PORTWEST'S proposed global head office development has been given the green light at local level.
By agreeing to grant a material contravention of the Westport Town and Environs Development Plan, members of the West Mayo Municipal District of Mayo County Council paved the way for Portwest to proceed with a proposal to develop an office building and café at Roman Island, The Quay, Westport.
In order to pass the resolution, at least five of the seven members had to vote in favour of granting permission. Six members voted in favour, with Councillor Tereasa McGuire being the only dissenting voice.
Councillor McGuire said her area of concern was not having access to the planning report submitted on June 29 last and a report of an independent review panel, and making a decision in a situation where she didn't have the full information would not allow her to sleep well at night.
“Asking anyone to make a decision without the full information is fooldhardly,” she stated. However, she clarified that she wouldn't be making a counter proposal not to proceed with the development after Councillor Brendan Mulroy, cathaoirleach, West Mayo Municipal District, proposed that it should proceed, with Councillor Christy Hyland seconding.
Councillor Mulroy said the material contravention was specific to this site only and the proposed development would not create a problem for marine-related tourism elsewhere on Roman Island.
He added that he applauded Portwest for keeping their head office in Westport and potentially providing additional jobs to the 90 it already supports.
Councillor Hyland said he looked at the proposal in depth and while he had some concerns, he also saw it in light of a vision for the future of the area. He had no fear at all that it would interfere with tourism, and he could see other developments in the area come on the back of it.
When the matter was put to a vote, Councillors Mulroy, Hyland, Gerry Coyle, Michael Holmes, Paul McNamara and Teresa Whelan all voted in favour of the material contravention, with Councillor McGuire voting against.
The material contravention process is for a planning authority to decide to grant permission for a development that is not in compliance with the development plan. The procedure is different to a variation of the development plan as it applies only to a specific proposed development and is not a change to the development plan zoning. In the Westport Town and Environs Development Plan 2010-2016 (as extended), the Roman Island area is zoned as 'marine related tourism'.
The CEO of Mayo County Council, Peter Hynes, in a report on the proposed development, highlighted that 87 valid submissions were considered. Of those, 62 (71.3%) objected to the material contravention, 23 (26.4%) supported it, and two (2.3%) were neutral.
Mr. Hynes' recommendation to the council was that the project, as proposed, constitutes proper planning and sustainable development of the area and should be permitted to proceed, subject to the appropriate conditions.