Mystery surrounds future of Dunnes’ Castlebar site
Mystery surrounds the usage of the former Bolgers and Dunnes Stores building at Main St, Castlebar. The building, which is currently owned by Dunnes Stores has been left vacant for almost eight years, and has been an issue of contention for Castlebar Town Council since its closure. Some locals believe that the nation-wide company is using the building as a warehouse with some people witnessing large crates being brought in and out of the premises. However, Dunnes Stores has repeatedly refused to disclose to the Western People their intentions for the building and has declined to state the buildings current use. Castlebar Town Council, when contacted by the Western People, confirmed that Dunnes Stores does not have the necessary permission to use the building at Main St as a store. However, the company has permission to use a section of the premises, ancillary to the shop, for storage purposes.
This saga has gone on long enough. The Town Council have sent a letter to Dunnes stating that they will declare the site derelict if they don’t get their act together and the work for which planning permission was granted some 18 months back is not carried out. This is a test of the council and the councillors. Dunnes Stores, of course, can throw more money at lawyers than you can shake a stick at. They can tie up Castlebar Town’s meagre resources for years - and indeed they appear to have because that eyesore of a building deteriorates year on year. The derelict nature of the old Bolgers building at the bridge is sucking the commercial life out of that end of the town. Let’s see if the new Town Council can do anything about it. Set the clock running and remember how long it takes to sort it out - if ever - remember how long it takes when next they come looking for your vote in five year’s time. Or even indeed when the general election comes up quite shortly now.
Corrib group warns Shell of new battle
After eight long years, one of the most hotly-debated planning cases in Irish history reached its conclusion last month when Shell Ireland Ltd finally go the go-ahead to develop a E500m gas terminal at Bellanaboy, on the North Mayo coastline. Although the news seemed to go in favour of Shell Ireland this time, the Western People has learned that the battle is far from over. Many residents in the Erris area have spent the last number of years fighting against this controversial application and they are not prepared to give up the fight just yet. Currently, Shell is working towards mobilising the site and confirmed that Mayo County Council is undertaking the job of upgrading the road between Bellanaboy and the Srahmore deposition site. Shell Ireland stated that it hoped to begin haulage next Spring. The residents from the area who have been protesting against this development have not yet lodged a judicial review. However, Mrs Maura Harrington, principal of Inver National School and one of the chief objectors, assured the Western People that this fight was far from over. Keeping her cards close to her chest, Mrs Harrington indicated that they have plans in the pipeline but would not disclose details.
From the rest of this article in the Western it sounds like there is still a fight to come over the dangers of pumping natural gas to consumers through pipes at high pressure. As the legal planning case is completed though part one of the fight is over - barring a successful judicial review which means finding some flaw in the procedures followed by An Bord Pleanala. Did they miss a notification deadline or some similar legal nicety? Unlikely that they will fall on that one.
After that the EPA has to grant an integrated pollution prevention and control licence for the Bellanaboy operation before it can start delivering gas to Irish consumers. The local objectors will undoubtedly be able to repeat many of their objections made to An Bord Pleanala plus add a lot of new ones. I can’t see the pressure-in-the-pipe argument working though. When you see LPG being used in cars routinely without anyone objecting on safety grounds you understand that this is regular technology. The pressure tanks for cars are subject to the ‘bonfire’ test at 200 bar in a fire that must reach 590°C degrees – and they must not leak or explode. That car in the traffic in front of you could be driving on high pressure natural gas – but yawn! – who is going to get excited about that? So why does the 150 bar pressure in the Bellanaboy pipeline seem to excite people more than a cylinder of lpg at 200 bar - a car-bomb hurtling around at 60mph on our narrow boreens?
Erris fears over ‘spent bog’
Bord na Mona officials will meet with professor Seamus Caulfield this week as the Mayo man investigates peat reserves in the area. Bord na Mona agreed to an investigation into the amount of peat remaining in Erris after locals called for a halt to any rehabilitation of developed bogs. Land acquisitions manager, Mr Gerry McNally told the Western People that he believes there is 40m tonnes of peat left on Bord na Mona’s land. However, he claims that this is not sufficient volume of peat to continue production and peat sales will be complete within the next 6-8 weeks. "Bord na Mona’s phase is over. It’s come to the end of peat production, the volumes aren’t sufficient for a harvest in any one year," he noted. Mr McNally claims that Bord na Mona is obliged to rehabilitate the bog before leaving the area. "If we leave the bog as it is, it will erode and create problems. Our objective is to revegetate the peat lands again." Mr McNally pointed out that other bogs in North Mayo have been rehabilitated without difficulty but local residents are worried about the risk of flooding.
What if Bord na Mona had never existed and we never got the yen to destroy our Mayo peatlands by draining them and burning them in an industrial fashion or to overgraze them with sheep? North Mayo would be now one of the seven wonders of the world. Imagine what we could do today with thousands of square miles of unadulterated bogland – with a pure sustainable wilderness capable of generating income for the area for generations if it had been managed properly? It would be one of Ireland’s biggest tourism cash cows if promoted with a little bit of wit and intelligence. It could have been a Mecca for birdwatchers, walkers, painters, holidaymakers interested in archaeology and heritage plus the usual hunters, shooters and anglers in search of deer, grouse and salmon. As it is people are now heading to Sweden, Russia, Iceland Slovenia for their fishing. The last grouse was seen aeons ago and birds of prey like Golden Eagles and Sea Eagles were simply blasted from the sky or poisoned. Unless you are interested in industrial archaeology that part of North Mayo is a wasteland. Rehabilitation of the cutaway where a small depth of peat remains is going to take many decades but there is a possibility that something like the original peatland can be restored even in 20 to 30 years. But if the whole lot is scraped away down to the glacial till as Professor Caulfield seems to be advocating, then we can forget about it. Of course the jobs that the power station provided did prevent emigration from the area at a time when people did not appreciate the resource that was sitting there in front of them. Burn it they decided – but more far-sighted approach would have been a lot more sustainable and profitable in the long run. Now they are fighting about whether Bord na Mona’s machines can scrape every last bit of sphagnum peat out of the area. Is the peat deep enough for a machine to scoop it up without dragging up glacial till or Scot’s pine stumps that would mess up the hoppers at Bellacorick? The heritage courses being run in Castlebar’s GMIT and elsewhere may provide a more long-term answer by creating a knowledgeable local base that can help to exploit the natural bits remaining in a proper way. But apparently even these course are to be shut down? Talk about short-sighted.