A number of local councillors have criticised the erection of a security fence on the boundary of the scout site at Portlick on the shores of Lough Ree.
“I think it’s appalling. It looks like a industrial fence that can be seen from the river. It’s horrible,” said Cllr Gabrielle McFadden at this week’s meeting of the Athlone Area councillors.
The issue had been raised by her party colleague Cllr Mark Cooney who pointed out that “considerable concern had been raised by locals” with regard to the eight-foot high palisade that runs along the boundary of the scout compound from the lakeshore to the roadway.
“Its appearance is inappropriate for the area,” he said before asking the acting county manager Barry Kehoe whether the scouts had permission to put this up as they have now cordoned off an area of shoreline that should be available to the general public.
Mr Kehoe told the councillors he was aware of the issue, but that the fence was needed for security because of the number of children on the site.
“The argument was that the fence couldn’t be put up without the permission of the local authority,” he said, before telling the meeting he anticipated an application for retention of the fence with the county council later in the week.
“It would be inappropriate for me to comment further on the fence as we are going to have to adjudicate on it,” said Mr Kehoe.
“This is a very important site for scouts from all over the country. This is a very laudable endeavour, and it’s important that scouts benefit from their weekends in Portlick,” he said, before pointing out to Cllr Cooney there was still 170 acres of publicly accessible lakeshore land at Portlick.
He said he believed the fence was put up on foot of two issues - namely, for insurance purposes, and because there have been “reports of people watching [the site] from the bushes”.
“That’s rubbish. You can still watch through a fence if you want to,” said Cllr McFadden.
“I don’t dispute for one second the value of the scouts, but this fence shouldn’t be here. It’s atrocious looking and shouldn’t be allowed. I’m going to put in a submission myself on it, I feel so strongly about it,” she added.
Mr Kehoe told the meeting that work on the area plan for Portlick had been suspended until July as his understaffed planning department had to prioritise other work in the meantime, and he alluded that this contentious fence may have fallen between these stools