THE repeated deferral by An Bord Pleanala of a decision on plans for a luxury hotel in Boyle has angered politicians and business owners in the Co Roscommon town. Plans for a 25m, 120-bed hotel in the townland of Doon were appealed to the board in August last year and a final decision has been deferred on 10 separate occasions since then. Now public representatives are calling for a change in legislation to force the authority to rule with greater alacrity on what are seen as important local planning issues.
Local Fianna Fail TD and general election candidate John Ellis describes the board's failure to rule on the issue as "astonishing" and "unacceptable". "This delay is unacceptable both from the promoters' and region's point of view and denies all concerned the benefits of what this project will deliver. I'm calling on An Bord Pleanala to notify a decision forthwith and give the Boyle region a muchneeded injection which has been denied for so long".
Roscommon county council last July granted planning permission in Castlerea to AOL Developments for the construction of the 120-bed spa hotel. Permission was also granted for a 134-space car park.
"Tourists from abroad, families holidaying in Ireland as well as business people expect modern facilities, " says Paul Wynne, president of Boyle chamber of commerce.
"Unless we are in a position to offer these facilities people will not travel to or stay in the area, except for the briefest of visits."
Referring to the Doon proposals and plans for a smaller hotel in the town centre he claims that "significant time and resources have already been put into the planned developments and, if that investment and potential is not to be lost, it is essential that the delays in the planning process be resolved quickly so that both developments can proceed as soon as possible."
Developer Raymond Devine is planning the demolition of three premises on Elphin Street to facilitate the construction of a 22-bed hotel.
Councillor Peter Flannery (Fianna Fail) told a recent meeting of Boyle town council that the wait was "just like waiting on death row. Saddam Hussein didn't have to wait as long for his punishment."
"There should be a time limit on the decision process, absolutely, " says Fine Gael councillor Jan Flanagan. "No one should have to wait this long for a decision on their development. I wonder myself if there is some degree of political interference at play here and if the board has been asked to hold the decision until after the general election. If the decision is to refuse permission it will have a negative impact on the local Fianna Fail candidate's chances. On the other hand, if it's positive, I wonder will it be announced just before the election when it would have a positive impact on his chances."
An Bord Pleanala says it has a statutory timeline of deciding appeals within 18 weeks and that last year it met this target in 52% of cases. "The board has the power to extend the period and it does so on the basis that the overriding consideration is the proper planning and development of the area rather than the timeline, " says board secretary, Diarmuid Collins. "This particular appeal is in the final stages of the appeals process. The inspector's report has been completed and the appeal is currently before the board."
© Sunday Tribune