A decision made by Westmeath County Council on Monday could open the door for the meat processing plant Dunbia to resubmit an application for an abattoir at its premises on the Clara Road in Kilbeggan – even though it was refused permission two years ago.
During the councillors’ final meeting on the Manager’s Report on Submissions on the draft Westmeath County Development Plan 2014-2020, Cllr Colm Arthur proposed that the members include an objective in the plan in relation to the Dunbia site at Clara Road, which would facilitate the construction of an abattoir.
In 2011, a material contravention was sought to the present county development plan to allow the abattoir proceed, as under the ‘Enterprise and Employment’ zoning, the provision of an abattoir would not normally be permitted. To allow the contravention, 17 out of Westmeath’s 23 councillors would have had to vote in favour; in the end, just 16 did, and so the council could not grant planning permission.
When the applicants appealed to An Bord Pleanála, they were again refused permission. One of the two grounds on which the application fell was over the contravention issue.
On Monday last, the issue once again gave rise to heated debate, in the wake of Cllr Arthur’s proposal, which was seconded by Cllr Paul Daly.
Cllr Joe Flanagan opposed their call, saying he had “a problem” with it.
“This came up and was discussed eighteen months ago, and I’d oppose any change to the status of the site,” he stated, with support coming from Cllr Denis Leonard, who said that the plant is “in the middle” of four housing estates.
Cllr Kevin Boxer Moran was also opposed to the change. “I asked the members who proposed and seconded it ifthey would like a slaughterhouse at their front door.
“It’s wrong, unjustified and outrageous,” he stated.
County planning official, Terry McCague, told the meeting that the second ground on which An Bord Pleanála had refused the appeal by Dunbia related to the potential injury to residential amenities in the area.
Cllr Johnny Penrose pointed out that even if the council approved the amendment being sought by Cllr Arthur, there was still no guarantee of planning permission for the site.
To counter Cllr Arthur’s motion, Cllr Leonard proposed instead that the council vote to preserve the residential amenity value of the Clara Road by not allowing an abattoir there, a motion seconded by Cllr Flanagan.
Cllr Moran reiterated his earlier points: “There’s advice from the various planners not to go down this road. I appeal to the members: you will absolutely destroy this residential area by doing this. We shouldn’t abuse our powers for the sake of one industry.”
Cllr Arthur said his view was that by amending the draft plan, councillors would not have to come back later seeking a material contravention.
Council chairman, Cllr Peter Burke, pointed out that the motion proposed by Cllr Leonard could not state that the council would “not allow” something, and councillors agreed thus to vote on the motion proposed by Cllr Arthur, resulting in 15 voting to include the abattoir objective, and four voting against it. Four councillors were not present.
In favour were: Cllrs Tom Allen, Colm Arthur, Peter Burke, Fintan Cooney, Mark Cooney, Detty Cornally, Paul Daly, Aidan Davitt, John Dolan, Paddy Hill, Peter Keaney, Frankie Keena, Frank McDermott, Johnny Penrose and Avril Whitney. Against were: Cllrs Joe Flanagan, Denis Leonard, Gabrielle McFadden and Kevin “Boxer” Moran. Not present were: Cllrs Ger Corcoran, Mick Dollard, Ken Glynn and John Shaw.
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