The proposal by a Crossmolina based councillor for Mayo County Council to buy four premises in the town and demolish them to help with traffic congestion in the town was called “architectural vandalism” by a senior council official this week.
Fianna Fáil councillor Michael Loftus proposed to the Ballina Municipal District meeting on Monday that Mayo County Council purchase the buildings known as O’Mahony’s, Cawley’s Hardware, Hickson’s Drapery Shop, and Marshes at the junction of Erris Street and Church Street. Cllr Loftus also called for the study area on the proposed N59 bypass of Crossmolina to be removed from Knockaine Bridge to Freeheen in Crossmolina.
Putting forward his proposal, Cllr Loftus said: “I’m of the opinion that this is of no benefit at all to the Crossmolina area to have a bypass, and having discussed it with so many people in the town and business people the general feeling is that the people don’t want it. With the cost that’s implicated with it, €36 million or so, we can all agree that it won’t happen, so what I want to do is to get rid of the bypass. One of the submissions from the NRA said they would accept an upgrade of the road or a bypass. I’m suggesting to upgrade the existing route and remove Hickson’s Corner in the town. I can assure you I’ve gone and met every single business person and as many residents as possible with my idea. My first option is the removal of the bypass and it has to be option one to remove it. I have heard a lot of arguments from people in the community in regards to the route itself and I have met a lot of people who have made planning applications and when they have they were refused. What I have tried to do is give an alternative. In 2004/2005 when the initial plan was put forward the option of removing the buildings I have put forward wasn’t there, but it is there today. We don’t want a bypass and this is a solution. I know the NRA want to keep the bypass, but it’s of no significant benefit to them or us to keep it.”
Cllr Loftus’ idea was supported by the other councillors at the meeting, with the chairperson of the district Seamus Weir calling for the study area for the bypass in its totality to be removed.
However, director of services for Mayo County Council, Paul Benson, told the meeting: “As far as we’re concerned, we couldn’t disagree more with the motion. The idea of thinking of and picking study routes is a matter of good planning. It was 40 years ago, and still is today. The idea of dropping a bypass of a town is very poor planning policy and shows very short sighted thinking, and is not something I would be supporting at all. There is an issue in relation to the study area, we have been back and over it. The solution to it is to give everybody certainty, was to pick the route, and that’s what should have been done by the previous council but they failed to do that despite our best efforts and we came close a couple of times. If a route had been picked there would have been certainty for everyone and there would be a very small number of people whose lands would have been affected, not everyone’s as is currently the situation. We’re now in a position where we can’t move forward or back, because the NRA have put the project on hold, so we can’t move to pick a route at this stage, nor can we remove the study area. They will continue to operate and do the job they are in charge of doing and that’s to plan for our future road network, they will continue to operate regardless of what Mayo County Council do, by trying to protect the study area in any planning application.
“The notice of motion has no standing really, even if you approve it, it can’t remove the study area on its own. You can only remove the study area if there’s a Crossmolina Local Area plan, and in that there is no study area or preferred routes for bypass. I know Ian Douglas is starting to work on a local area plan for Crossmolina and I suspect that this notice of motion is going to be your signal of intent you don’t want to see a bypass, and that’s fair enough.” Mr Benson went on to say: “ I think your proposal is an act of architectural vandalism and I have told you that. The idea that you demolish four or five buildings in town centre and you create this open carpark that is not required, because there is a car park closer to the town centre that is only at 50 per cent capacity, seems to me to be a place I don’t want to go or won’t go. But if the members can get that through all the hoops and get the funding provided, then it will happen.” He concluded: “We’re not going to agree with the motion, it’s poor planning, it’s short sighted, and architecturally completely unjustified.”