BANTRY people reacted with anger when they heard that Cork County Council has granted planning permission for a supermarket on no less than six occasions since 2009 – but not one of these developments has gone ahead.
Fianna Fáil Cllr Patrick Gerard Murphy did a rundown of the various planning applications at the start of the public meeting at Bantry Boys’ Club and the 250 people present expressed their frustration and demanded to know what was the common denominator.
Cllr Murphy outlined how Cork County Council granted planning permission in 2009 for a discount store near the GAA grounds at Newtown in 2009, but An Bord Pleanala turned it down.
The councillor said permission was granted for a Tesco at the cash and carry near the library in the town centre.
Tesco was also given permission for a store at Newtown. This was appealed and upheld by An Bord Pleanala, but it never went ahead.
The Council also granted planning permission about 18 months ago for a new SuperValu at the old ESB site at Harbour View, but a submission was sent to An Bord Pleanala.
The board refused it, but members of Cork County Council subsequently amended a Local Area Plan to address some of the issues raised by the board.
Cork County Council granted that application again in August, but it, too, was the subject of a submission to An Bord Pleanala. The board is now expected to make a decision on December 19th.
Finally, in January, Lidl sent in an application for a development at Newtown and Cork County Council granted the application in June.
It is on this application – not the in-town Tesco or the SuperValu supermarket – that local businessman, Aiden McCarthy, made a submission to An Bord Pleanala. He is opposed to its location outside of the town centre.
The board has twice deferred making a decision. The most recent deferral was on Monday, November 14th – a date that proved to be something of a flash point for the people of Bantry.
The board’s failure to deal with the issue prompted local taxi man, Michael O’Shea, to register his anger on Twitter, whilst Amy O’Sullivan, a music and drama teacher, helped him to set up a Facebook page called ‘Bantry Needs A Lidl’.
An online petition and a survey of shoppers showed people are leaving the town in droves because of lack of choice, prices, and a serious lack of parking.
Cllr Danny Collins said: ‘Bantry needs another large supermarket to give choice to the people of the town.’ And on the issue of parking he is going to formally propose that the Council remove half of Wolfe Tone Square to create more spaces.
Michael Collins TD acknowledged the anger and tension in the room and said: ‘The fact that you are all here tonight is going to send a very clear message.’
Lidl’s Munster manager in charge of locations, Owen Cusack, also attended the meeting, and made the point that 100 jobs would be created during the supermarket’s construction, and 30 more would be created in-store.