Thursday 17 October 2019

Portwest faces setback in plans for new global HQ

Hardy: Portwest has made workwear in Westport since 1904
Hardy: Portwest has made workwear in Westport since 1904

Seán McCárthaigh

Portwest, a global manufacturer of workwear and protective clothing, has suffered a major setback to plans for a new global head office in its home base of Westport, Co Mayo.

An Bord Pleanála has overturned a decision by Mayo County Council granting planning permission to Portwest for its proposed new headquarters near The Quay, to accommodate up to 150 staff.

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The board rejected the recommendation of its own inspector for approval, and ruled that the site at Roman Island was in an area at risk of flooding.

An Bord Pleanála said it was not satisfied that the development site and adjoining road network would not remain vulnerable to flooding, with consequent adverse impacts on future occupants and visitors to the premises.

Portwest has operated in Westport since 1904. It had proposed a four-storey building on the landmark site to replace its existing offices in the town's IDA Technology and Business Park. Portwest said its current offices were "chronically overcrowded", and it has had to use a number of portacabins to accommodate its expanding workforce.

Manufacturing of its products in Westport is now largely confined to niche prototypes. Most production has been moved to the Far East.

Portwest said its growth and expansion had placed considerable pressure on facilities at its head office, which was no longer capable of further physical expansion in its current location. "No suitable and available premises or sites on zoned lands which permitted large-scale office use were identified in the Westport area," the company said.

It said the proposed location of its new headquarters on Roman Island was "the only suitable, available and viable site, notwithstanding the zoning status".

In a statement, the company said its management and staff were all very disappointed at the decision made by An Bord Pleanála.

"Our team has worked tirelessly to bring this project to Westport and to create over 50 new graduate jobs. After two years in the planning process, this decision means we cannot accommodate these new jobs," said Portwest.

The group, owned by the Hughes family, employs 3,000 people worldwide, including 90 in Westport. Turnover was €160m last year.

The family also owns Hotel Westport and in 2016 bought Westport House, one of the region's main tourist attractions.

Other members of the family run the Carraig Donn giftware chain of stores.

Irish Independent

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