The 18-month saga surrounding the siting of a playground for Tyrrellspass was pushed back to April this week after a councillor rejected the top two suggestions because some voters complained their houses overlooked these sites.
Instead Cllr Colm Arthur wants to relocate the €150,000 facility to a third site which the council deems “unsuitable” because it is the most expensive option, too small, offers no parking, and its users will have to cross a busy road to access it.
This came to light at the Kilbeggan Area meeting last week when staff from the county’s engineering section presented their preferred options as promised at the January meeting.
“Westmeath County Council’s recommendation would be site number one, adjacent to Belvedere Court,” said Hugh O’Reilly, senior executive officer for the Kilbeggan area.
He explained how the council had looked at six sites, and though there were: “various pros and cons with each site...we would like to make a decision today”.
The reason behind the seeming haste is that the LEADER funding which supplies 75 per cent of the capital cost of the playground is being wound down at the end of the year. The county council will provide 20 per cent of the remainder, while the community is expected to chip in the final 5 per cent, or approximately €7,500.
“A vital part of this process is to get the community group to draw down the LEADER funding... council policy is to assist as best we can,” said Mr O’Reilly.
Pointing at the circulated map Cllr Colm Arthur threw the first spanner by declaring that: “Sites one and two won’t work because they’re too intrusive, they’re too close to houses”.
“Site three is favoured by the community group because it’s across the road and away from people’s houses. I won’t support sites one or two as they’re too intrusive. Site three is furthest away from most houses. We won’t get the community group to work towards sites one or two,” said Cllr Arthur.
Cllr Paul Daly then suggested stretching the project out for another month or two.
“We can’t make a decision without confirming with local groups, and I want the record to show I am 120 per cent behind the playground, contrary to rumours out there that I was trying to block it,” he added.
Cllr Arthur then revealed he had spoken with the bishop about the site beside the church, and though this was vetoed, he would say yes to the site beside the castle. He suggested a public meeting for the people to decide, without realising for a moment how this undermined his very relevance.
“If we can’t give leadership from the council by presenting site three, we should present the plan with sites four, five, and six to the people of Tyrrellspass,” he said.
Hugh O’Reilly explained that, from the point of view of the engineering section at the council, site three was “unsuitable”, and laid out the reasons why.
“It’s a tight fit, it’s beside a busy road, and we can’t provide parking there. It might be a great idea to walk to the playground, but the reality is people will drive. It is the most expensive option,’ he pointed out.
“Well, if they don’t want it, we’ll have it in Moyvore or Mount Temple,” Cllr Joe Flanagan cheekily suggested, but the decision was deferred until the May meeting.
Since 2007 Westmeath County Council has assisted in the development of 25 playgrounds around the county with money raised from the sale of old cowparks.