Business as usual after barracks dominates meeting

Despite the behemoth of the barracks closure controversy almost taking over this month’s county council meeting earlier this week, a number of important developments in the areas of industrial expansion, parklands, and lake management within Westmeath were quietly adopted.

A change to the County Development Plan 2008-2014 (CDP ) will make allowance for the establishment of heavy industry outside of specific zoned areas in Mullingar and Athlone in the future “if there is an overriding reason for the development in the interest of the county as a whole, [and after] a thorough exploration of alternative sites on zoned lands has been made and [these deemed] unsuitable”.

This variation was proposed after a member of council staff noted in April 2010 that the CDP as it had initially been written did not allow for what was defined as “non-light/bad neighbour” industry outside of specific zones on the edges of the two main towns, and would have thus denied the possibility of any future Iralco-type investment in Westmeath.

However, before people worry about dark, satanic mills being forced on Killucan or Glasson, this variation only makes provision for the possibility of heavy industry in rural Westmeath, subject to four pages of small print, and “all environmental impacts” being the responsibility of any developer wishing to do so.

“The policy requires that all existing alternative sites on zoned land be investigated and discounted before consideration can be given to a site on unzoned land,” the variation to the CDP states.

Also carried by the county council at the Monday meeting was the timely leasing of 8.43 hectares (c.21 acres ) of former cowpark land at Dún na Si, on the Lake Road in Moate for the development of a town park.

Later that evening a charity concert featuring Tom Allen, Robert Mizzell, Mike Denver and others raised a very respectable €20,000 in the Count John McCormack auditorium in the AIT to help develop this project.

Finally, the members also voted to begin the process to make a selection of bylaws to protect the lake shores within the county after the details were fine-tooth-combed by the strategic policy committee earlier in the month and subsequently recommended.

The citizenry will be formally notified of this decision in this week’s papers, and the draft bylaws will be on public display for another month, with a further week allowed for written submissions to be made.

Barring hiccups, adoption should follow at the January or February meeting.

These raft of bylaws will govern behaviour on the shores and are a follow-on from the 2009 adoption banning the use of jetskis from all watercourses in Westmeath, apart from the Royal canal and the Shannon which come under the auspices of Waterways Ireland.

A decision was also taken to hold the county council’s preliminary, secret budget meeting in Athlone on Monday, December 12, with the statutory public meeting on December 19 at noon, with the monthly December meeting to follow immediately.


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