For the second time in a little over a week a delegation of elected representatives from Mayo County Council made the long journey to Dublin to put forward the case for the county. This time the delegation were in Dublin to discuss the proposed new sewerage shceme for Belmullet town.
On Wednesday the delegation met with Green Party Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government John Gormley to discuss the proposed scheme. Cllr Gerry Coyle told the Mayo Advertiser that Belmullett is in serious need of development to boost its economy. “It’s all about development up here, we need to have the infrastructure in place to develop the town and surrounding community,” he said. “We have a new hotel and one of the best golf courses in the world and what we seriously need is to have all the infrastrutural developments in place to bring people here.”
Belmullett is currently in the process of getting a new delvelopment plan for the town. The plan which has just finished the public consultation stage and it is hoped that the next draft of the development plan will be ready by the end of the year. However, the current situation is stifling development in the area. Cllr Coyle explained: “A few months ago there was a development of 38 houses turned down, and only a few weeks ago a development of six more because of the lack of sewerage. You also have the farcical situation that someone could be a mile away from the town and have to drill a trial hole if he wants to build a house and might not get planning permission, and the guy a mile in the road can just pump raw sewage into the bay. It’s a crazy situation.”
Independent Cllr Michael Holmes was of the belief that the meeting went well, but isn’t holding his breath on the development happening in the very near future. “We were received very well up there, but that’s what you expect when you go up. The Minister listened to what we had to say, but because the bay is a special area of conservation there are a lot of hoops to go through before it’s going to be up and running. A foreshore licence is required for the clean water to be pumped out into a bay instead of the raw sewage at the minute. That licence is granted by the Department of Environment, but they will have to be involved in consultations with the fisheries authorities and the National Parks and Wildlife Service and it will take some time. The fact that the project is being delayed will suit the Government too in this current time, but the longer a delay goes on in a project like this the harder it could be to get it up and running.”
Holmes also stated that the Mayo Oireachtas delegation received them well and accompanied them to the meeting. “We met with the Mayo members of the Oireachtas before the meeting and they accompanied us into it, bar Deputy Enda Kenny who was tied up in Dáil debates at the time, but they all gave their promise to keep lobbying the Minister on our behalf at that level. The sooner this gets up and running the better for the whole area of Belmullet.”
Cllr Coyle was of the same thinking as his area colleague, that this needs to happen as soon as possible if Belmullet is to grow. “The thing is as well that we met with the same Minister who wants us to only carry out developments in towns and not in rural areas, but here is a town crying out for development and the people can’t do anything because of the lack of a proper sewerage scheme and it’s ok for raw sewage to be pumped into the bay.” The delegation consisted of Fíanna Fáil Councillors Tim Quinn and Michael McNamara, Independent Councillor Michael Holmes, and Fine Gael Councillors Gerry Coy, Joe Mellett and Austin Francis O’Malley, along with a delegation from the Belmullet Chamber of Commerce.