A PUBLIC representative in Bantry has called ‘halt’ to an unauthorised halting site at Reenrour, a prime scenic spot that is visible on the approach road to the town.
Cllr Danny Collins (Ind) said his phone has been ‘hopping’ with calls from irate locals ever since a site – at the rear of the designated halting site – was taken over by members of the travelling community to accommodate two or three additional camper vans and a number of donkeys.
‘People are very cross and I don’t blame them,’ said Cllr Collins. ‘It is an issue that I have taken up with our chief executive, Tim Lucey, and our divisional manager Clodagh Henehan.
‘I have spoken to other Council officials, too, because people are looking to me, as their public representative, to have the situation rectified.’
The councillor told The Southern Star that angry locals have approached him on the street and accused him, and the Council, of doing nothing, but he said that is not the case: ‘I have and will be doing my utmost to resolve the problem.’
Cllr Collins said the site in question is not part of the designated halting site and it is ‘not open to travellers, or anyone else, to use it.’
‘The situation is just not good enough,’ he said. ‘If anyone else took over a Council-owned site, they’d be in trouble with the law.’
Cllr Collins pointed out that the site is not just being used, but it has also been blocked off in a proprietorial way. A green, metal gate at the entrance to the site has, since before Christmas, been completely blocked by a parked campervan, despite the fact that there is a sign on the gate that states: ‘Cork County Council Property – No Trespassing.’
Locals have taken to social media to complain about the takeover of the site in particular, and the level of indiscriminate dumping in the harbour area generally.
No-one mentioned any particular group of people as being responsible for the dumping, but one woman observed that the Tidy Towns ‘are doing an excellent job winning awards for our town and it’s just a shame to see this waste piling up by the seashore.’ It was also stated that the Tidy Towns had cleared ‘trailer loads from this site.’
Another person made the point: ‘There are few towns in Ireland, or indeed the world, that can boast such beautiful scenery as Bantry.’
Another person said it was totally unsuitable for donkeys to be kept on rough ground with no access to grass. But others claimed that the donkeys are being grazed at night on another green field amenity in the locality. Locals have accused Cork County Council of ‘dithering’ and they called for immediate action.
Cllr Collins said it would be fair to describe the site as ‘an eyesore’ and said that it flies in the face of Bantry’s ongoing success in the Tidy Towns competition, as well as being named Best Kept Small Town in the country.
Civic pride in Bantry reached new heights before Christmas when Fáilte Ireland announced a major €15.5m boost for ‘Destination Towns’ and included Bantry in the flagship project.
The Southern Star asked Cork County Council to comment on the complaints that are being made, but this newspaper also saw an internal memo which states: ‘Our solicitor is confirming that the current halting site and adjoining site are the subject of legal proceedings and Cork County Council should not take any action which would pre-empt the outcome of the legal proceedings.’
Cork County Council did not respond to specific queries regarding the site but, regarding parking issues at the location, said: ‘The Council monitors parking in Bantry Town and any person found not to comply with regulations could be issued with a fine or prosecuted for that non-compliance.’ Regarding the animals at the location, a spokesperson added: ‘Cork County Council has not received any complaints about the welfare of the donkeys.’