Councillors continue to

Councillors continue to

Councillors continue to

lobby OPW on plan for Ballybofey Garda barracks

By Carolyn Farrar

Donegal Mayor, Sinn Fin Cllr. Cora Harvey, and Fine Gael Cllr. Martin Harley have asked the Office of Public Works (OPW) to hold off on plans to refurbish the Garda barracks at Ballybofey, saying the property instead could become part of a town development plan.

The Twin Towns representatives have suggested that if the council were to acquire and demolish the Main Street barracks, a road could be brought up from the area known locally as the Back Lane, to connect up behind the Villa Rose Hotel and open up the town centre.

The barracks is sitting empty now, with local garda relocated temporarily to a restored premises overlooking the Navenny Street car park. An OPW spokesperson said last week that the OPW plans to begin the refurbishment and extension work shortly on the old barracks.

Mayor Harvey said she contacted an official of the OPW and asked him to delay the contract for the refurbishment until further consultation between local people, the county council and local elected representatives.

"I believe that space could be utilised for the economic and social development of the town centre," Mayor Harvey said.

The mayor had not received a reply to her query by the time of going to press yesterday.

But the OPW spokesperson told the Democrat last week that the national office had no plans to vacate the old barracks.

"The building is owned by the OPW and it is intended that it will remain in use as a station for the foreseeable future," the spokesperson said.

Cllr. Harley said he has also asked the OPW to reconsider their position before the tender process goes any further, but he has not received a response, either.

If the OPW goes ahead with the refurbishment -- at an estimated cost of about 400,000 euro, Cllr. Harley said, "It is an opportunity missed in the town of developing that area. That's my main concern. You rarely get an opportunity like that in an area so close to the town centre."

Cllr. Harley said that the 1995 town plan included a provision similar to the proposal the mayor and he are endorsing. Also on the drawing board for the Twin Towns at the time was the facility that became known as the "one-stop shop", which was to include Garda barracks and other public offices. When plans for that multi-purpose centre "went off the radar", Cllr. Harley said, "It seems the whole thing collapsed."

But he said he still believed the plan could benefit both Jackson's Hotel and the Villa Rose Hotel, "not to mention all the other businesses" in the area. He said he has also discussed the project with senior council officials, who said the plan had potential.

"It's a good chance for the Twin Towns too move forward and develop," he said. "I'm afraid if the tender process goes too far there would be nothing they could do about it."