THE Government has chosen Charlestown, Co Mayo, as the new headquarters of a department after planning permission was refused at Knock Airport.
The headquarters of the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs will employ 140 people when it is fully staffed. Of these, 70 are currently located temporarily in Tubbercurry, and 30 more are due to take up their posts later this year.
An Bord Pleanala had turned down the department's appeal to build the new headquarters at Knock Airport on July 13, saying the building should be located in a town.
Minister Eamon O Cuiv brought the Charlestown proposal before the Government yesterday and it was approved.
But there is now likely to be a two-year wait before the building is completed and the staff move in to the new location, five miles from Knock Airport.
Mr O Cuiv said last night he was confident that planning permission would be approved when a new site is bought in Charlestown, where the design for the proposed building at the airport would be used.
He said the Government had directed the Office of Public Works, which is responsible for the decentralisation programme, to take the necessary steps for the new location "as a matter of urgency".
He said he had had discussions with the unions and staff associations yesterday and they were happy with the new arrangements.
Mr O Cuiv said he had been keen to move quickly to end the uncertainty about the new location in the interests of staff, their families and the running of the department. "The airport location for the headquarters would have been of great strategic value in terms of the further development of the airport and the area," he said.
"But Charlestown is close to the airport and on the Western rail corridor, and the location of the headquarters there will have very positive benefits for the town, the airport itself and the surrounding area." The minister said that half of those moving to Charlestown were being relocated from Dublin.