THE use of land by local sports clubs at the former Avon factory in Portarlington hangs in the balance this week, despite the county council zoning it for amenity use.
The land had been used by Portarlington GAA Club, Arlington Schoolboy’s Football Club and Portarlington Athletics Club.
Three weeks ago Laois County Council voted to zone the disputed lands for amenity/open space purposes, against the wishes of its owner Pat McCormack, who had sought to have it zoned for industrial use, with the proviso that he would allow over three acres be used by the local school-boys’ soccer club and the athletics club.
A meeting was held last week, attended by parents and club officials of Arlington Schoolboys’ Football Club, in a desperate bid to persuade councillors to reverse the zoning decision.
The club’s chairman Jack Kenny said the club had sent a letter to the council supporting the landowner’s submission seeking to retain the zoning of his lands for industrial purposes.
“He looked for our support and promised us three-and-a -half acres and we nearly took his hand off. We supported his application. Our letter of support was included with his application.”
He said the club had made an agreement with Mr McCormack when he first allowed them the use of the lands eight years ago to vacate it should he request them to do so.
Now, as a result of his zoning application failing Mr McCormack had asked the schoolboys’ soccer club to leave the land, said Mr Kenny. “We have no soccer pitch. The future of Portarlington schoolboy soccer in the town is not now certain. There will be nobody playing on Mr McCormack’s lands. There is no place in Portarlington for schoolboy soccer next season,” he said.
Mr Kenny said the club could play all their matches away from the town but that would prove too cost-ly.
Only one of the four local county councillors attended the meeting. That was Cllr Paul Mitchell (Progressive Democrat)
“All he (Mr McCormack) wanted was the land be zoned. It was proposed by Fine Gael councillors to be zoned a green area,” said Cllr Mitchell.
He said some members of Portarlington GAA wanted the zoning changed to amenity. “It was party politics. Mr McCormack was looking for very little,” said Cllr Mitchell.
The local GAA club were recently taken to court by the landowner who was successful in his case to have them removed from him land.
Friends of the Irish Environment