PROPOSALS TO turn from Abbey Street to Market Square into an Architectural Conservation Area (ACA) were rejected by four votes to three at Monday's Town Council meeting despite the Town Manager's insistence that it would be good for Wicklow.
The ACA was meant to maintain Wicklow's build heritage along the Main Street and ensure that any developments not in keeping with the town's character wouldn't be allowed to go ahead.
The proposal before the Council called for a variation of the Wicklow Town Development Plan 2007 to include the ACA.
Cllr. Conal Kavanagh said he was happy to vote in favour of the proposed ACA. 'It's not specifically targeting certain buildings. It's just to maintain Wicklow's build heritage and as someone who was born and raised in Wicklow I regard this as the right move. I think it's a complete red herring to say the current economic climate is a reason not to accept. It's not because of an ACA that things are going wrong in Wicklow Town.'
He also pointed out that if an ACA had already been in place beyond the tennis courts then the Xtra-Vision development would not have been allowed to go ahead.
'Instead we turned it down and An Bord Pleanála over-ruled us. Now it remains one of the biggest scars in Wicklow Town.'
Town Manager Michael Nicholson said he was disappointed when an ACA wasn't included in the original Town Development Plan and it could be used as a tool be developers.
'If someone comes in now and wants to develop something outrageous with plastic and flashing coloured lights, and we turn it down, they can just go to Bord Pleanála. The Bord don't live in Wicklow Town and know nothing about the history of the town.'
As an example he mentioned if McDonalds wanted to open up on the main street with the big golden arch neon sign placed in a very prominent position.
However, he had a difficult time convincing all the elected members that an ACA was a positive step for Wicklow.
'There are about eight or more shops vacant in the town now. Personally I would love McDonalds to open up here.
'That would mean more employment.'
Cllr. Bob Kearns said they were just covering old ground.
'We have been here before. An ACA restricts one person and then allows their neighbour to go ahead.'
Cllr. Denis Teevan felt, 'I have been against an ACA since day one. In the present climate I don't see it attracting anyone to the town at this stage.'
Voting in favour of the variation were Cllr. Kavanagh, Cllr. Irene Winters and Mayor John O'Brien. Cllr. Eamonn Long and Cllr. Fachtna Whittle weren't present, and the other four members present voted against the proposal.