Monday, June 26, 2017

Tidy Towns remove Hillcrest watering system after warning

A flowers watering system installed at the Hillcrest properties owned by the Comer Group development company has had to be dismantled by Kilcullen Tidy Towns after they were warned against potential 'trespass and criminal damage' by the agent for the owners, writes Brian Byrne.

The watering system for the Kilcullen in Bloom-sponsored hanging baskets on the properties had been put in place after months of correspondence between the two sides, and Kilcullen Community Action/Tidy Towns had understood they had been given permission for the system after the agents informed KCA that they were not in a position to install it themselves. But in an email during the last week they were told to take it down immediately.

Senior property manager at Comer Property Management Kyle Denny said his 'first presumption' was that the Tidy Towns group only required access to water to bring hoses to water the baskets. However, when he noted that a 'system' was what was intended, he visited the property on Tuesday 20 June and saw that pipework had been 'put up without landlord consent'. He also criticised the pipework as 'unsightly', though acknowledging that it had still to be tidied up. The system consisted of a 20mm diameter pipe running along the front of the building with feeds to the relevant hanging baskets. Previous correspondence with the Comer Group was not through Kyle Denny but two other Comer representatives.

"Note that such action is deemed as trespassing and criminal damage," Kyle Denny wrote to Eoin Houlihan of Kilcullen Tidy Towns, adding that the work proposed in the original application — on his understanding that it was for just a ten-week period — was 'excessive, unfeasible, and unjustifiable'. He instructed that the pipework be removed by close of business on Tuesday. KCA chairman Ray Kelly subsequently complied with this demand.

Kyle Denny also said that if the Tidy Towns group still wanted temporary access to a water supply tap at the back of the premises, he is 'prepared to draft written terms and landlord consent'. In relation to the watering system, he says the matter is 'closed'.

The Tidy Towns group point out that the summer flowers period is closer to 20 weeks in a year, and that the watering system, as installed in the rest of the town, is 'an investment in the future'. The group is not seeking any further discussion with the Comer Group on the matter, accepting that it is now closed.

Eoin Houlihan has contacted the businesses trading on the property, informing them of the situation, and noting that KCA will unfortunately have to take down the hanging baskets, 'as it is not feasible for tidy towns volunteers to continue to water the baskets manually' with the threat of 'trespass and criminal damage' in place by the property owner. The businesses have all contributed to the Kilcullen in Bloom programme, the €9,000 cost of which is funded by enterprises across the community, contributions by individual residents, a grant from Kildare County Council, and support from the Curragh Race Course. The most recent donation was €1,000 raised by the pupils and staff at Scoil Bhride NS. A substantial amount of voluntary work is not included in the costing.

All the window boxes and hanging baskets throughout the town use a similar automatic watering system as had been installed at Hillcrest.

The matter is to be discussed at the next meeting of Kilcullen Community Action, with an emphasis on how it will impact on future work in the Hillcrest area, including the Christmas Lights programme.

In addition to the Hillcrest property, the Comer Group also acquired the Market Square development in Kilcullen during recent times. Established more than three decades ago by Brian and Luke Comer from Galway, its property interests are now global, with operational locations in Ireland, the UK, mainland Europe, and the United States.