By Dan Walsh
Councillors are warned that “a feasibility study before the controversial ‘Land-Swap’ decision is an absolute must to avoid a legal and ethical storm” in a statement this evening issued by Courtown Regeneration Partnership Group ahead of tomorrow’s proposed vote on the Courtown Car Park Transfer coming before Gorey Kilmuckridge Municipal District scheduled for Blackwater Community Centre.
A new Courtown Regeneration Partnership was launched in Riverchapel Community Complex on Tuesday night to support the revitalisation of the greater Courtown district and ensure that sustainable development and investment occurs in the context of local need and in sympathy with the natural heritage of the area.
The Partnership describes itself as “a diverse umbrella group representing residents, voluntary groups and local businesses to ensure a community leadership role in the regeneration of the area.”
CRP member Deirdre Robinson of the Courtown Woodland Alliance explained the necessity of the new approach; “The rapid demographic evolution of Courtown from a small coastal village and seasonal holiday resort to a substantial sized town of approximately 10,000 residents has been largely ignored by the local Council in its planning and investment decisions.
“We face many challenges. The infrastructure has not kept pace with the exponential population growth. We lack many of the facilities such a sizeable population warrant. And instead of a community deciding what it needs and want, Council officials with precious little data, transparency or consultation decide for you. You deserve better.”
One of CRP’s priorities is to quickly secure funding and commission a strategic Regeneration Plan with full input from residents and the business community to guide the area’s renewal and future developments.
“We want to avoid the mistakes of the past and address the disastrous piecemeal development, land-hoarding and dereliction which has blighted the area,” added Ms. Robinson.
Sharing members’ enthusiasm for the new approach, Linda Sinnott of Courtown Community Council added; “If you’re sick and tired of waiting for Wexford Council to prioritise the community’s actual needs over its own agenda, what can you do? You can resolve as a community to organise to move things forward yourselves. You the people who live here know better than anyone else what your community needs now and in the future.”
In response to questions about the probity of the proposal and the dubious history leading up to it, the public representatives in attendance- Cllrs Joe Sullivan, Diarmuid Devereux, Andrew Bolger and Fionntán Ó Súilleabháin shared members’ concerns. They confirmed that zero feasibility study had taken place to examine the social, economic and environmental impact of losing Courtown’s main car park and siting a huge hotel there instead. No cost-benefit analysis had been undertaken that they were aware of. Neither had the promised full consultation with the community taken place.
Acknowledging members’ amazement that the vote would go ahead without this, Deirdre Robinson said; “It seems incredulous that councillors would even consider debating and voting on this without a responsible, independent feasibility study.
With a vote scheduled for tomorrow (Tuesday), Ms. Robinson urged the councillors to act responsibly and ethically on behalf of all their constituents;
“We are asking for a proper debate on the issue with full community input and consideration of all the relevant data. Wexford County Council seems to have a bad habit of concealing material information from the public until they think they have the wheels greased and are ready to roll. That’s not how you treat your constituents and local taxpayers. It’s not good governance and it’s fraught with failure,” concluded Ms. Robinson.