SHIPTON REFUSAL - A BLACK DAY FOR FERMOY
‘Shocking’, ‘disappointing’, ‘a major blow’, ‘a black day for Fermoy’ were just some of the sentiments echoed this week as the news broke of the rejection of the proposed Shipton development in the town.
The refusal came as a shock to the developers, the town councillors, locals and members of the business community in Fermoy.
The initial €100 million investment in a project, which would have provided Fermoy with a state of the art shopping centre, much needed employment and a brighter future, now seems in jeopardy, as the developers consider what to do next.
The project for the revised large scale development which was to be located on the site of the former mart in the centre of the town, was refused planning permission by the planning authority of Fermoy Town Council on five grounds:
1 The zoning for the site requires a mix of retail, commercial, residential and social facilities and “it is considered that the quantum of retail and retail services floorspace is excessive and that too small a proportion of the proposed development is comprised of commercial, residential and social uses”;
2 The planning authority considers that the large number of small retail units could have an adverse impact on the vitality and viability of the existing town centre;
3 The overall design and height of the building does not complement the streetscape of the town;
4 The height of the development could give rise to overshadowing and visual intrusion for the residents and businesses in the area;
5 Considering the development lies in a flood area, the planning authority is not convinced that the proposed development would not give rise to a risk of flooding.
In light of the new circumstances, the Shipton Group this week issued the following statement, “We are obviously extremely surprised by the decision. We went to great lengths to consult with interested groups in Fermoy and Fermoy Town Council both at management and councillor level and were satisfied that we had a very good and clear understanding of what Fermoy was looking for and needed in terms of its long-term vitality.
"From our consultations, it was also clear that the vast majority of people in Fermoy wanted the project to go ahead as soon as possible. Notwithstanding the serious economic climate and scarcity of funding, this project was fully funded and ready to proceed immediately when planning permission was granted but now the entire future of the project is clearly in jeopardy.”
Among the people who expressed their utter disappointment, disbelief and frustration were Sinn Fein Cllr Seamus Coleman, Cllr Peter Merrigan, Cllr Aileen Pyne, Mayor Tadhg O’Donovan, Cllr Michael Hanley, Cllr. John Murphy, Cork County Councillor, Frank O’Flynn and Barry O’Neill, treasurer of the Fermoy Business Association.
They all referred to the planning refusal as marking a black page in the long history of the Fermoy Town Council, as the news also meant the potential loss of much needed jobs and a revival for the town centre, with the mayor stating that, “It was the blackest day for the local authority in 110 years”.
Mayor O’Donovan further added, “I am giving serious consideration to resigning my position.”
“A development of that scale would have brought new footfall in Fermoy. A petition will be put together to question the decision. I tried to contact the mayor to ask him to call a special meeting in the next few days to discuss what can be done,” fumed Cllr Coleman, while Cllr Merrigan stated, “You would despair with this town in a lot of ways. I expect the Shipton Group will appeal the decision.”
Cllr. Michael Hanley also expressed his hope that “the Shipton Group will come back with an alternative proposal for the site. It is very important that Fermoy town gives a clear signal that it is open for business.”
Amid the concern expressed for the future of the development, Cllr Aileen Pyne pointed out that it is important for people to know that the planning permission, or its rejection, is an executive function carried out by the management of the Fermoy Town Council and not by the councillors themselves, as it is sometimes misinterpreted.
Thursday 25th September 7:32pm