Voluntary groups in Letterkenny have been asked to put together a joint approach for the re-development of the old mart site in the town.
At Monday night’s Town Council meeting, there were mixed views from councillors on future development proposals but members did agree there was a growing need for more community facilities for the youth and elderly of the town.
Independent Councillor Tom Crossan has called on the local council to ‘reserve’ the site for the development of a community facility, particularly for youth and senior citizens.
However, other members felt there were already many public buildings around the town that were ‘under utilised’ and could be used for temporary accommodation. Due to funding cutbacks and the current economic climate, some members expressed concerns about adequate finance being available for a new ‘stand alone’ building.
However, Cllr. Crossan has revealed a number of local groups in the town had already met to drive forward with the plans for a new building adjacent to the mart site. These included the Youth Club, The Loft and representatives of the elderly and church.
“I hope we can form a joint approach. As well as catering for youth and elderly, the building could be used by the church as a venue for social events after first communions and confirmations.”
Cllr. Crossan added there were many varied groups doing excellent work on a voluntary basis around the town.
Supporting the motion, Fine Gael Councillor Jimmy Kavanagh said it was an ideal venue for the community and local churches.
“It may also help for parking and buses, especially during school drop off and collection times,” he said.
However, Fianna Fáil Cll.r Victor Fisher said there was already an agreement to have a range of facilities at the site, including homes for the elderly and a retail unit.
Fianna Fáil whip, Councillor Ciaran Brogan, said the ‘reality’ was how such a centre was going to be funded.
“I think we need to work to overcome the barriers that are at the Regional Cultural Centre and other council-owned properties. We give a substantial amount of funding to the Regional Cultural Centre to see if it can cater for people in the area. The public buildings such as the Regional Cultural Centre, the Museum and others around the town should be used more by the public. We’re looking at approving an overdraft of €3 million here tonight, so there is an onus and duty on us to ensure existing public facilities are fully utilised,” he said.
“We need clarity. I can’t support the motion because I would be a hypocrite. There is an agreement already,” he said.
Independent Councillor Jim Lynch said he concurred in many ways with Cllr. Brogan.
“Letterkenny’s efforts have always been fragmented because there are groups and societies doing their own thing. However, it has got to the stage now we need to overcome this and examine amalgamation of resources in terms of manpower and finance. For this project to happen on this site under the current economic constraints is going to be very difficult. I feel we need to attract committees to come together so as to draw funding,” he said.
Cllr. Pascal Blak, said he supported the thrust of the motion but had mixed views about uses for it.
“We need to look at set down facilities to cater for school traffic. There is a lot of congestion in this area, every morning,” he said.
Fianna Fáil Councillor Tadhg Culbert said €25,000 had been allocated for providing car park facilities on the site and it was a temporary solution to the car parking and traffic congestion issues.
“This has already been dealt with,” he said.
Town Engineer, Mr John McCarron, said the car park would be ‘public pay and display’ for long term workers and also to free up short term space at Cathedral Car Park.
Sinn Féin Mayor Gerry McMonagle said grant aid was a major concern for any group.
“Grants are no longer available from central government. I feel the temporary car park should go ahead immediately and, if the committee behind plans for the development of the mart site can raise some money, it can be reviewed. I can’t see how, or where, the money is going to come from to have a building on the site in the current climate,” he said.
Concluding the debate, Cllr Crossan said he was ‘delighted’ it was being considered and he was sure the committees behind the re-development plans would do all they could to bring it to fruition.
“They’re not talking about today or tomorrow- it is more a two year or three years plan,” he concluded.
Town Clerk, Mr Paddy Doherty, said the site had been inspected as a site for social housing for the elderly.
“Specific monies were allocated during the purchase,” he said.