Councillors want to 'know what they are getting into' on Asahi site

Fine Gael Cllr Jarlath Munnelly

Fine Gael Cllr Jarlath Munnelly

The elected members of the Ballina Municipal District refused to throw their full backing behind the potential sale of 26.13 hectares of land at Tawnaghmore Upper Killala (the old Asahi plant site ), to a northern Irish based company for the construction of an IT services centre on the site. The councillors were presented with an item at their monthly meeting this week to endorse the disposal of the land for a potential figure of €2,582,689.20 to Derry based company Atlantic Gateway Ltd, if after a six to 12 month period of a feasibility study by the potential purchaser it was satisfactory for their needs.

The members proposed to note the potential sale rather than endorse it, the item will be up for discussion again at the next full meeting of Mayo County Council on Monday, April 10. Speaking on the item, Killala-based Fine Gael councillor Jarlath Munnelly said: "I have a few questions, there is a pre exisiting commitment on this site to a community group, and in general, I welcome that there is interest in the site. It is the single biggest land holding that Mayo County Council have. Considering there is a power station that we hope will be completed and the transatlantic cable is coming into Killala, this is exactly the type of development you would hope to attact to the site.

"However, I think the proposal is a bit vague and the potential purchasers, we don't have an awful lot of information or detail on them, I would be much happier if there was a much more detailed proposal put in front of us and I would also be a lot happier if there was a committed timeline an milestones to be achieved before this progresses. The adjoining piece of land that Mayo Power bought was sold after planning permission had been secured, it was very clear there. Perhaps some detail could be provided to the elected members and the community group can be met with and sorted out. I propose we note, I welcome the interest, but I would not be happy with it without a report on it."

Independent councillor Gerry Ginty was of the same thinking as Cllr Munnelly saying: "There were promises made to a community group and I don't believe they have been kept and if this land is disposed of can they be kept. I welcome jobs, but I don't welcome jobs at any cost on the back of broken promises. This is very vague, there is a huge ammount of land involved, why anyone would need that amount of land I don't know. What I see now doesn't tell me very much about what it is. We need to know why they want this vast amount of land, it might create a lot of jobs - we would hope, but it's something we need to look into much deeper. I'd be afraid that it is being bought to be sold on again."

Independent councillor Seamus Weir added: "This is talking about a data centre, I think we're talking about maybe only a job, I got calls from the community group and they aren't happy, they were not contacted properly in relation to their project on this site. They have to be looked after, that's the bottom line on this." Fianna Fáil's councillor Annie May Reape told the meeting that the council needed to know what they are getting into. "We're not opposed to jobs, but we need to know what are we letting ourselves into, can we meet these people," she said. "The community, I'm worried about, nobody seems to have contacted them, that has to be discussed more."

Cathaoirlach of the district, Cllr Michael Loftus, told the meeting that he had asked if the developers would meet with the councillors and he was told they would not. He also hit out at the lack of communication from the top down to the councillors about the project, which he said was not good enough, and he also said he was disappointed that he was told that the money generated from any potential sale would be sent back to Mayo County Counicl's "central coffers" rather than stay in the area. Marie Crowley, manager of the district, said that by noting the item it would allow time for discussions with the community group and the developer to continue by council management to see what can be achieved and it would be up again before the members at the full meeting on April 10.

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