Pictured at the former shop site in Castledaly earlier this year were from left to right: Tom Stone, Castledaly GAA, Cllr John Dolan, Jennifer Claffey, Castledaly Tidy Towns, Enda Kelly, Castledaly GAA and Darren Egan from Castledaly Tidy Towns.

Council moves to take tragic Castledaly site into ownership

A long-running campaign to purchase and demolish the former shop and petrol station in Castledaly is set to move forward in the next month, it's been revealed.

Westmeath County Council is set to commence the Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) process over the next four weeks on the old shop and petrol station in Castledaly village, the site of a shocking murder over 20 years ago.

Back in November 2003, Gregory Fox (36) was jailed for life for murdering his wife Debbie, and two sons Trevor (9) and Killian (7) to death at the Castledaly site in 2001.

It was a horrific crime and a tragedy that rocked the local community and the surrounding areas to its very core, and the prominent premises has lain idle since then with various calls on the local authority over many, many years to do something with the site.

Fine Gael Cllr John Dolan, who has been leading the charge in recent years to have the council come in and compulsorily purchase the building, was told in a written reply to his question at at the September Athlone-Moate Municipal District meeting that the “process will be commenced in the next four weeks”.

It's hoped that via the CPO process, the council will acquire the premises, have it demolished and the site could be used by the community in the future.

Cllr Dolan, who is thankful that the council has moved on this issue, is hopeful that the process “could be over line by the end of the year or early next year” and if, and when, the premises comes into local authority ownership, a conversation will need to take place with the community in terms of the future use of the substantial site.

He suggested it could be leased back to the community and used for an extended GAA facility, a community centre to extend the car park or other projects. One thing that will be central to the future of the site is a memorial to Debbie, Trevor and Killian Fox, he continued, and the community would like to involve Debbie's family in that project.

“It's left a mark on the area, and it (a memorial) would be part of the healing process for the family and the local community. It's important that the family and people in the area have an input (into the memorial) and the overall site,” he remarked.

At the May meeting of Athlone Moate Municipal District on Monday, the Kilgarvan-based public representative submitted a motion calling on the council to serve a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) on the old shop and to purchase the property for community use, a request that received the unanimous backing of his colleagues in the council chamber.

However, Director of Services, Barry Kehoe said at that stage that the CPO process is only ever used as a last resort in terms of achieving particular council objectives, and the Chief Executive of the council is then required to sign the order to initiate a CPO.

The order is then sent to An Bord Pleanála and if submissions are received it could take up to six months to finalise, but if there are no submissions it could be finalised in two months, he told councillors.

A CPO (Compulsory Purchase Order) is a legal function that grants certain statutory bodies like councils the right to take ownership of land and/or property without requiring the owner’s consent.

An extremely complex process, the body must meet set criteria and prove that the purchase of land and/or property is in the public interest.