FINE GAEL General Election candidate, Cllr Michelle Mulherin, has made a stinging attack on Independent TD, Dr Jerry Cowley regarding the development of a car park and amenity area beside the Ballina Arts Centre.
Dr Cowley, in turn, has accused the Town Council of unbridled arrogance in imposing a project against the democratic wishes of the majority of councillors (five) and the people.
Accusing Dr Cowley of ‘whipping up fear’ and indulging in negative politics, Cllr Mulherin argued that since she lived in the Barrett Street area, she was better placed to judge the level of objection towards the project.
“Jerry Cowley’s attitude is sending out a message of anti-progress and creating a bad image of the town. He is absolutely incorrect in saying this is against the Town Plan. Barrett Street already has a hotel with inadequate car parking and now [Dr] Cowley wants to compound this with no parking for a 250-seat theatre,” said Cllr Mulherin.
Next Friday is the closing date for submissions regarding the development of the integrated project which involves a car park and amenity area.
Town Manager and Director of Services, Mr Seamus Granahan, told The Mayo News that after the Council bought the property around two years ago, it planned to allocate 100 spaces, but this figure had since been cut back to 65. According to Ms Mulherin, the Council are probably willing to cut this further back to 45 spaces.
“Remember this project, which is not just about a car park but is an integrated project involving a linear walk and a new pedestrian bridge, has gone through a Part 8 which means it has been presented to all the relevant prescribed bodies. It has satisfied SACs [Special Area of Conservation] and has been approved by the Parks and Wildlife Service,” said Mr Granahan.
Late last year Fáilte Ireland’s Tourism Product Management Board approved, in principle, the allocation of €900,000 towards the bridge costs.
Dr Cowley, however, contends that the Council management only brought the project to the attention of the Parks and Wildlife Service after they were lobbied on the matter. He claimed that the authority proceeded to flout EU law by dumping waste material on the site, which was later removed.
“I was approached by a number of residents at one of my clinics last year about this project. They are very annoyed their wishes are being ignored. These people feel the town needs enhancement, but not by taking away its green areas,” said Dr Cowley.
He also argued that just because people are against the car park, does not imply they are anti-the Arts Centre, or the proposed theatre.
He said the Fisherman’s car park is already under-used. He suggested car parking could be developed at another site known as Burke’s field which has been purchased for a link road.
Cllr Mulherin also observed that ‘the same councillors implicitly supported the project in principle when they mandated management to advertise the Part 8 process’ which included the car park.