BANTRY is being left in the ha’penny place.
That’s according to local business groups and residents who have recently come out in great numbers to protest about the lack of adequate shopping facilities in the town, poor parking, and a road and footpath infrastructure that has been described as ‘a danger to life and limb’.
The subject came up for discussion at a meeting of the Western Committee of Cork County Council on Monday, at which Cllr Mary Hegarty (FG) tabled a starkly-worded motion requesting ‘a breakdown of expenditure on Bantry town for 2016.’
Cllr Hegarty, Cllr Patrick Gerard Murphy (FF) and Cllr Danny Collins (Ind) all spoke on the motion, having attended a number of meetings in recent months with local groups – all of whom are growing restless at what they perceive is the lack of development in the town. The mood of unrest came to a head following last week’s Cork County Council breakfast briefing at The Celtic Ross Hotel in Rosscarbery, and a further deferral of a decision by An Bord Pleanala with regard to a proposed Lidl development at Newtown in Bantry.
After the Rosscarbery meeting, Cllr Collins said a local businessman approached him and asked: ‘What is the Council doing for Bantry?’
Cllr Hegarty requested a meeting with Council executives and suggested that a specific action plan for Bantry be committed to paper.
Each of the three councillors welcomed the fact that €8.5m is currently being spent on upgrading and developing Bantry’s inner harbour and that the completion of that project in June 2017 would pave the way for cruise liner tourism in the town and neighbouring Glengarriff.
However, Cllr Murphy said the one area that is leaving Bantry down with a bang is in the area of ‘public realm’ – the term used for infrastructure like roads, footpaths and public spaces.
‘It is bad, quite dangerous,’ he said. ‘I know myself that, as a wheelchair user, you are looking down all the time to try and avoid running into potholes.’
He also argued the need for a structured plan for the town. And he welcomed the fact that there are two applications for two new supermarkets for Bantry.
Although both applications are with An Bord Pleanala, he said the board would have to announce its decision soon and that new investment would bring new jobs and development charges and that these charges could be used to improve the town’s roads and footpaths.
Cllr Murphy suggested that the appointment of a town architect for Bantry would also help to ‘steer’ such projects.
Meanwhile, Cllr Collins said more people approached him after the Council briefing last Friday and asked him why millions are being spent in towns like Skibbereen, Clonakilty and Dunmanway while the Council’s investment in Bantry is in ‘the ha’penny place’ by comparison.
Cllr Joe Carroll (FF) said: ‘One does get the feeling that Bantry is being left behind. As a town that has one of the best ports in the country,’ he said, ‘it is not half utilised enough. Once Whiddy finished, it stayed as it was and it is neglected. I agree that a proper plan should be put in place.’
In conclusion, Cllr Hegarty said: ‘There is a sense that Bantry is not getting its fair share of the money. Bantry’s time will come, but there is a sense of impatience that things are not happening fast enough.’
See also, page 6.