Objections to the compulsory purchase of a site for Buncrana’s three school campus will be aired at a planning hearing tomorrow morning.
Today’s Inishowen Independent is reporting that An Bord Pleanála will hear objections from two landowners who say that a compulsory purchase order (CPO) can only be used as a last resort. They claim the State hasn’t demonstrated that it has properly considered suitable alternatives.
The CPO was initiated by Donegal County Council on 2 December 2020 for the site at Causeway Road. However, written objections were submitted to An Bord Pleanála by landowners Roy Baldrick of Coolboy, Letterkenny, the legal personal representative of the late David Baldrick, and David Walker of Carrowmullan, Fahan, in January.
Mr Baldrick, objecting through his legal representatives, said the council hadn’t made any “substantive attempt to reach agreement on the purchase of the site”, and no offer was made.
He said the CPO represents a disproportionate and unnecessary interference with the constitutionally protected rights of the registered landowners.
Both Mr Baldrick and Mr Walker say that the council hasn’t met the threshold of proceeding to CPO as it hadn’t demonstrated there are no suitable alternatives, nor had all the alternatives been properly considered.
The inspector presiding at the hearing will prepare a report on his overall findings, and present it to the board of An Bord Pleanála next month for a decision on whether the CPO can proceed.
The search for a site for the three-school campus, which will host more than 800 students from Crana College, Gaelscoil Bhun Cranncha and Coláiste Chineál Eoghain, has been ongoing since 2006.
Highlighting a map produced by the council in 2015 that had identified nine potential sites, Mr Walker and Mr Baldrick suggest there are at least three suitable alternative sites. These are namely, the former Fruit of the Loom site at Ballymacarry, a site opposite the property under CPO and a potential new site, outside the town near Cockhill chapel.
Their submissions note that the Fruit of the Loom site was previously a preferred site and discussions with the owner reached an advanced stage in 2018, only for a third party to subsequently buy it.
They say it is not clear why a CPO wasn’t deemed suitable then, or since, to acquire the site which is currently used for the production of smokeless fuel.
The objectors also highlight a site across the road from the proposed CPO site. That site is adjacent to the General’s shop and contains McGonagle’s bus yard.
They also note a parcel of land that is currently on the market near Cockhill chapel as being a potentially suitable site.
Mr Baldrick’s submission also notes that, if the CPO were to proceed, the beneficiaries of the late David Baldrick’s will won’t be able to avail of agriculture/business relief on their inheritance which will result in a very significant financial penalty through an increased capital acquisitions tax liability.
An Bord Pleanála is expected to make a decision on the CPO in May.