Wicklow People - - NEWS -

COUN­CIL­LORS have raised con­cerns over the po­ten­tial im­pli­ca­tions of the sale of Ard­more Studios and the ac­qui­si­tion of a sep­a­rate share­hold­ing which was owned by En­ter­prise Ire­land.

Wick­low County Coun­cil will write to the new own­ers and in­vite them to the Coun­cil Cham­ber so they can out­line their plans for Ard­more.

The stu­dio has been bought by some of the share­hold­ers of Troy Studios in Lim­er­ick. Cllr Joe Be­han won­dered if the deal had proved ben­e­fi­cial to the tax payer.

‘On the face of it things look en­cour­ag­ing and the new own­ers are com­mit­ted to re­tain­ing the site as a stu­dio, which is of huge im­por­tance to the county and for peo­ple work­ing in the film in­dus­try,’ said Cllr Be­han. ‘How­ever I have con­cerns over the Gov­ern­ment sell­ing the re­main­ing State stake in the stu­dio to these buy­ers. There is spec­u­la­tion that the Gov­ern­ment wrote off debts owed to the state as part of the deal. It cer­tainly ap­pears very gen­er­ous to the buy­ers. I would like to know what amount of re­ceived by the tax­payer and why was it sold? Re­cently enough the Min­is­ter of the time promised Oireach­tas mem­bers that they would be in­formed be­fore any de­ci­sion to sell was made. That didn’t hap­pen.’

Cllr Be­han out­lined fur­ther con­cerns that the studios in Bray could lose out to Lim­er­ick.

He said: ‘I am wor­ried that at some point in time we will get a re­quest from the own­ers say­ing there is mas­sive ca­pac­ity in Lim­er­ick but they need to sell off some space on Bray to ex­pand. I’m con­cerned part of Ard­more could be lost.’

Cllr Be­han pro­posed that the Coun­cil would never agree to any rezoning of the site to any­thing other than film mak­ing.

Cllr Ni­cola Lawless echoed Cllr Be­han’s sen­ti­ments.

‘It’s dis­ap­point­ing that the State sold their shares off. It still re­mains a film stu­dio now, and I wel­come that, but we don’t know what might come down the road. There is also spec­u­la­tion that it’s not owned by Troy Studios in full. It’s my be­lief, and I could be proved wrong, that only one Di­rec­tor was in­volved in buy­ing this.’

Cllr Steven Matthews said the elected mem­bers had al­ready gave a com­mit­ment to en­sure the land re­mains zoned for film use in all lo­cal area plans.

How­ever, he warned that there were other av­enues open to the de­vel­op­ment of the site which could avoid hav­ing to pass through the nor­mal plan­ning process.

‘The land is now pri­vately owned. At the mo­ment, if you are look­ing to build a large num­ber of units you can go di­rectly to An Bord Pleanála, who can over­turn a Lo­cal Area Plan. We have done as much as we can by re­fus­ing to re­zone but that doesn’t mean it is cast in stone.’

Cllr Pat Vance ex­pressed dis­ap­point­ment in Min­is­ter Si­mon Har­ris’ lack of in­volve­ment on the mat­ter.

‘I am amazed. We have a Min­is­ter of Health in­volved in ev­ery­thing else, writ­ing to ev­ery­one about St Paul’s, yet when you have some­thing in­volv­ing hun­dreds of jobs and millions to the Wick­low econ­omy, you hear noth­ing from him, at least not as far as I am aware.’

He also ex­pressed fears over jobs be­ing fil­tered out of Bray to Lim­er­ick. THE IS­SUE re­gard­ing the de­mol­ish­ment of St Paul’s Lodge in Bray was raised once again by Cllr Bren­dan Thorn­hill, but he failed to re­ceive a sec­on­der over a pro­posal for a sus­pen­sion of stand­ing or­ders.

A spe­cial meet­ing was held last week which lasted for close to two and a half hours, with the mat­ter hav­ing al­ready been dis­cussed for over two hours at March’s monthly meet­ing.

Cllr Thorn­hill re­quested a sus­pen­sion of stand­ing or­ders at the start of Mon­day’s meet­ing, re­fer­ring to le­gal ad­vice re­ceived from Health Min­is­ter Si­mon Har­ris over St Paul’s. He added that he had emailed the Coun­cil Cathaoir­leach, Cllr Ed­ward Tim­mins in ad­vance about the re­quest and had also texted him.

Cllr Tim­mins replied that he never re­ceived the email. He had re­ceived a text from Cllr Thorn­hill which made ref­er­ence to an ear­lier email and Cllr Tim­mins sent a text back in­form­ing the Bray Coun­cil­lor that he never re­ceived the ini­tial email.

Cllr Tim­mins asked that Cllr Thorn­hill ex­plain the rea­son he was re­quest­ing a sus­pen­sion of stand­ing or­ders so it could be put on record.

Cllr Thorn­hill said an email had been cir­cu­lated over a con­flict of in­ter­est in­volv­ing one Coun­cil­lor who was present dur­ing the vote to pass a Part 8 on March 12.

‘This Coun­cil­lor played a prom­i­nent role over St Paul’s Lodge. He spoke and he voted,’ said Cllr Thorn­hill.

He fur­ther claimed that the un­named Coun­cil­lor in ques­tion worked for a HR com­pany who pro­vided ser­vices for staff at Wick­low County Coun­cil and should have ex­empted them­selves from the meet­ing on March 12.

Cllr Thorn­hill didn’t re­ceive a sec­on­der for the sus­pen­sion of stand­ing or­ders and the meet­ing pro­ceeded.

How­ever, min­utes later Cllr Thorn­hill in­ter­jected to ask would his pro­posal for a sus­pen­sion of stand­ing or­ders be ac­cepted. The Cathaoir­leach told him it couldn’t be­cause no one had sec­onded the pro­posal.

Cllr Pat Fitzger­ald called for the meet­ing to con­tinue. ‘The Cathaoir­leach asked Cllr Thorn­hill what he wanted the sus­pen­sion of stand­ing or­ders for and it was then put to the meet­ing.

‘It didn’t have a sec­on­der so it can’t go ahead. The Cathaoir­leach dealt with it fairly in a con­cise and pre­cise man­ner,’ said Cllr Fitzger­ald.

Jonathan Rhys Mey­ers in The Tu­dors, which was filmed at Ard­more.

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