Row breaks out between councillors over Skibbereen plastics factory plans

Row breaks out between councillors over Skibbereen plastics factory plans

A major row broke out between county councillors over a proposal to rezone an industrial area in a County Cork town to green belt, which would prevent a plastics factory from locating there.

Hundreds of Skibbereen people objected to the factory locating in their town and they won a High Court action against Bord Pleanála's decision to grant it planning permission.

However, the decision only forced Bord Pleanála to look for further information and the planning application is still live. Cllr Holly Cairns sought to rezone 3.1 hectares IDA-owned landbank, saying the plastic factory isn't wanted.

"This has been a very hot topic for the last couple of years. The general feeling in the Skibbereen area is it wasn't a good fit," Cllr Paul Hayes said.

Cllr Joe Carroll hit back - saying that to do what Cllr Cairns is proposing would send out a wrong message that the region doesn't want to attract new industry and create badly-needed jobs.

This ground is owned by the IDA since 1975. What do you expect to see on IDA ground, not a dance hall surely? The amount of people travelling to Cork for work is ridiculous

Cllr Alan O'Connor said the plastics factory would be inappropriate, despite the need for employment. Cllrs Danny Collins and Gillian Coughlan said other enterprises could go in there and the land shouldn't be rezoned.

"Doing this would be short-sighted," Cllr Coughlan said. Cllr Alan Coleman said Cllr Cairns' motion is "like throwing the baby out with the bathwater” and he wouldn't support her.

Cllr John O'Sullivan agreed with him and wondered if the County Council could face a compensation claim from the factory owners if the council rezoned the land and then found Bord Pleanála had granted permission.

Mayor of County Cork, Cllr Christopher O'Sullivan, backed Cllr Cairns, saying they are "representing the concerns of the public."

Council chief executive Tim Lucey advised against the rezoning and suggested that the most appropriate way to deal with it with is within a review of the County Development Plan, which will get underway at the end of the year. However, the review will take two years to complete and Cllr Cairns said she isn't prepared to wait that long.

She refused to withdraw the motion, pointing out that the community raised a huge amount of money to take the case to the High Court and "we owe it to them". She lost the subsequent vote by 38 to six, with two councillors abstaining.

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