Saturday 14 June 2008

Wicklow timber factory may be demolished

THE OWNER of a timber homes and garden products firm in Co Wicklow said he is considering his options, following a decision by Wicklow County Council not to amend the county's development plan to allow the business to remain at its current location at Kiladreenan near Newcastle.

George Smullen said the likely outcome of the decision was that the Abwood Homes factory, which employs about 70 workers, would be demolished. Mr Smullen said it was too early to say if the business could relocate to an industrially zoned area elsewhere in the county.

Last year Mr Smullen was ordered to demolish the plant by the High Court, after it found it had been developed without planning permission. The court action was taken by Wicklow County Council, which, having won its case, surprisingly declared its support for Mr Smullen's application for retention of 10,000sq ft or about half of the facility.

As the land is not zoned industrial, the county management recommended councillors materially contravene the development plan. However, while 17 of the 24-member council yesterday voted in favour of such a move, the number was one short of the required 75 per cent majority and the motion fell.

The issue caused some rancour at the council meeting with Fine Gael councillor George Jones telling fellow members there had been "an inference in recent times that I have some personal beneficial interest or pecuniary interest in Abwood".

Mr Jones said his only interest was that an in-law of his worked at the factory. The information later led to heated exchanges with Independent councillor Tommy Cullen who raised the question of ethics as, he said, Mr Jones had a "family member" working at Abwood.

Mr Cullen also clashed with county manager Eddie Sheehy.

Mr Sheehy said the council had been 100 per cent consistent and as far back as 2001 had recommended to Abwood that it restrict the facility to 10,000sq ft. Many councillors spoke of the need to save the jobs at the plant.

The Irish Times

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