Sparks fly over Rathdowney factory

Councillors clashed in county hall this week over plans to use a vacant factory in Rathdowney to scrap old computers and other electronic items.

Councillors clashed in county hall this week over plans to use a vacant factory in Rathdowney to scrap old computers and other electronic items.

Laois County Council had recommended that the former Sandvik factory and yard on the Johnstown Road, Rathdowney be sold to John Gerard Mooney, Main St, Rathdowney for €91,110. Mr Rooney is also buying land beside to the factory from the council for €13,001.

However, Cllr Brendan Phelan asked the council what was the factory to be used for and had the sale of the land been put out to tender.

Keiran Kehoe, Planning said the buyer had applied to the council for a waste permit for a WEEE recycling facility. Mr Kehoe said that the company intended to take in old computers, strip them down and send the various parts across the world.

He said the factory and the land had been advertised late last year and three tenders had been received.

Cllr John King, who lives in Rathdowney said that this was good news for the town. He complimented Mr Rooney for having the initiative to start the business in difficult times. Cllr King said there was a desperate need for jobs in the town and the recycling plant will create three jobs initially, and a further seven jobs in the next 12 months.

“146 people applied for a caretakers job in the school and 50 people applied for a position with the fire service. There is a desperate need for jobs,” he said.

Cllr Phelan said he was not against the jobs being created, but he said the factory was near a housing estate and no one had been consulted. He said the transfer of the factory and lands should be postponed for one month to allow the owner to explain what he intended to do with the factory.

“This is right beside a housing estate. I’m not against creating jobs and I would support it if it had no impact.”

Mr Kehoe said there was two separate proposals, the one before the councillors was to dispose of the land to Mr Rooney, who had also applied to the council for a waste permit.

“That’s a public process and if it gets the go ahead it would be conditioned and monitored.”

Cllr King said he found it hard to listen to Cllr Phelan, who he said objected to everything in Rathdowney. Annoyed at the Fine Gael councillor’s remarks, Cllr Phelan called on Cllr King to back his statement up, adding that he was not objecting.

“It’s marvellous to have a man to take this on without people objecting for the sake of objecting,” Cllr King continued.

The County Manager said it suited the council to get rid of the factory and adjoining land.

“For us to maintain the factory would require significant investment, that we don’t have. It suits us to go to the market and for a private person to take ownership,” he said.

Cllr Phelan asked the Manager why he could not lease it for one year, with an option to buy if there were jobs created and no impact on the surrounding area.

Mr Carey said the council had looked at all the options.

Still angered by Cllr King’s comments, the Donaghmore councillor said he came from a large family who had created jobs all over the country with no help from the Government.