don’t welcome everything that comes into my town just because they are big. I will support the local businesses who are trying to make an existence. I never objected to a proposal coming into Ballinrobe in my life, but I do want fair play,” said the Fine Gael councillor.

Protecting small shops
Mayo County Council originally refused permission for the Lidl supermarket in Claremorris due to concerns over the location of the proposed development, which will be situated on the N84 ring-road.
Cllr Finn said that while he is not against people objecting, he feels the council’s refusal could put off potential investors.
“That is not sending out a great message to people who want to invest in my town … I have seen it through the years that places that have refused developments like that are at a loss today,” he said.
Cllr Burke, a businessperson based in Ballinrobe, countered that the heart of his town would have been destroyed had it not been for the local people objecting to the location of a proposed multinational.
“The location would have made our town the most lopsided town in the country. All activity would have happened at one side and the heart of the town would have died.
“If we talk about retail going forward we need to protect our small shops. The fabric of society will change if the Tescos and the Aldis and Lidls will take over our towns. If you ask any club around this county if they go looking for €500 for a set of jerseys, I’ll tell you something, you better not be going to Lidl, Aldi or Tesco – I can tell you that.”

 

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