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23rd November 1999
Minutes of Meeting of Strabane District Council held in the Council Chamber, Council Offices, 47 Derry Road, Strabane on Tuesday 23 November 1999 at 7.30 pm
Present:- In the Chair:- Councillor I Murtagh Other Members:- Councillors Mrs A Bell, I Barr, D A Bresland, M Conway, J Donnell, J Emery, D Hussey, T Kerrigan, T McBride, C McHugh, E McMenamin, J McNulty, J O’Kane, E Turner MBE Total = 15
In Attendance:- Mr M White - Planning Service
Messrs Farren, Morris & Gormley – Riverside
Community Association, Newtownstewart
Mrs S Burnside, Ms I Duddy, Ms E McCaffrey,
Mr N Orr, Dr Fulton – Altnagelvin Health & Social
Clerk & Chief Executive, Clerk & Chief Executive, Committee Clerk
It was agreed, on the proposal of Councillor Barr, seconded by Councillor McHugh, that item nos. 10, 11 and 17 on the agenda be taken after item nos. 1 and 2.
Letter from Secretary of State
The Chairman quoted from letter received from the Secretary of State, Mr Mandelson, in which he explained that due to other urgent business he was unable to visit Strabane on 12 November and to also participate in the switching on of the Christmas lights. The Chairman explained that a public statement had been read out at the switching on of the lights. This was noted.
Letter of Appreciation
The Chairman informed Members that he had received a letter of appreciation from Mr Endicott’s secretary, Rylda, Foundation for Sports and the Arts, expressing appreciation for the Council’s gift and hoped to visit the Strabane area in the future. This was noted.
Mr White presented the planning schedule for the month of November, a copy of which was previously circulated. Discussion ensued with particular reference to the following:-
J/97/0246 – Mr Stephen Moore, 40m North East of 20 Castlebane Road, Castlederg
Mr White advised that an alternative site had been agreed. It was agreed that this application be refused.
J/98/0241 – 2nd Tyrone Scouts, Site to Rear of 16 Meadow Crescent, Sion Mills
Mr White advised that the outstanding matters had now been resolved and the application was being recommended for approval. Councillor McBride welcomed the decision. This was noted.
J/98/0321 – Julie Duffy, Approx. 22m South of 4 Carrricklee Road, Strabane
Mr White advised that this application tied in with another application and the applicant was reverting to the original approval. He explained that the applicant was agreeable to a refusal being issued on this application. Councillor O’Kane concurred with these remarks.
J/99/0237, J/99/0238 & J/99/0239 –Samuel Ernest O’Neill, Site Nos 1, 2 & 3, Beside No. 148 Duncastle Road, Donemana
Mr White explained that these three sites were adjacent to each other and were being recommended for refusal on the grounds of lack of integration, ribbon development and change in rural character. It was agreed, on the proposal of Councillor Donnell, that an office meeting be held with the Divisional Planning Manager.
J/99/0319 – Mr William Mealiff, Site 34 Lampton Court, Strabane
It was noted that a refusal would be issued in respect of this application.
J/99/0333 – Mr & Mrs Noel McIlfatrick, Land 280m SW of 74 Donagheady Road, Bready, Strabane
Councillor Donnell welcomed the Department’s change of opinion to approval.
J/99/0249 – Mr James Byrne, 17 Tullycar Road, Castlederg
It was agreed, on the proposal of Councillor O’Kane, that a site meeting be held.
J/99/0293 – MD Properties, 104-108 Main Street, Strabane
It was noted that a refusal would be issued in respect of this application.
J/99/0221 – Mr Damian Connelly, 120m North of 73 Lurganbuoy Road, Castlederg
It was agreed, on the proposal of Councillor McHugh, that a site meeting be held.
J/1999/0440/O – J Mccauley, Adjacent to 21 Tullymoan Road, Clady, Strabane
It was agreed, on the proposal of Councillor Mrs Bell, that a site meeting be held.
J/1999/0454/O – R Scobie, Adjacent to No. 9 Carrickatane Road, Donemana
It was agreed, on the proposal of Councillor Bresland, that a site meeting be held.
J/1999/0468/O – Mr J McCourt, Land 20m West of 82 Ballyheather Road, Strabane
It was agreed, on the proposal of Councillor Bresland, that a site meeting be held.
J/98/0071 – Mr Charles McHugh, Provision of Playing Fields and Associated Car Parking and Formation of Vehicular Access at Derg View, Killeter, Castlederg
Councillor McHugh declared an interest in this appeal hearing. It was noted that the hearing was scheduled for 22 December 1999 at 10.30 am in Strabane District Council Offices.
The Planning Schedule was adopted on the proposal of Councillor O’Kane, seconded by Councillor McBride, subject to the foregoing.
Development Land Availability Monitor
Members considered Housing Land Availability Summary Report for 1998, copy of which was previously circulated.
Discussion ensued during which Councillor O’Kane enquired if this was a lead up to the West Tyrone Area Plan. Mr White advised that it was not, but was the Annual House Monitor carried out by the Department. Councillor O’Kane further enquired if this information would be taken into account in respect of demarcation lines recognising the availability of land in these areas. Mr White stated that the Area Plan was an exhaustive process and these figures would form part of it.
Reference was made by Councillor Donnell to the Omagh Division and in particular to 19 hectares of land on the Castletown Road which can not be developed prior to the construction of the Strabane by-pass.
Councillor Turner commented that zoning did not result in land being developed. He felt that the Council should address the increase in rural housing being allocated through "Shaping Our Future" and Mr Glass had agreed to take account of this. He urged that a more realistic approach be taken in relation to the Area Plan e.g. zoning could be designated around Newtownstewart but there was no obligation to build. Mr White remarked that it was available potential.
Councillor Barr referred to 7 hectares on the Curlyhill Road which was also constrained due to the requirement of road upgrading. He remarked that two years previously a planning application for major housing development in that area was refused on the grounds of the suitability of the road. The Council should request the upgrading of the roadway. The same also applied to the Castletown Road. He referred to the Chancellors Initiative and the shelving of the sale of Belfast Port. Apart from the need for the upgrading of the A5, he stated that the last phase of the by-pass was urgently needed. He also felt that the Council should highlight that whilst the need for housing continued to grow in Strabane, the failure of the DOE to complete the by-pass will result in this area i.e. 19 hectares of land on the Castletown Road, not being available for development.
Councillor Barr proposed that the Council once again write to the Secretary of State highlighting the concerns which have already been expressed to Lord Dubs re. his assurances to Council in February. It should also be pointed out that insofar as this would have resulted in the completion of the by-pass, the Council considers it absolutely essential to have this completed. Regardless of the position regarding the Assembly or the sale of Belfast Port, there was an obligation on the Secretary of State and his Ministers to ensure that Roads Service received the required funding to complete the by-pass. The estimated completion date had already passed.
In seconding the proposal, Councillor McBride remarked that one arm of Government which was attempting to develop Strabane was being held back by another arm.
The Chief Executive reminded Members that the Council was currently awaiting a meeting with Lord Dubs on the Strabane by-pass. With regard to Councillor McBride’s comments, he pointed out that Roads Service and Planning Service were in fact two arms of the same Department.
Councillor O’Kane commented that elected representatives could not "sell Strabane" if it did not have the roads infrastructure.
Councillor Barr indicated that he would be willing to put his proposal on hold until the Council received a reply from Lord Dubs. This was agreed.
Planning Applications – December 1999
In response to a query by Councillor McBride, Mr White advised that the usual planning schedule would be prepared for the month of December. Applications recommended for approval and having no objections would be issued, however, those with objections would be regarded as being deferred and would be brought before Council in January 2000. This was agreed.
Deputation from Riverside Community Association, Newtownstewart
The Chairman, on behalf of the Council, welcomed the representatives of the above Association and invited them to make their presentation.
Members were advised that the Newtownstewart Development Association was proposing to build a Sports Centre at Moyle Road, Newtownstewart. 95% of the people of the area were objecting to the proposed development on the grounds of disturbance to elderly people who resided nearby and this was a residential area and a lot of noise would be generated. Also, a fireman lived nearby and it was feared that his access could be blocked by cars parking in front of his entry. Planning Service had not met with their Community Association. There were fears that alcohol would be consumed by those visiting the hall and this could cause disturbance in the area. There were also a number of carry-outs in the area which could cause a nuisance, particularly to the elderly people. The proposed development would be located close to the main road and could prove hazardous particularly to young children. It was contended that five halls were already located in Newtownstewart and were not fully used.
Councillor Turner advised that at the outset of the meeting he had spoken with Mr White, Planning official, who was of the opinion that planning permission had been granted for the application by Newtownstewart Development Association. The representatives stated that petitions of objection had been submitted to Planning Service, however, there had been no contact from the Planning Office since then. Councillor O’Kane advised that the Riverside Association had the option to appeal the decision to the Planning Appeals Commission. In response to a query by Councillor Hussey, the representatives stated that there had been no communication between the Newtownstewart Development Association and Riverside Community Association.
Lengthy discussion ensued during which Members explained the procedure whereby objections to a planning application should be submitted within the statutory period for receipt of representations which should be taken into consideration by Planning Service. The procedures for neighbourhood notification was also outlined. Following a query by Councillor Emery, it was confirmed that two objections had been submitted by Planning Service following neighbourhood notification letters. Councillor Barr suggested that in the event that an applicant did not consult with community groups or residents in an area re. proposed development, that contact could be made with the respective funding bodies to highlight any major objections to the development. He advised that details of the respective funding bodies would have been incorporated in the feasibility study and business plan.
Councillor Turner proposed that Newtownstewart Development Association be requested to meet with the Riverside Community Association to discuss the proposed development and clarify the various points raised. He explained that he had been approached by a number of people regarding the petition some time ago and had indicated that he was a Council representative on the Newtownstewart Development Association.
Reference was made by Councillor Kerrigan to the presentation by Newtownstewart Development Association to Council and suggested that there may have been change of use of premises. He seconded Councillor Turner’s proposal in that a meeting be set up.
A number of Members also supported a meeting. Councillor Donnell suggested that the Divisional Planning Manager or a senior Planning official should be present at the meeting. Councillor McHugh also supported a meeting which should address the objections and the apparent lack of communication between the various groups regarding developments in Newtownstewart.
It was unanimously agreed that a meeting be arranged with the Newtownstewart Development Association to discuss the proposed development. It was further agreed that clarification be sought from Planning Service with regard to the petitions of objections submitted.
The Chairman thanked the representatives for their presentation and they responded accordingly and left the meeting at this point.
The Minutes of the Meeting of the Economic Development Committee held on 1 November 1999 were adopted as a true record, on the proposal of Councillor Kerrigan, seconded by Councillor McHugh.
Page 1 – Sympathy
Councillor McBride expressed appreciation for the sympathy extended by the Council on the recent death of his mother-in-law.
Page 2 – Leap/Best Value Review
The Chief Executive advised that the Economic Development Officer had been liaising with the Consultants. The Focus group would now be held on 7 December 1999 and the conference had been provisionally arranged for January 2000. He further explained that he had discussed the possibility of organising a joint conference programme with Strabane District Partnership.
Page 2 – Council Branding
The Chief Executive informed Members that four tenders had been received and interviews were scheduled for 2 December 1999.
Pages 2 & 3 – ERDF Additional Funding Proposal
The Chief Executive advised that it was anticipated that £13,000 would be forthcoming under this proposal, however, a letter of confirmation was still awaited. He reminded Members that one of the applications referred to the Strabane 2000 project and another to a marketing project i.e. appointment of an officer to assist with communication. He felt that it would be more beneficial to direct funding to the Strabane 2000 project, however, Council’s consideration could await formal notification of funding.
Pages 1 & 2 – Castlederg ABSAG
Councillor McHugh enquired whether Mr Nugent had confirmed in writing the areas involved and the Chief Executive advised that this was still awaited.
Page 3 – IDB Meeting
Reference was made by Councillor O’Kane to Mr Loughran’s remarks in that if an inward investor could not be secured then IDB would consider a local investor. He stated that he was aware of a local investor who could provide 25 jobs. The Chief Executive confirmed that there had been ongoing contact with IDB particularly in relation to taking forward the project and suggested that a formal commitment or indication be made by the local investor to the IDB or the Council.
Councillor O’Kane stated that the investor had spent between £5-7,000 on a presentation following discussions with Mr Chowney, the Economic Development Officer, himself and others. Mr Robinson had given an undertaking to investigate the matter further but to date there had been no feedback.
Councillor Turner queried whether the Council’s web site had been updated. In response the Chief Executive advised that amendments had been made accordingly. In an effort to upgrade the site, it was being suggested that a review be carried out so as to ensure that it accommodated both present day and future requirements. A project team/working group was being set up comprising Officers and it would be beneficial to have a number of elected representatives also involved. Councillor Turner voiced his support for this course of action. He spoke of the effectiveness of other Council’s web sites including those outside NI.
In response to a query, the Chief Executive explained that Strabane District Council was one of the leading Councils to establish a web site and it had been designed "in house". It was anticipated that the working group could examine the possibility of appointing specialists to assist in the development of the site and that funding would be forthcoming through the Economic Development budget.
Councillor Emery enquired the update regarding brochures at Derry City Airport and the Chief Executive advised that the Chief Recreation Officer was following this up.
Councillor Kerrigan queried if the IDB had produced the figures relating to the Strabane area over the last five years. In response the Chief Executive advised that he had recently met with two IDB officials in order to pursue the skills audit work. In relation to IDB’s input to the Strabane area he explained that a copy of their annual report had been obtained and would be placed in the Members’ Library. He remarked that the report should include details of visits to the advance factory in Orchard Road and investment in the Strabane area over the past few years. He advised that he had spoken with Mr Robinson regarding the promotion of the district and had suggested that the skills, including IT skills, should be focused on.
With regard to enticing people into the area, Councillor O’Kane reiterated his comments in that the roads infrastructure was severely lacking and that strong representations should be made to Lord Dubs.
It was agreed, on the proposal of Councillor McBride, seconded by Councillor McMenamin, that consultants be appointed to review the Council’s web site and to ensure that it satisfied current and anticipated requirements. In response to a query by Councillor McHugh as to estimated costs for Consultants, the Chief Executive explained that this could be in the region of £10-20,000 and a report would be brought through the Economic Development Committee outlining the requirements and tenders would be sought accordingly.
Councillor McHugh queried if Councillors could receive instruction on IT technology and the Chief Executive stated that this could be accommodated.
Reference was made by Councillor O’Kane to the dossier which had been drawn up in 1987 following the Economic Development conference and was to be given to potential investors. He requested that this dossier also be given to local investors. This was agreed.
Representatives from Altnagelvin Hospitals Health & Social Services Trust
To discuss Acute Services Review
The Chairman, on behalf of the Council, welcomed the representatives of the Trust and invited them to make their presentation.
On behalf of the delegation, Mrs Burnside explained that they wished to remind the Council of the strategic position of Altnagelvin with regard to the provision of acute services. Altnagelvin Hospital was the major district hospital for the North West of Ireland and was the most significant hospital outside Belfast and it was essential that this position was secured. The UK Government was proposing changes which would make hospitals accountable for the quality of their care and hospitals and trusts had a statutory responsibility for their finances. The statutory duty of quality was one of the most significant changes in thinking about health care. Awaiting the outcome of discussions on the Assembly had resulted in NI falling behind on the wider UK agenda for health care.
Measurable standards of care was important. The majority of guidelines produced by the Royal Colleges of Nursing and Physicians were stating that sufficient numbers of patients must be dealt with by hospitals in order to ensure that the staff became expert and remained at that level. The review of cancer services was a typical example. The Royal Colleges of Nursing and Physicians set the standards and determined whether these were being met. Many standards and benchmarks had already been set i.e. over the past 10 years a national enquiry was undertaken into deaths following operations. This had shown that operations in emergencies should only be undertaken in appropriate hospitals with sufficient expertise. These were the type of standards which were the driving policies for acute hospitals to be rationalised.
The density and scale of the population determined where and when a major acute hospital was provided. Altnagelvin was the largest hospital outside Belfast as it had the greatest scale and density of population and in the island of Ireland it had the fourth largest. In the event that the population base was not maintained to justify an acute hospital, the scale of the hospital would be reduced. Including the population of the Strabane area resulted in Altnagelvin justifying the staffing level with the appropriate level of expertise. It was stressed that in the event that this scale of hospital was not maintained, effectively a major acute hospital would not be provided outside Belfast.
Craigavon Area Hospital performed 10,000 operations per year whilst Altnagelvin Hospital had 14,000 operations per year. Altnagelvin had a higher density of population and had the proper mix of the main specialties and a link clinically with its colleagues in Belfast. In terms of the Strabane district, links with other small hospitals and large hospitals ensured that the population only travelled when it needed and the clinics were provided in other places. Strabane had a local service provided by local doctors and nurses and also an out of hours service. Out-patient clinics were provided in both Strabane and Mourneside Health Centres and these had been increased over the past 5 years. The people of Strabane were served by Altnagelvin Hospital. There were critical links between GPs and hospitals. Technological links also ensured that people could be treated at a local level without being moved unnecessarily. Links were continuing to develop between Altnagelvin, Coleraine, Erne and Omagh Hospitals. Links of the future were best practice between specialists and hospitals.
On a point of clarification from Councillor Hussey, Mrs Burnside advised that there was a facility whereby radiological pictures were sent from the Erne to Altnagelvin. Serious breaks in limbs were dealt with in the Royal Victoria Hospital or if not dealt with at that hospital, they were referred to Altnagelvin. Such cases would be dealt with increasingly in Altnagelvin on the recruitment of an Orthopaedic surgeon.
Reference was made by Councillor McHugh to the Castlederg area. He queried whether the proposed greenfield site would impinge on or assist with the services provided by Altnagelvin. Mrs Burnside stated that whether or not there was a newbuild, it was not an issue for Altnagelvin. Any newbuild would be a new local hospital and would not be a new major acute hospital as there was not the population base to support same. Currently people were well served with their local hospital in Omagh and Enniskillen but these two hospitals could not survive separately. Altnagelvin would still work with their colleagues in any new local hospital.
Councillor McHugh queried if the officials were completely neutral about the whole debate about a greenfield site for a hospital. Mrs Burnside stated that it was not a matter of any great significance to their organisation whether it was a new building. It was significant, however, that the local hospital would link with Altnagelvin. It was not a matter of the building but of the clinical services which had to be linked.
Councillor Barr welcomed the delegation. In so far as the future of Altnagelvin as a hospital and its future was concerned, he remarked that the Strabane area had been traditionally served by Altnagelvin. He felt that every effort would be made to ensure that Altnagelvin continued to provide its current level of services and also that it would be elevated to being one of the major acute hospitals in NI. During the debate re. the future of the Tyrone County Hospital and the Erne, he stated that there was some speculation that there was a "hidden agenda" and that there may not be an acute hospital on a greenfield site. Further clarification on what was intended was required. He felt that in the event that a new hospital materialised, this could result in the South West of NI together with the North West as the catchment area for Altnagelvin. They may allow for the level and quality of the health care services to be further enhanced if it was necessary to have a bigger catchment area to ensure clinical excellence.
Councillor Barr referred to media reports in England whereby there was a claim that the quality of care received was determined by the hospital to which you were admitted. On average, 1 out of 5 admissions to intensive care units resulted in fatalities. In some other hospitals, the ratio could be 3 out of 5. He enquired if any of the deputation was aware of this claim and in the worst scenario, how Altnagelvin compared in relation to the hospitals in England which have the highest level of care.
Dr Fulton indicated that he was aware of this media report. He explained that by definition of hospitals, half were below average. Intensive care was very expensive and demanding and its success rate depended on the type and nature of the patients’ conditions. He commented that Altnagelvin could not be compared with the national figures as it was not included in the audit. He was of the opinion, however, that Altnagelvin on average would be satisfactory. A new intensive care unit had just been opened. A high dependency unit was also being provided at Altnagelvin and invited Members to visit the site.
Mrs Burnside also confirmed that the audit was not undertaken in NI, although Altnagelvin had taken appropriate steps. Audits such as this, however would be undertaken in the future. The Audit Commission had pointed out a certain amount of work which had to be undertaken and the scale of the population which justified staffing levels. There were four intensive care beds in the Intensive Care Unit and she explained the staffing requirements. Altnagelvin had two Consultants who were specialists in Intensive Care. It was hoped that Altnagelvin could become an Intensive Care Training Unit.
Councillor Kerrigan also welcomed the delegation. He explained that he came from the rural area of Castlederg which had suffered major setbacks over the years. The travel distances were a major problem and also the direction in which to travel for health care. The Castlederg area appeared to be geared towards travelling to Belfast for major surgery. He felt that there was a hesitation in doctors and surgeons taking up posts in the North West in preference to Belfast. He spoke of the downgrading of services in Castlederg and Strabane and the importance of the services of the Tyrone County Hospital over the years. He supported the linking of services. He commented that the report of Social Care Review for 1998/99 identified Strabane as a deprived area in NI and 36.7 % of the householders had no car in comparison with a NI average of 35.5%. He spoke of the high unemployment rate and supported Altnagelvin having a 5th intensive care bed.
Councillor McBride enquired whether any potential hospital on a greenfield site had been cleared as a "local" hospital. Certainly elsewhere it was more commonly referred to as an "acute" hospital. In response Mrs Burnside commented that the Western Board’s review of acute services stated that it would be a local hospital which would provide the local range of services. She was of the opinion that people may not be interpreting the report as clearly as it was intended. A local hospital did not require an inter-related set of disciplines to be brought together but could link with those specialists. It could provide good local services i.e. mainly minor injuries, but would not deal with major trauma or major surgery.
Councillor McBride remarked that he was aware of other interpretations as to whether it was a "local" or "acute" hospital which was being discussed with reference to Omagh and Fermanagh.
Dr Fulton advised that he had been involved in the Acute Services Review and had sought clarification on a "local hospital". The core services were listed as accident and emergency, maternity, general medicine, general surgery but no specialist surgery i.e. orthopaedic etc.
Councillor McBride remarked that the need for numbers to acquire the experience for the number of operations had been put forward strongly but also the geographical travel distance was important. He felt it was also important that this was properly balanced. With regard to cancer care and the need for quality care, he understood that the UK and NI did not fair well in European terms and any improvements were welcomed. He felt that although the population size was important, input of funds was equally important and in his view these were insufficient. Mrs Burnside acknowledged that NI and Britain were close to the bottom of the European league in terms of outcome for cancer treatment and it was essential that this was tackled. Within the NHS – treatment was free at the point of need. The share of GDP in Britain going into health care was half of that in many other European countries. Councillor McBride contended that the Labour government had not permitted proper debates in relation to the future of the National Health Service. He also contended that Trusts had to set budgets with an element of competition between each other rather than forcefully putting the arguments for more funds in total.
Ms McCaffrey remarked that another issue had to be addressed. The WH&SSB had the lowest proportion of its budget of any of the Health Boards spent on acute hospitals i.e. 37%. The RVH spent over 40% of its budget on acute care. Effectively a person had to be more seriously ill to get into hospital in this area than in others. There had been many requests for this to be increased and funding to be comparable to the other Boards but as yet with no positive outcome. In the event that an acute hospital was provided in the Southern Board, this could result in the withdrawal of some of the services provided at Altnagelvin.
Councillor McBride contended that this argument had not been well aired in a political context. He also contended that a lot of things were now "falling between stools" with so much of the political energy in NI directed at making the Assembly work. The difficulties in farming as highlighted earlier in the week was another good example of this.
Councillor Emery welcomed the delegation. He indicated his concern at the growing waiting lists for operations. In response, Mrs Burnside stated that this issue had been addressed in the points raised by Councillor McBride. There were long waiting lists in Altnagelvin, however, the surgeons were performing as many operations per session as their counterparts and indeed in some instances more than anywhere else in NI. There were short levels of stay in hospital. There were insufficient funds to employ additional staff to treat patients. Unless the Western Board enlisted more staff and Government expenditure as a totality increased, there would continue to be waiting lists. Councillor Emery remarked that he acknowledged that Government funding was the problem.
Councillor McMenamin welcomed the delegation. He expressed concern that lack of the proper infrastructure may cause major difficulties, particularly in relation to ambulances. Mrs Burnside commented that the ambulance, relative the emergency type service was crucial. The Charter stated that 95% of emergencies were responded to inside the target time across the rural and urban areas. The use of mobile phones had improved response time. The review of the ambulance services, emergency retrieval systems and the GPs also link to this.
Councillor Hussey welcomed the delegation. He remarked that the funding of health and social services needed to be examined closely. He felt that the major element was the way in which the Government was funded as this had operated on an inflationary basis in the past. He advised that he had attended a meeting earlier that afternoon with Mr Frawley who outlined the under-funding difficulties. Councillor Hussey stated that he had concerns with regard to the standards of the Royal Colleges which was somewhat dictatorial. He felt that the Colleges were basing situations on the South East of England and did not take into account the rural areas in NI. He voiced concern at the response time to call-outs and highlighted the significant distances involved for some people residing in particular areas throughout the district area.
Councillor Hussey referred to the cross border aspect and in particular the possible linking of cancer services by Letterkenny with Belfast rather than Altnagelvin. He remarked that Donegal had a low percentage of S.T.D.s and sought the views of the delegation on the split site provision for the South West region. He referred to the division in the Strabane District Council area between the two Trusts. He also referred to the links available between hospitals and remarked that this would enhance the split site provision. The initial point of contact prior to transfer elsewhere was of major concern and its accessibility. People were, however, prepared to travel long distances for proper treatment. There was a general feeling that there was no recognition that the Sperrin Lakeland Trust was the 7th largest unit in NI.
In response to Councillor Hussey’s queries, Mrs Burnside outlined the reasoning for the division of the area. Trusts had made no difference to the co-operation, collaboration and competition between and among professionals and District Councils. With regard to links with Letterkenny, a feasibility study had just commenced in an effort to establish joint services for the benefit of the community. Mrs Burnside voiced concern that Letterkenny had not drawn attention to its links with Belfast. The national standards in the ROI were different to those in the UK. The feasibility study should address common interests. Patients from the ROI had always been treated at Altnagelvin, as necessary.
Mr Orr advised that he had been invited to an ambulance demonstration at Altnagelvin recently and suggested that this be outlined to Council. Mrs Burnside explained that the NI Ambulance Trust was working in collaboration with a charity which was supported by the AA. The charity had been funding air ambulances in the UK on a 3 year basis. The charity would be visiting NI on Friday and had requested permission to land at Altnagelvin and also the Ulster Hospital. She understood that the outcome of the review currently being undertaken would be reported in the press and air ambulance was being examined in conjunction with other forms of transport.
Dr Fulton enquired the Council’s view on a greenfield site. The Chief Executive explained that the Council considered the review of acute hospital services prepared by the WH&SSB and made a submission to the Board in September 1999. The Council had unanimously supported one hospital on two sites and made its position clear.
Mrs Burnside commented that she was aware of the Council’s position. She indicated that she was concerned that Strabane Council three years previously had taken the decision to support Omagh and Fermanagh to undertake the Sperrin Lakeland’s own survey on acute services. She explained that it would have been beneficial if she had been given an opportunity to discuss the whole issue before it was finalised. Altnagelvin had made a submission to the effect that the two hospitals were not feasible. She suggested that Strabane District Council should not consider health without considering the implications of Altnagelvin as it was the main provider of health care.
Councillor Hussey commented that decisions should not be constrained by existing Health Board boundaries but emphasis placed on providing services for sufficient numbers of patients.
The Chairman, on behalf of the Council, thanked Mrs Burnside and the deputation for their informative and comprehensive presentation and the forthright manner in which Members’ queries were addresssed. The officials responded and left the meeting at this point.
Tenders – Refurbishment of 2 No. Units at Greenbrae Park, Strabane
Members proceeded to consider the Chief Environmental Health Officer’s report on tenders received in respect of the above, copy of which was previously circulated, together with updated report circulated at the meeting.
Councillor Hussey declared an interest in the tender received from D C Vaughan. The Chief Environmental Health Officer (CEHO) explained that tenders had been sought for the refurbishment of 2 no. units at Greenbrae but there was no response. Acting on advice from Council Officers with experience of using local contractors, builders were approached and asked to price for the following jobs (i) complete unit refurbishment and (ii) partial refurbishment with prices sought from sub contractors for plumbing, electrical, painting and kitchen.
In response to a query by Councillor McMenamin, the CEHO advised that some of the firms listed were on the current list of annual tenderers whilst others were on previous lists. The CEHO advised that there had been a typing error in the first report circulated, however, the total sums remained the same.
It was recommended that the Council engage D C Vaughan to do the building work for both units and that the sub contractors do other works as specified under supervision of Council staff. This was agreed, on the proposal of Councillor Emery, seconded by Councillor Bresland. Councillor Hussey asked to be recorded as abstaining.
The meeting adjourned for a tea break at 10.10 pm and recommenced at 10.35 pm.
Meeting with Lord Laird of Artigarvan
Councillor Turner advised Members that Councillor McMenamin and himself had met with Lord Laird of Artigarvan the previous day and had discussed difficulties experienced in enlarging the Safeway store in Strabane as a result of land acquisition problems. He suggested that a meeting be held to discuss the matter further given the potential for 100 additional jobs. Councillor Turner stated that Lord Laird had pledged to support the Strabane area given his local connections. This was noted.
It was agreed, on the proposal of Councillor Turner, that a letter of congratulations be sent to Lord Laird on this honour having been bestowed upon him.
It was further agreed, on the proposal of Councillor Emery, seconded by Councillor Mrs Bell, that a meeting be arranged with the Chairman of the Council, the two Assembly Members, Councillor Turner and a Councillor for the Glenelly area to discuss the matter further with Lord Laird and representatives of Safeway.
Councillor Barr stated that Safeway had been scheduled to make a presentation to Strabane 2000 but this did not take place. He also understood that there was a controversial issue with regard to the proposed closure of Branch Road. He supported a meeting being held as outlined above but with the proviso that the Council was not committing itself regarding the closure of this road. This was agreed.
The Notes of the Roads Service Workshop held on 8 November 1999 were adopted as a true record, on the proposal of Councillor O’Kane, seconded by Councillor Hussey, subject to the following amendment.
Page 4 – List of Schemes
Councillor Emery pointed out that Roads Service had listed a scheme for Killymore Road, Newtownstewart which should have referred to the Plumbridge Road. This was noted.
Page 8 – Orchard Road, Strabane
Councillor Emery advised that the location was McMullan’s Garage and not McMullan’s Bridge as recorded in the minutes. It was agreed that the minutes be amended accordingly.
Page 11 – Keery Road
Councillor Hussey advised that he had also requested road widening at this location. It was agreed that the minutes be amended accordingly.
The Minutes of the Meeting of the Council held on 9 November 1999 were adopted as a true record, on the proposal of Councillor O’Kane, seconded by Councillor McBride, and signed by the Chairman, subject to the following amendment.
Page 17 – Naming of Roads
Councillor McBride pointed out that the spelling of the off-shoot of the Glenelly Road should be "Glenroan". It was agreed that the minutes be amended accordingly.
Page 2 – Re-opening of Strabane Canal
In response to a query by Councillor O’Kane, the Chief Executive advised that this matter was being dealt with by the Chief Technical Officer and Chief Recreation Officer and a report would be brought back.
Page 2 – Derg Castle, Castlederg
Following a query by Councillor Emery, the Chief Executive advised that the Chief Technical Officer was dealing with this matter.
Page 3 – Bonfires
Councillor McHugh stated that the debris from the bonfire had still not been removed at Hillview Park. The Chief Executive undertook to follow this up with the Chief Technical Officer.
Page 4 – Social Security Offices
Councillor O’Kane advised that he had attended the site meeting at the Social Security Offices. This was noted.
Page 4 – Illegal Dumping at Grange Foyle Road
In response to a query by Councillor Donnell, the Chief Executive advised that he had not yet received an update on this matter.
Page 8 – GAPS
Reference was made by Councillor O’Kane to Councillor McMenamin’s comments in that there was no provision for the Arts in Strabane town. He stated that St Pat’s Hall in Strabane was capable of accommodating all functions in promoting the arts and had received many accolades regarding the facilities across a wide spectrum. The Arts Council had also used the facilities in the past and was complimentary of same. He remarked that the suggestions regarding the lack of facilities had caused dismay among many people in the town. The Chairman concurred with Councillor O’Kane’s comments. He remarked, however, that Councillor McMenamin may have been referring to a ‘purpose built’ arts facility.
Page 10 – Strabane Weekly News
Reference was made by Councillor O’Kane to the renting out of the Tourist Information Office to the Strabane Weekly News during the Winter period. He remarked that these premises were owned by the ratepayers and he had been approached by a number of people voicing concern regarding Council’s decision. He felt that there was a sufficient amount of commercial property available for rental in Strabane town and he was opposed to the Council renting out the Tourist Information Office as suggested. Councillor Barr remarked that the office would not be used by the Council during the winter period and commercial rates would be charged for its use which would result in additional income for the Council.
Page 10 – Glebe Community Association
The Chief Executive advised Members that in addition to a request being received for a Christmas tree from the Glebe Community Association, a request had also been received from Lisnafin and Ballycolman Community Associations.
On a point of clarification, Councillor McHugh queried if it was now accepted that any housing estate which requested a Christmas tree was given one or did the request have to be made through the community group. The Chief Executive urged Members to bear in mind that they may create a precedent. He explained that it was his understanding that a tree had previously been given to Ballycolman at the Chairman’s discretion. Councillor Barr suggested that the whole issue be discussed at an Audit & Staff Committee meeting. Councillor McHugh enquired if Clady was provided with a Christmas tree.
Following discussion, it was agreed, on the proposal of Councillor McBride, seconded by Councillor Barr, that Christmas trees be provided for Ballycolman and Lisnafin. It was further agreed that any further requests be considered by the Audit & Staff Committee.
Reference was made by Councillor Hussey to National Tree Week and suggested that the Council investigate the possibility of planting fir trees at suitable locations which could then be decorated at Christmas. This was agreed.
Audit & Staff Committee Meeting
The Chairman advised that the provisional date arranged for the next Audit & Staff Committee meeting was 1 December. Councillor Turner indicated that this date was not suitable and requested that a particular day be set aside for Audit & Staff Committees meetings. The Chief Executive advised that a programme for meetings was being considered and undertook to reschedule the Audit & Staff meeting.
Page 20 – Independent Commission on Policing for NI
Councillor Donnell proposed, seconded by Councillor Kerrigan, that the Council send a letter of congratulations to Superintendent Best and the Chief Constable of the RUC on being awarded the George Cross.
Discussion ensued during which Councillor McHugh stated that a letter should not be sent as the RUC was a discredited force and he felt that this would be an insult to a lot of people in the six counties. Voting took place on the proposal. A recorded vote was taken on the request of Councillor Donnell.
Councillor McHugh proposed an amendment that the Council should not send a letter to the RUC. He stated that this was a sensitive time and was a crude attempt to play to the gallery of unionism and asked that his comments be recorded. The Chairman ruled that this was a direct negative and could not be taken as an amendment.
Voting took place on the proposal and it was carried by six votes, one against and five abstentions as follows:-
FOR Councillors Bresland, Donnell, Emery, Hussey, Kerrigan, Turner
AGAINST Councillor McHugh
ABSTENTIONS Councillors Mrs Bell, Barr, McBride, Murtagh, O’Kane
Page 21 – Annual Service of Remembrance
Councillor Kerrigan advised that he had represented the Chairman in Castlederg on Remembrance Sunday. Councillor Bresland advised that he had also represented the Chairman in Donagheady. This was noted.
Page 23 – Launch of the Killen Community Development Centre
Councillor Hussey advised that he had attended the launch of the above centre and commended the outstanding performance by Killen Primary School. Councillor Hussey proposed, seconded by Councillor Emery, that a letter of congratulations be sent to the Principal paying tribute to the pupils’ performance. This was agreed.
Page 23 – DSO Dinner Dance
The Chief Executive informed Members that tickets for the DSO Dinner Dance were on sale from the Chief Technical Officer. Permission was being sought for a Council contribution of £70 towards a hamper for the Christmas draw at the dinner dance on 4 December. This was agreed, on the proposal of Councillor O’Kane, seconded by Councillor Bresland.
Page 24 – Special Council Meeting – 16 November 1999
Councillor McHugh pointed out that it had been confirmed that the Chief Administrative Officer had spoken to the Chairman regarding the arrangements for the meeting. The Chairman confirmed that this was the case and that he had not entered the details in his diary. This was noted.
It was agreed, on the proposal of Councillor Hussey, seconded by Councillor McBride, that the meeting go "Into Committee".
The Minutes of the Special Meeting of the Council held on 10 November 1999 were adopted as a true record, on the proposal of Councillor O’Kane, seconded by Councillor McBride and signed by the Chairman.
The Minutes of the Cultural and Arts Committee Meeting held on 15 November 1999 were adopted as a true record, on the proposal of Councillor O’Kane, seconded by Councillor Emery.
The Minutes of the Millennium Committee Meeting held on 15 November 1999 were adopted as a true record, on the proposal of Councillor O’Kane, seconded by Councillor Kerrigan, subject to the following amendment:-
Page 5 – Commemorative Millennium Medals
Councillor McHugh stated that he had specifically requested that a person who was born in the 19th century and who lived on Corgary Road, Castlederg, receive an award, however, this had not been recorded in the minutes. It was agreed that the minutes be amended accordingly. He explained that the person’s association with three centuries should be marked in an appropriate way and perhaps by way of a commemorative medal and photograph. He further explained that he had submitted the person’s full details to the Chief Recreation Officer. He pointed out that there would undoubtedly be other people within the Council area who should receive similar recognition. It was agreed that this be pursued.
Page 1 – Timing of Meetings
The Chief Executive informed Members that there was a statutory requirement to name the date, time and location for meetings as part of the agenda. This was noted.
Page 2 – Millennium Clocks
The Chief Executive pointed out that the Chief Recreation Officer had reported vandalism to the Millennium clock at the Camel’s Hump. Estimated costings for repairs were £850 together with £595 for replacement of the message display as before i.e. total cost £1445 exc. VAT. To replace the message display in larger form would cost £1550 exc. VAT. It was unlikely that the Council could recoup the costs incurred through vandalism through the insurance company.
Councillor O’Kane proposed, seconded by Councillor McBride, that the Council arrange for the repairs to be carried out to the clock and also the larger message display at a cost of £1550 exc. VAT. A number of Members condemned the vandalism to the clock and urged that measures be taken to prevent further vandalism. This was noted. Councillor Barr enquired whether the sponsors of the clock had paid their respective contributions and the Chief Executive undertook to pursue this matter with the Chief Recreation Officer.
Sky Rose 2000
The Chief Executive advised Members that a request had been received from Donegal Town Community Chamber for the loan of the sky beams for the Christmas switch-on on 26 November 1999.
Discussion ensued during which Councillor O’Kane requested that the Council charge commercial rates for the loan of the sky beams. Councillor Hussey concurred with these sentiments. In response to a query by Councillor Emery, the Chief Executive advised that the Council had a close relationship with this group particularly in respect of the tourism initiative. The Chief Executive commented that perhaps a nominal rather than commercial cost be charged.
Councillor O’Kane proposed, seconded by Councillor Hussey, that the Council charge a nominal fee for the loan of the equipment.
Following further discussion, Councillor Hussey withdrew his seconding of the motion. He requested that careful consideration be given to the loaning/hiring of Council equipment. The proposer, Councillor O’Kane, withdrew his proposal on the grounds that the Chief Executive had explained that this event was only for one night and in view of the close relationship which was fostered with Donegal Town Community Chamber.
It was agreed that the sky beams be loaned and that the Chief Recreation Officer report back to the Council on this issue in due course. Councillor McHugh urged that the respective community groups throughout the Council area be informed of the availability of the sky beams. This was noted.
The Chairman informed Members that he had received an invitation to the switching on ceremony in Donegal on 26 November but would be unable to attend. He indicated that he would request the Vice Chairman to attend on his behalf. This was noted.
Appointments to the Arts & Youth Councils for NI
It was agreed, on the proposal of Councillor Hussey, seconded by Councillor Kerrigan, that Councillor Turner be nominated onto these Councils.
Enterprise Development – In a New Millennium
It was agreed, on the proposal of Councillor Turner, seconded by Councillor McBride, that Councillor Hussey attend the above conference to be held in the Slieve Donard Hotel, Newcastle on 7 and 8 December 1999. It was further agreed, on the proposal of Councillor Bresland, seconded by Councillor Donnell, that Councillor Kerrigan also attend together with an Officer to be nominated by the Chief Executive. It was noted that the conference cost £244.99 per delegate.
Tyrone & Fermanagh – Meeting the Partner
The Chief Executive reminded Members that it had been previously agreed that anyone interested in attending the above conference to be held in the Silverbirch Hotel, Omagh on 29 November 1999 should do so. This was noted.
Forestry in NI: The Rural Development Regulation and NI
Members considered letter dated 11 November 1999 received from the Forest Service inviting comments on the above regulations. It was agreed, on the proposal of Councillor Barr, seconded by Councillor McBride, that the Chief Executive should submit his comments on behalf of the Council and also any Councillor wishing to comment should submit same to the Chief Executive.
Traffic Calming Measures – Strabane District Council Area
Members considered letter dated 12 November 1999 received from Roads Service advising of proposals to commence the traffic calming scheme in Ballycolman in February 2000 with completion in April 2000. The necessary points to achieve a scheme at Meetinghouse Street had not been reached but the situation would continue to be monitored. Assessments would be carried out in the Glebe, Clady and Mason Road.
Discussion ensued during which Councillor Barr remarked that the scheme at Ballycolman had moved back to February. He urged that pressure be exerted on the relevant authorities in respect of Meetinghouse Street. Councillor O’Kane stated that a number of accidents had occurred over the past few weeks at Meetinghouse Street. He expressed concern at the dangers which school children in the area were exposed to given the high volume of traffic.
It was agreed, on the proposal of Councillor O’Kane, seconded by Councillor Barr, that a meeting be held and the area revisited and the views of the residents taken on board.
NI Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux
Members considered letter dated 11 November 1999 received from the above group expressing appreciation for the Council’s continuing support and enclosing its annual report for 1998/99. It was agreed that the Annual Report be placed in the Members’ library for perusal by interested Members.
Equality Commission for NI – Consultation Document
It was agreed that the above document be noted and that any Members wishing to comment should submit same to the Chief Executive. The Chief Executive reminded Members of an associated seminar to be held in the Everglades Hotel on 29 November 1999 at 2.00 pm which had no delegate’s fee.
Update by Chief Executive on Provision of Library/Resource Centre
The Chief Executive advised Members that in view of the late hour i.e. 11.45 pm, he would give a brief verbal update. He explained that he had written to Mr McFall on 2 September 1999 as agreed by Council. He had met informally with Officers of the WELB and DENI on a number of occasions to discuss the project however, while a formal commitment had not yet been received, it had been suggested that a funding package of £750,000 could be made available by DENI. There were opportunities through New Opportunities Funding for additional funding to support life long learning. He suggested that the project could accommodate civic provision, arts provision and neutral space.
It was being suggested that a Special Council meeting be held to discuss the issue further with Mr Peter Hunter in attendance to give a presentation on the library project in terms of the Strabane 2000 project. The Council may also wish to set up a Committee to deal with this issue.
It had also been suggested that the Council may wish to visit various library facilities in order to gain an appreciation of modern libraries. This had now been scheduled for 6 December 1999.
It was agreed, on the proposal of Councillor Barr, seconded by Councillor O’Kane, that the Chief Executive arrange a Special Council meeting to discuss this issue further at which time the establishing of a Committee could also be discussed. It was further agreed that arrangements be made for a visit to library facilities incorporating arts provision and that Mr Hunter be involved, if possible.
The Chief Executive advised that Mr Hunter would be attending a meeting of Strabane 2000 on 1 December and suggested that the Special Council meeting be held on 30 November and that arrangements be made for Mr Hunter to attend this meeting. This was agreed.
The Chairman remarked that he was aware of the volume of work which was ongoing for some time and took the opportunity to compliment the Chief Executive on his efforts to date which would bring immense benefits to the Strabane area. With regard to the commissioning of research, the Chief Executive explained that time was of the essence and sought authority to move forward in this respect. Councillor Barr indicated that he was willing to incorporate this in his proposal and the seconder, Councillor O’Kane, indicated his support. This was agreed.
Burial Right Grants
The following Forms of Grant of Right of Burial were signed and sealed on behalf of the Council:-
Mr George Sproule
27 Killen Park
Castlederg - 1 Plot
Mr Jason Sproule
27 Killen Park
Castlederg - 1 Plot
Mrs Marion Cooke
45 Springhill Park
Strabane - 2 Plots
Mr Malcolm Devlin
56 Townsend Street
Strabane - 3 Plots
Mr John Jack
35 Bridge Street
Strabane - 1 Plot
Councillor Emery advised that the Best Kept Competition was scheduled for the morning of Thursday 2 December, the day on which site meetings were normally held. He requested that the site meetings be arranged in the afternoon to facilitate those Councillors wishing to attend same. This was agreed.
Animal Welfare Considerations
Reference was made by Councillor Donnell to letter received from the Secretary of State, Mr Mandelson, encouraging public bodies in NI to take welfare-friendly and MBM-free production practices into account when purchasing pork and pork products. He requested that the Council seek clarification as to why a ban could not be placed on imports. Councillor Donnell also suggested that the views of the Environmental Health Department be sought on this issue.
It was agreed that a letter be sent to the Secretary of State as outlined above.
New Series of ‘On Board’ Seminars
Members considered letter dated 5 November 1999 received from the Chief Executive’s Forum inviting nominations to the above seminars to be held at Belfast Castle on 3 December 1999 at a cost of £125 plus VAT per delegate. In response to a query by Councillor Hussey, the Chief Executive advised that in his opinion it would be more appropriate for Councillors to attend rather than Officers. This was noted.
Flooding Problems at Magheramason
Councillor Donnell requested that the letter received from Mr Oliver Gibson, Assembly Member, re. flooding problems at Magheramason be noted in the minutes given its serious implications. This was agreed.
Publications – Members’ Library
It was agreed that the following publications be placed in the Members’ Library for perusal by anyone interested:-
NI Health & Personal Social Services – Performance Tables for 1998-99
Western Health & Social Services Council – Minutes of 82nd Meeting – 7.10.99
Executive Briefing - Report from the Board of the NIHE – 3.11.99
Fire Authority for NI – Annual Report 1996-98
WH&SSB – Social Care Review 1998-99
The meeting closed at 11.58 pm.
DATED this 23rd day of NOVEMBER 1999
Clerk and Chief Executive
DATED this 7th day of DECEMBER 1999
Chairman of the Council