Sunday, 30 December 2007

Wicklow harbour set for huge development

A €300m contract has been signed for the redevelopment of Greystones Harbour in Co. Wicklow.

The development will include a new marina, public square, apartment complex, restaurants and shops.

Wicklow County Council has said it will revitalise what is now a derelict harbour in the town.

Sispar Developments has been awarded the contract.

Sunday Business Post

Wicklow harbour set for huge development

A €300m contract has been signed for the redevelopment of Greystones Harbour in Co. Wicklow.

The development will include a new marina, public square, apartment complex, restaurants and shops.

Wicklow County Council has said it will revitalise what is now a derelict harbour in the town.

Sispar Developments has been awarded the contract.

Sunday Business Post

The future starts here

We are at last embracing alternative energies and sustainable building, but will it prove too little, too late, asks Michael Viney.

It was the UN's inspiration back in the bright Millennium days to make 2008 the International Year of Planet Earth (IYPE), thus providing us now with a focus for our common angst. Intended as an upbeat festival of the earth sciences, passing on "the exciting knowledge we possess about our planet", the IYPE will be just as likely to remind us of things we wish we didn't need to know. But better to change one light bulb, as they say, than curse the gathering CO2.

My usual slice of the environment has its own urgencies to do with climate change - loss of rare Irish plants and birds, species drifting out of sync with their food supply, invading alien insects, all that. But it is a couple of decades since my first column on global warming and another couple since reporting on the visions of enthusiasts for wind and solar power and biogas from cattle slurry. An ESB engineer sticks in my mind, laying lone siege to this newspaper for years with plans for using waste heat from Ringsend to warm half of central Dublin.

There have always been people who wanted society to learn from nature and to copy its vital recycling of waste and energy. Half a century ago, Seán MacBride was a saintly bore on the need to use wind and wave power to generate electricity. What a wry grimace might be drawn from his ghost by the "action plans" that now tumble over each other - all eminently sensible, principled, life-enhancing: just a few generations late.

Given the first-ever Minister for the Environment to actually want the job for the right reasons, and another Green in charge of energy and natural resources, some of the plans should actually happen. The worst-polluting cars purchased after July 1st will now face an annual road tax of €2,000. Even the essential carbon tax, proposed in 2002 (but abandoned in 2004 in sudden political panic) will again go down to the wire "in the coming months".

ALONG WITH THE reality of warmer, wetter deluges at home and assorted climate catastrophes abroad, the need for real changes in the national lifestyle is gaining acceptance: transport, construction, industry, farming, home energy, landscape - even business - are in for some measure of reform.

A little has already begun. The first Dublin buses are running on a modest biodiesel blend. The first biomass boilers are warming schools. The first 20 big State buildings are being converted from oil to wood pellets from State forests, thus saving more than 1,500 tonnes of CO2 a year, as well as something off the national import bill. The next computers in many offices will be eco-friendly laptops, rather than the ever-humming desktop hives.

Seminal to much of this is the Bioenergy Action Plan, hatched by a task force chaired by former minister for energy and natural resources, Noel Dempsey, before Eamon Ryan took over his office. A big part of the job was to see where all the biofuel is going to come from. Ireland is committed to giving it 5.75 per cent of the national fuel market by 2010 and 10 per cent by 2020.

JUST HOW MUCH land will be needed for even these modest goals? The way technology is now, liquid fuels are made only from annual arable crops. A lot of the tillage land that has recently been grassed over in the southeast can be ploughed up again, plus the set-aside bits and the fields that used to grow sugar beet. But rapeseed oil for biodiesel needs a one-in-four-year rotation, so the long-term target of 180,000 hectares for this crop alone turns into 720,000 hectares, or twice the entire present area of tillage.

That rotation would produce an extra million tonnes of cereal, an awful lot to market. Much of it, presumably, could be made into ethanol. But the EU's 10 per cent substitution target by 2020 would have such huge land implications that biofuel imports seem inevitable. Dempsey's team called on the EU for "sustainability" standards - worrying, one hopes, about Asian forests being cleared to grow palm-oil, or Mexican peasants losing their food crops of maize (not to mention transport halfway round the globe).

While rapeseed is turning much of Ireland yellow, what of the promised savannahs of miscanthus, the rustling thickets of super willow? Just as soon as their cellulose can be worked upon by enzymes at the right sort of capital cost, they will be "second-generation biofuels" for transport (even grass is in prospect, which could suit Ireland well). Until then, they are biomass crops, destined mainly as "co-firing" fuel grown around the three peat power stations. These burn a total of three million tonnes of peat a year - a finite resource - and every 30,000 hectares of biomass could replace 10 per cent of it. In the new, rather desperate, scenario, every little helps.

In an echo of MacBride, Ryan is happy to extol Ireland as "the Saudi Arabia of ocean and wind energy - and it's all free!" As power flows from the first seven giant turbines of Airtricity's Arklow Bank wind farm, 10km off the coast, his party will expect him to bring in price supports, and press for the project's full development - enough turbines to power 400,000 homes and save more than 1 million tonnes of CO2 a year. Airtricity, privately owned and with the former Bord na Móna chief, Eddie O'Connor, at the helm, is now the Ryanair of wind energy, already worth €1 billion and full of plans for a European "supergrid" of offshore windfarms.

Finding durable, cost-effective ways of using waves to drive turbines has taken an unconscionable time and large amounts of money, but there are now definite signs of native progress. It didn't take surfers to show us that the west coast has some of the best waves in Europe, but measuring their whereabouts, energy and reliability has needed some painstaking science.

In 2005, the Marine Institute and Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI) commissioned a wave atlas, plotting the contours of accessible energy around the coast at different times of year and its theoretical contribution to the grid. The figures came out at 75 per cent of the electricity we used in 2006.

This colossal resource has constraints: the cost-effectiveness of the technology; the amount of power that can be connected from western seaboard locations; finding ways to share the grid with intermittent wind power. Problems of storage and backup are already a bottleneck to present commitments to more than triple wind energy, with a further 6,000 megawatts in waiting. The "massive investment" Ryan says is needed to upgrade the grid could be €1 billion or more.

Meanwhile, the Marine Institute and SEI have been backing Irish entrepreneurs in developing large-scale ocean generators. Two scaled-down prototypes, created by Wavebob of Maynooth and Ocean Energy of Cork, have survived winter waves at the institute's test site in Galway Bay while successfully producing a respectable trickle of electricity. Now they will be built to full size and tested with even more rigour.

ONE WAY OF reducing energy demand is simply to save it. The coming year will see a new action plan to inspire the public sector, helped by all the suggestions that should have been in by November. Everyone from gardaí to pensions clerks to mandarins in their panelled eyries will aim to meet the special 33 per cent energy reduction target for the public service "in order to demonstrate its leadership and exemplar role".

"Training in green procurement" will vet the tenders for €10 billion worth of products and services: value for money will mean energy efficiency and high environmental standards, from draught-proof swing doors to recycled memo-pads. From next July, all new public service buildings will have their energy assessed and certified: it seems unlikely, for example, that the Office of Public Works will lease any more space in new buildings that burn oil, need air-conditioning or have the lights on all day.

"Modal shift" are words we may have to get used to in 2008, when the Sustainable Travel and Transport Action Plan is unveiled by Minister for Social and Family Affairs Martin Cullen.

"Demand side management," asserts the National Energy Efficiency Action Plan, "includes soft support measures for influencing modal shift and behavioural change . . . " Gibberish like this (to do with our choice of transport, apparently) has not appeared, mercifully, in the Power of One, the campaign to convince each of us to change the way we live.

The Irish Times

Phoenix Park bicycle hire service put out to tender

The Office of Public Works has invited tenders for a bicycle hire service in the Phoenix Park, as part of plans to develop a network of "cycle-friendly" and "cycle-only" lanes within the 1,700-acre demesne.

The Phoenix Park is the largest enclosed urban park in Europe.

The tender, which was advertised on the Government's e-tendering website this week, follows a pilot project in the park last summer.

There are currently 24km of cycle routes in the Phoenix Park and, according to the OPW, and this is to be extended by about 18km over the coming year.

A spokesman said the intention was that bicycles could be hired for a minimum of two hours and a maximum of a half- day, but the OPW was prepared to be flexible in its approach.

"We were very pleased with a pilot project run by McQuaid's cycles last summer and we would like to encourage more families to take up cycling in a safe environment in the park," said a spokesman.

The OPW plan is in line with the Dublin Transportation Office strategy of encouraging people to walk or cycle. According to recent research carried out by the transport body, 52 per cent of people use their car as their most frequent mode of transport.

The research also found:

• 40 per cent of car owners don't consider any transport options other than the car;

• 27 per cent of respondents said the car was preferable for short journeys of a mile or less;

• Almost half of all car owners (47 per cent) take their car on these short journeys;

• 55 per cent of short journey car users said they were unlikely to consider walking instead, and

• Only 3 per cent of these short journey car users said they were very likely to consider walking for short journeys of a mile or less, instead of using the car.

However, under a recent traffic management plan for the Phoenix Park, restrictions to private car use are to be put in place.

A number of roads have already been made one way or turned into cul-de-sacs in a bid to reduce vehicle short-cutting.

The OPW is also currently in discussions with Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus about allowing the companies to divert some of their longer-distance services through the park, possibly at peak times.

Also under consideration is an OPW "own bus service", which would travel a circuitous route from Heuston Station through the park.

The Irish Times

State to spend millions on land sold for 12

THE state is to spend tens of millions of euro reacquiring land for the planned DublinNavan rail line previously sold off by CIE to adjoining landowners for sums as low as IR£10 or less.

The alignment of the route is still intact, has only one public level crossing and is largely free of development.

However, it is no longer owned by CIE as the line from Clonsilla in west Dublin to Navan was sold off in its entirety in the late 1960s.

The old Navan rail line was closed completely in 1963. A subsequent decision to sell the land was made because, at a time of severe cutbacks in the rail network, there would have been ongoing costs of maintaining the land along the abandoned line, including fencing and drainage.

Given the narrow strips of land on offer, the only people interested in acquiring it at the time were adjacent landowners, primarily farmers.

This de facto buyers' market resulted in rock-bottom prices being charged for it . . . in some cases believed to be less than IR£10 ( 12.70).

That land must now be bought back as part of the project to re-instate the Navan rail line.

Presuming a positive outcome in Iarnrod Eireann's application for a Railway Order (the equivalent of planning permission for rail schemes), construction of the first phase of the Navan rail line . . . from Clonsilla to Dunboyne to the M3 interchange at Pace, north of Dunboyne . . . is likely to begin late next year and be completed in early 2010.

Around 40% of the project costs on Clonsilla-Dunboyne (M3) will be taken up by property acquisition, although not all of this relates to the land sold off 40 years ago.

The bill from this acquisition will run to tens of millions of euro and is provided for in the government's Transport 21 plan.

Sunday Tribune

Don't put your faith in the evils of global warming

When it comes to truly yawn-inducing headlines, "Pope Condemns Gay Marriage" is right up there with "Dog Bites Man", "Gavin Lambe Murphy Yaps About Drugs" and "Sinead O'Connor Pregnant Again". But even Pope Benedict has outdone himself with his latest message, issued for New Year, in which he describes same-sex unions as no less than a threat to world peace.

It's a convoluted argument, which involves accepting the nuclear family as the "primary agency for peace" in the world, an intellectual manouevre which does make one wonder if these people ever had to spend Christmas with their own families. Primary agencies of peace indeed.

Quite the opposite, most might say at this time of year.

It's a shame Pope Benedict had to overegg the pudding in this way, because, as former members of the Hitler Youth go, Joseph Alois Ratzinger hasn't turned out to be such a bad old Pontiff. So asking us to accept that gay marriage leads directly to global discord can only undermine other sensible elements of his message, such as his timely warning that those who campaign about global warming are often "scaremongers".

Look who's talking.

Ireland's newest Cardinal, Archbishop Sean Brady, obviously wasn't listening to that part of the Pontiff's message anyway. In his own seasonal message, he was predictably calling on us all to "alter our behaviour to the environment as a matter of urgency". And I say predictably because the evils of global warming and mankind's part in it are now so widely taken as articles of faith by many otherwise intelligent people that they make your average member of the Legion of Mary look like a nit-picking sceptic by comparison.

Sean Brady wasn't alone in his green evangelising either. The Archbishop of Canterbury recently went to the Indonesian climate change conference to call for a new "moral vision" to deal with the issue. He and other archbishops in Sweden and Germany also jointly signed a letter warning that "the conditions for life on Earth are not secure" and that urgent action was needed to bring down the world's temperature.

That the Church would leap on to the environmental bandwagon was probably inevitable. Apocalypse was always their business. The green credo also encompasses many of the themes which they hold most dear: the

notion that mankind is sinful and must be punished for it, not least. Instead of being expelled from the Garden of Eden for eating from the Tree of Knowledge, the story now is that man is being expelled from the caring bosom of Mother Earth because he's used that knowledge to build too many cars and aeroplanes.

How ironic then that Brady's pious homily about the planet should have been delivered just as his boss was urging world leaders to base their global warming policies on science rather than the doom-laden prophecies of climate change fanatics (ironic as this plea to science undoubtedly is from the head of an organisation which still thinks the rhythm method is the best form of birth control), and just as the US Senate environment committee minority report was publishing the names of 400 prominent scientists who are sceptical about the alleged "consensus" on the issue.

Climatologists, oceanographers, metereologists, glaciologists, geologists: the numbers are growing fast of those who believe that global warming is either a cyclical and normal variation in the planet's state, or primarily caused not by human activity but other factors such as solar flares and radiation; or those who, while accepting that a problem exists, do not believe that cutting C02 emissions will make the slightest difference.

You have to feel sorry for the men in the dog collars. It's like the old joke about how American foreign policy was based on the desire, having been late for the first two World Wars, to be bang on time for the next one.

There's something of that flavour about the Church's attitude to science. Having turned their backs at the time on most of the scientific advances of the last couple of millennia (you know, evolution, the earth not being the centre of the universe, that sort of thing), it's almost as if they are now trying to overcompensate by falling hook, line and sinker for everything certain scientists tell them about global warming.

In the process, they're colluding in the shameful silencing and marginalisation of those who now speak out against the consensus on global warming, so if it turns out the sceptics were, like Copernicus, right all along, it will be history repeating itself.

It's a strange thing, though. Visions of the future were always evenly divided between shiny utopias and grim dystopias, but there was an underlying acceptance nonetheless, that mankind would keep on coming up with new and marvellous ways of interacting with the world. There'd be vitamin pills replacing three-course meals, and colonies on neighbouring planets and warp drives that allowed the Starship Enterprise to cross galaxies in the blink of an eye, and labour-saving (literally) Orgasmatrons in every household.

It was a reasonable assumption to make as well. In a few thousand years, man had gone from living in caves and eating raw meat to inventing computers and dialysis machines and telescopes that could see the far reaches of space. Why would the future not hold more of the same?

Thanks to the doom-mongering of environmentalists, however, we now seem unable to imagine the future as anything other than famine, disease, war, ecological disaster.

It's as if all our faith in human ingenuity has withered in the face of a few melting icebergs. Every problem mankind ever encountered, it found an answer for. That's why we live longer and better than any of the countless generations who came before us. But the green Cassandras have us all convinced that our descendants will be back in the caves munching on raw thigh bones before Al Gore can say, "I told you so."

If there's one wish for 2008, it should be that we all lighten up and have more optimism about mankind's continued ability to solve problems and make life better.

Capitalism and liberal democracy are highly unlikely to collapse under the threat from the climate, whatever the environmentalists predict, any more than they collapsed under the weight of their own contradictions, as the ecologists' Communist predecessors in the doom-mongering stakes predicted with equal passion and conviction.

We should always beware any group of ideologues who cry woe with such an oddly self-satisfied expression on their freedom-phobic, progress-hating faces. Honestly, you'd almost think they wanted it to happen just to be proved right. As if, eh?

Irish Independent

Traffic 'choke points' could cripple capital

The Automobile Association (AA) has identified eight key traffic choke points which have the potential to bring Dublin to a standstill in minutes.

The agency has pinpointed the sites following recent incidents, in one of which Dublin came to a standstill, with traffic delays clogging traffic back as far as Swords on the M1, after a truck overturned near the Point Depot near the East Link toll bridge.

The choke points they identified are:

l M50 motorway

l North and south quays

along the Liffey

l Pearse Street

l East Link toll bridge

l Port Tunnel

l Red Cow roundabout

l Swords Road

l Doyle's Corner in


Tressan McCambridge of AA Roadwatch says that Dublin commuters are particularly vulnerable to road foul-ups because they are so car-dependent.

"The fact that we are so car-dependent and have a serious problem with over-capacity on our roads means that it's all down to luck when it comes to getting stuck in traffic jams. The current lack of public transport options also means that people have very little choice but to travel by car.

"And if a vehicle breaks down, it could take a half an hour to clear it, or it could take hours, and those delays will linger and have a knock on effect.

"Some days we can be lucky and other days the traffic situation can be disastrous."

This was clearly illustrated recently, when it took six hours to remove a truck that overturned near the Point Depot, resulting in a major traffic backlog in the Port Tunnel and on the M1. North Wall Quay and East Wall road were also badly hit as a result of the incident.

The accident provoked Fine Gael to call for an emergency traffic plan for the capital, while the party's transport spokesman, Fergus O'Dowd TD, has described the traffic situation in Dublin as balancing on a knife edge.

"The traffic in Dublin is appalling and we have an inadequate organisation to deal with it.

"The fact that one vehicle can bring the whole city to a halt is frankly unacceptable and it just highlights the lack of proper traffic management.

"I think it is something that you might expect to see in a third-world country," he said. "Obviously, the economy has grown over the past few years -- but the public transport system and infrastructure hasn't kept pace with the demand."

There has been 150 per cent growth in traffic since 1993, with an extra 300,000 cars present in Dublin in the past five years alone.

Meanwhile, the publication of the Dublin Transport Authority Bill is expected soon.

Irish Independent

Saturday, 29 December 2007

Minister of State O'Keeffe outlines his plans for developing areas to Gateway and Hub Managers

Mr. Batt O'Keeffe, T.D., Minister of State Minister for Housing, Urban Renewal and Developing Areas has welcomed the high-level of engagement and firm support he has received from the NSS Gateway and Hub City and County Managers, when he met them to outline his plans for his broadened portfolio on Developing Areas.

In outlining the aim of the Developing Areas brief, the Minister highlighted - "the need to better position Government at both central and local level to co-ordinate development in fast-growing strategic locations throughout the country" - and stressed that this is a priority commitment for the Taoiseach and the Government.

He also recognised the need to look beyond the simple provision of housing to consider a more holistic approach to the development of sustainable communities and delivery of both hard and soft infrastructure - such as water and waste water services, roads and public transport, schools and sports and community facilities.

To drive forward the Developing Areas agenda, the Minister is focusing initially on those areas within the nine Gateways and nine Hubs - designated under the National Spatial Strategy - which are experiencing huge growth and development pressure and where the timely provision of the necessary infrastructure and supporting services needs to be addressed.

It is planned to concentrate on discrete developing areas where, for example, there is development potential of more than 1,000 new housing units and the Minister is engaging with the Managers to quickly identify these areas.

The Minister emphasised the need for his Department to lead by example. "I've set up a dedicated Developing Areas Team, overseen by a top-level steering group within my Department, to drive this work programme. I want this Team - in close partnership with the planning authorities, agencies and other Departments - to identity and help to resolve critical blockages in the co-ordinated delivery of infrastructure and services, necessary to create vibrant, sustainable communities."

The Minister also noted the progress that is already being made in ensuring delivery of schools' infrastructure and schools' places in key developing areas for September 2008 and beyond. "Both Minister Gormley and myself have met recently with Minister Mary Hanafin to discuss how we can assist in this regard and officials in my Department have been engaging in intensive joint discussions between the Department of Education and local authorities to progress the priority school sites in key locations where pressures are most acute."

Minister Gormley launches the Irish Walled Towns Book

The Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Mr John Gormley, T.D. has launched the 'Irish Walled Towns Book'.

The extensively illustrated book aims to bring the history of Ireland's Walled Towns to life. It seeks to convey the stories and accounts of the main personalities involved in their development and evolution and explores the wider role of these fortified towns in Ireland's socio-economic history.

It provides a useful baseline to inform the future conservation, preservation, management and promotion of these iconic settlements for the benefit of current and future generations in Ireland and for all visitors to our island.

Speaking at the launch, the Minister said - "Experience in conservation has shown that it is not enough to be concerned with work required to physically secure the remaining walls and structures. It is equally important to ensure that local people are fully involved in the conservation and management process. Therefore, the story of Walled Towns' works need to be communicated to a wide audience in a vibrant and interesting manner. The Walled Towns Book is a further example of the innovative approach taken by the members of the Network."

Pointing to the very significant tourist attraction which Walled Towns represent, the Minister said - "I understand that Fáilte Ireland will be launching this publication in New York and in Washington during the St Patrick's Day celebrations to promote tourism from the US to these locations."

The Heritage Council established the Irish Walled Towns Network in April 2005 to unite and co-ordinate the strategic efforts of local authorities involved in the management and conservation of historic walled towns in Ireland - both North and South. The network has grown to 20 members.

The book is the result of an eight-month consultative and information-gathering period - involving the Heritage Council and the Irish Walled Towns Network, the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Local Authorities, the Royal Irish Academy, the National Library, Trinity College Dublin and NUI Maynooth.

Oral hearing into Kerry gas plan

An oral hearing is to be held by An Bórd Pleanála into the country's first liquified natural gas terminal, planned for a site on the Shannon estuary in Co Kerry.

The hearing will be held in Tralee at the Brandon Hotel on January 21st-28th. The €500 million proposal for the regasification project involves 300 acres of land and a deepwater site between the villages of Tarbert and Ballylongford.

Earlier this year An Bórd Pleanála decided the project by Shannon LNG (a subsidiary of the US company Hess LNG) was "strategic infrastructure" under the terms of the new the new Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Act 2006 , after an application by the company.

The decision meant the application has gone directly or been fast-tracked to An Bórd Pleanála, without having to go first to the local authority, Kerry County Council. It is the first such application in Kerry under the Act.

The proposal will also involve the Health and Safety Authority and it is subject to licensing by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The project is a major one for the county and will require the significant upgrading of roads, fire service and water services in north Kerry. It will involve huge gas storage tanks, a new marine jetty and unloading equipment as well as warehousing and stores and water pump houses.

At full capacity up to 125 tankers a year would arrive with gas and this will require an exclusion zone around the jetty when the ships arrived. Up to 750 jobs will be created during the height of the construction phase.

The planning appeals board has received more than 50 submissions. These are from prescribed bodies such as An Taisce and the Department of the Environment, as well as from residents, marine bodies and interested groups.

The Irish Times

Judges appeal planning for house

A Supreme Court judge and his wife, also a judge, are among those appealing a Donegal County Council decision to grant permission to a priest for a new house.

An Bord Pleanála has received five objections to the decision to grant permission to Fr Philip Daly for a house on the "sea side" of the road at Lackagh, Portnoo. Fr Daly has been a curate in the area for the last seven years.

Among the appellants are Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman and his wife, Judge Yvonne Murphy of the Circuit Court, who have a holiday home on the upper side of the road. Four other appeals were received from local residents. They are all appealing on the grounds that proposed development will destroy scenic views as it will be located between the road and the sea.

The appeal from Martin Ryan Architects on behalf of Mr Justice Hardiman and Judge Murphy stated they wished Fr Daly would build on "their side of the road".

"Their objection is to development of the application site and not to the appellant, whom they would welcome on their side of the road," the appeal stated.

Another appeal from local residents said: "Whilst we would love to have Fr Daly live in the area, we do object to any building being allowed on the sea-side of the road as this would create a precedent for future development. . ."

Local councillor Enda Bonner wrote a letter of support in favour of Fr Daly. Mr Bonner argued that Fr Daly wanted to build a retirement home, adding that two issues that caused the last application to be refused were being addressed in the latest application.

The Irish Times

Plan for 500 homes close to Shankill submitted

A planning application for phase one of what amounts to a new town, near Shankill in south Co Dublin, has been lodged with Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council.

The mixed-use application envisages more than 500 houses with a neighbourhood centre comprising retail, community and commercial uses on a 25-acre site beside Woodbrook Golf Club.

The application notes the proposed development, which borders the Dart line, is "the first phase in the development of the overall Woodbrook local area plan lands" which amount to 52 acres, and encompass the former juvenile detention centre at Shanganagh Castle.

The application was lodged by Aeval Ltd, a company associated with developer Joe O'Reilly of Castlethorn Developments.

According to the planning application, phase one will comprise three "character areas": a neighbourhood square, a central residential area and a housing area. The neighbourhood square is to include 70 residential units and 10,386 square metres of non-residential floor space, generally for commercial, retail, community and leisure use.

Buildings are to be arranged around a civic plaza and will rise from two to five storeys with a set-back penthouse on the sixth floor. Apartment blocks would front on to a "main street" with service and distributor roads routed around the neighbourhood square. The central residential area includes 374 apartments and duplexes in seven blocks up to six storeys high.

The housing area comprises 120 duplexes and houses laid out in an informal grid pattern and ranging up to four storeys. Parking for more than 400 cars is to be provided.

It is also proposed there would be a significant "green" element to the development with the use of a district heating system, powered by a wood pellet boiler system and rooftop solar panels.

The land was sold to Aeval last June by long-time local land-owner Sir Henry Sursock Cochrane. It is bounded to the west by the old Dublin Road and St James's Church, with Shanganagh Cemetery to the north, the golf club to the east and Croke Lodge and woodland to the south.

The planning application notes that works will require the "partial removal of trees and the existing boundary wall" along the old Dublin Road at the western boundary.

The Woodbrook development is one of two major developments proposed for the area, the second being the €2 billion Pizarro development planned for the former Bray Golf Club site, which straddles the Dublin and Wicklow border in Bray town.

With its local area plan covering Woodbrook, Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council said it was conscious the site was just north of Bray town and a suitable site for "a new residential community based around a transport interchange".

The transport interchange envisages a connection between the adjacent Dart line and a proposed Luas extension which is scheduled to serve Bray - via the Pizarro development - by 2016.

The site is also close to the M11 Shankill bypass and Shankill village. Earlier this year, a Bord Pleanála inspector recommended refusal of the Pizarro development citing, among other reasons, transport grounds.

The Irish Times

Gormley to limit new homes in villages and towns

Strict new planning rules to be introduced next year by the Department of the Environment and Local Government will cut sharply the number of new houses that can be built in Irish towns and villages.

Under the guidelines from the Minister, John Gormley, who is concerned at the explosive growth of many towns and villages in recent years, developers will only be able to build between 10 to 12 extra houses in villages that have fewer than 400 people.Planning permission for greater numbers would "usually be difficult or inappropriate due to an absence of a sufficiently developed urban structure to cater for the development and should therefore be discouraged".

Meanwhile, planning authorities will be told not to increase the number of houses in towns of up to 5,000 people by more than 10-15 per cent over the lifetime of a seven-year development plan, for the same reason.

Currently, local authorities and An Bord Pleanála must abide by the department's guidelines when dealing with county development plans, but councillors have had greater freedom for action when drawing up local area plans.

However, the Minister, who will publish the new guidelines for consultation next month, now intends to change the legislation so that councillors will no longer be able to ignore national planning standards, it is understood.

Councils should first use derelict or vacant sites, while houses built on greenfield sites in or near the existing centres should be developed so that residents are encouraged to walk and cycle, rather than drive, the guidelines say.

In particular, developers should be blocked from building estates "at some remove" from existing urban areas because this "militates against proper planning" and causes problems with the lack of street lighting, footpaths and other services.

Higher densities are "appropriate" in certain areas, particularly in towns and villages close to larger towns that have already been chosen as "gateways" under the National Spatial Strategy, according to the guidelines, which are to be effective from the middle of the year.

In an attempt to curb applications from people already living in towns to build one-off houses in the country, Mr Gormley now intends to see some land ring-fenced for this type of development on the edge of towns and villages.

The Irish Times

Galway road plan a threat to wildlife haven, say campaigners

Galway's "green lungs" are under threat from city council roadway plans, according to a new environmental campaign.

The Friends of the Forest campaign has been initiated to highlight the negative impact of a proposed new city relief road on the 120-acre Terryland forest park.

Terryland forest, which extends from the Corrib river to Castlegar, owes its origins to a residents' campaign in the mid-1990s to protect green areas close to the Corrib. As a result, the Corrib has one of the few undeveloped riverbank environments on the island.

The associated forest is a haven for hares, voles, foxes, rabbits, swans, kestrels, pheasants and bats.

Brendan Smith, spokesman for Friends of the Forest, said that Galway City Council had actively promoted Terryland as the most ambitious urban forest park development in Europe, with a target planting of 500,000 native Irish trees.

At the park's first one-day community planting in March 2001, more than 3,000 people turned up to plant trees, Mr Smith said, and schools began to use the area as an "outdoor classroom". The "eco-social experiment" had helped to engender civic pride, created a "carbon sink" to offset global warming and "produced oodles of good will towards City Hall".

However, the local authority, beset by the Eyre Square refurbishment controversy in recent years, began to lose interest in the Terryland park steering committee latterly, said Mr Smith.

"The few public events that did take place since 2005 did so with insufficient publicity, and therefore [ low] community participation, and the absence of park wardens has led to the woodlands becoming prone to litter and bush-drinking."

The proposed relief route from the Dyke Road, running by the forest park and the river Corrib to Quincentennial Road, is intended to reduce traffic congestion. However, the campaign said it would do the opposite and that it was "developer-led".

"The adjoining Headford Road/ Woodquay zone is already too congested, and the possibility of transforming the Dyke Road into a new major artery for pedestrians, cyclists and possibly public transport will be lost forever," Mr Smith said.

"At a time of rising global water levels, the Dyke Road lands are unsuitable for further development and should be preserved as wetlands and woodlands.

"Any such roadway would also undermine plans for sustainable recreational amenities, including an interpretative centre which would teach skills such as dry-stone-walling and coppicing.

"And a roadway would represent a betrayal of the tens of thousands of children and adults who planted trees and bulbs in Terryland since 2000," he said.

Mayor of Galway Tom Costello (Lab) and former mayor Niall Ó Brolcháin (Green Party) have both expressed support for the campaign, and representatives met senior city officials last week.

The campaign intends to initiate a petition in the new year.

Galway City Council was unavailable for comment.

Lorna Siggins
The Irish Times

Mansion and gardens given to the State

A centuries-old stately home along with one of the country's finest gardens has been bequeathed to the State.

The stunning Altamont House and Gardens, in Co Carlow, was left to the Irish people by its late owner Corona North, the Government said yesterday.

The 96-acre estate outside Tullow includes a mansion dating back to around 1720 and formal and informal gardens reputed to be among the most romantic in Ireland.

Heritage Minister John Gormley said the donation was a wonderful act of generosity by Ms North, who died in 1999.

"It will be a lasting legacy to her memory," Mr Gormley said.

Brian Hutton
Irish Independent

Go online to calculate your carbon footprint

An online 'carbon calculator' launched yesterday will work out the impact of your lifestyle on the planet.

Repak -- a recycling promotion agency who developed the system -- said it is the first publicly accessible one of its kind in Ireland.

Environment Minister John Gormley said the internet calculator, at, would help people reduce their carbon footprint.

Users can determine their environmental impact by inputting details of their daily routine onto the website.

It will assess home heating methods, calculate energy consumption and investigate types of insulation being used by the householder. It will also gauge the type of lighting used at home, as well as the impact of their transport use, from private cars to long haul flights.

Users, who remain anonymous, are instantly provided with a monthly breakdown of carbon emissions. They are also given a comparative average for their lifestyle and hints and tips on how to reduce their carbon footprint.

Brian Hutton
Irish Independent

Friday, 28 December 2007

Expert claims road authority ignored advice on Tara

AN EXPERT in charge of ensuring a national monument, discovered on the route of the controversial M3 motorway was properly excavated, has launched a blistering attack on the State and its agents.

Dr Conor Newman, who stepped aside from the advisory committee on November 20 last, accused the Government of ignoring expert advice about the significance of a 2,500-year-old monument found at Lismullin in Co Meath.

And he said the road builders, the National Roads Authority, had "wrecked" the monument, which will be covered by a road in the coming weeks.

He said the NRA had ignored expert advice that anything discovered in the Tara Skryne Valley was associated with the Hill of Tara, widely acknowledged since early last century.

Earlier this year, a pagan ritual site was discovered along the route, and former environment minister Dick Roche ordered that the road be built over it following its excavation.

"I went up to give some advice on the monument. I wasn't going to play politics, but I felt I could stay on the committee to advise on the excavation," Dr Newman said.

"When it got to the point where the excavation was nearing completion, I felt it was time to go.

"In spite of all the advice, they still forged ahead. We had a ridiculous situation of no willingness to adjust the road even slightly. The casualty has been the truth, and the objective assessment of the truth."

Environment Minister John Gormley said last night he was "sad" to hear of the decision, but it was something he "understood fully".

"I was conscious in asking him to serve on the committee that I was potentially putting him in an uncomfortable position because of his long-standing principled opposition to the road proposal," the minister said.

Paul Melia
Irish Independent

City bosses unveil plan for new cultural quarter

A cultural quarter is to be developed by Galway City Council, close to the heart of the City of the Tribes.

The local authority has just completed the purchase of two adjoining properties at Lower Merchant's Road, not far from the Galway Museum and a proposed arthouse cinema.

Galway City Manager Joe McGrath said that the new properties and the development of the arthouse cinema would provide an opportunity to create a cultural quarter in what was one of the oldest parts of Galway.

He expected that, in time, it would become a popular attraction with the city's annual influx of tourists.

The proposals for the Lower Merchant's Road area are to be presented for approval to the City Council in the New Year.

Brian McDonald
Irish Independent

City traffic to crawl at 8kmh

Traffic in Dublin is set to slow down to an average speed of eight kilometres an hour in the next few years, a new report predicts.

And car exhaust pollution is going to cause an alarming level of respiratory and other illnesses as well as obesity.

The average speed in urban areas in the the morning peak hour in the capital will have dropped from the current 13kmh to 8kmh in 2016, an official Government report reveals.

The grim scenario also predicts that with a population of five million, car ownership could increase to beyond EU average levels.

The Department of Transport report obtained by the Irish Independent reveals that greenhouse gas emissions from transport could increase to 19 million tonnes of CO2 -- a 265pc increase over 1990 levels.

Under the Kyoto agreement Ireland is allowed to increase its emissions by only 13pc.

The report concludes that such increases in traffic, pollution and health damage are not acceptable or sustainable.

Transport Minister Noel Dempsey is said to be determined to warn the public of the 2016 scenario and get people to leave their cars at home and switch to public transport.

The minister is going to launch a new public consultation process on the issue of sustainable travel and transport early in the coming weeks.

A discussion document is almost ready to be published.

It has to be signed by Cabinet before being published to kick-start the public consultation phase.

The minister's aim is that by June of next year a clear, detailed sustainable action plan will be in place.

His vision is that by 2020 Ireland will have one of the best transportation systems in the world, which will go a long way to tackling the problems.

But according to Mr Dempsey we cannot get to that point by relying on Transport 21 initiatives alone and cycling, walking, flexible work arrangements and car pooling will also have to be involved.

Once the public consultation phase is over, a detailed plan will be drawn up.

A public information campaign will be launched similar to the Power of One campaign or the Race Against Waste.

Mr Dempsey says the plan is about getting people out of cars and into public transport, walking and cycling.

He said: "If we keep our current travel patterns by allowing business as usual and let cars continue to pour onto our streets then traffic congestion will increase, quality of life will fall, economic progress will be impacted negatively and our greenhouse gas emissions will continue to grow."

According to the report:

- The total number of private cars licensed may increase from 1,800,000 to 2,600,000 by 2016.

- Car use will continue to increase and the share of walking and cycling of the total commute will continue to decline.

- Average speed in urban areas in morning peak hour in Dublin will have dropped from 13kmh in 2006 to 8kmh in 2016.

- Increased dependence on cars will contribute to obesity.

- Traffic pollution will cause increasing damage to health and contribute to acute and chronic diseases.

- There will be increased congestion, which could lead to a decline in competitiveness.

- Energy supply could be "fragile" as a result of continued dependence on imported fossil fuels in the transport sector.

Between 1996 and 2006 there was unprecedented economic growth which saw Ireland's GDP double.

Population also increased by 17pc from 3,630,000 to 4,240,000

There was a 115pc increase in total road freight vehicle kilometres travelled and a 250pc rise in total tonnes carried.

There was a 38pc increase in the number of private cars per 1,000 adults from 382 to 528, still below the EU average of 558.

Treacy Hogan Environment Correspondent
Irish Independent

Top waste firm facing legal action over landfill breach

ONE of the country's biggest waste operators has been told it could face prosecution for not operating a dump properly.

The Environmental Protection Agency wrote to Greenstar last month warning that the company's failure to report a serious incident at the Knockharley landfill in Meath could result in legal action.

The dump, which has been found six times not to be complying with its waste licence, has caused odour and noise problems for residents since it opened three years ago.

The EPA says complaints have increased each year since it opened, with 305 made in 2007.

While Greenstar has been "largely compliant" with its waste licence, the environmental watchdog says it has been issued with one non-compliance notice -- but the company does not accept the report and has requested it be withdrawn.

But correspondence on the public file shows Greenstar has been warned since December 2005 it is not fully compliant.

That month, it was told gas from the landfill was not venting properly, a breach of the licence.

A warning letter noted: "While the agency acknowledges that the facility is in general very well maintained, it is concerned that the facility is subject to ongoing odour nuisance problems".

A month later, Greenstar was again issued with a non-compliance notice relating to odour. The following May there was another breach of the licence.

EPA inspectors also noted remedial work demanded the previous January had not been completed. It also said the landfill's 2005 annual environmental report did not show a non-compliance relating to odour, which would be regarded as "misleading".

In July 2007 another non-compliance notice was issued. Inspectors noted that odours were detected off-site on seven of 12 inspections. The following month another non-compliance notice was issued, again relating to odour.

On November 1 last, the EPA wrote to Greenstar saying it had again breached its licence by failing to report that a gas flare had stopped working, which it was required to do as it was deemed "an incident".

Residents are furious that the dump is not being run under the terms of the licence, and said last night the EPA had to act on their concerns.

"There is an apparent inability on the part of the EPA to enforce the waste licence," spokesman Paddy Lawlor of the Knockharley and District Residents Association said.

"No one will answer our questions. All we want is the EPA to enforce the conditions of the licence. If they do that we'll have no complaints. The EPA are not taking responsibility, they need to act."

The EPA said it had "expended significant resources" on addressing residents' concerns, and would continue to do so. Consultants had been employed to undertake an independent evaluation of practices on the site, and their report would "inform the enforcement plan for this site and any enforcement action proposed by the EPA".

Greenstar said its dump was "the most compliant waste facility in the country". It had received two non-compliance notices in 2007, which were being appealed, and there was "no fault" with the landfill.

Paul Melia
Irish Independent

Rail chiefs promise motorists extra car parking

RAIL commuters forced to park their cars at supermarkets and churches before running for the train are being promised more than 13,000 parking spaces at stations.

Drivers will have to pay, but at much lower rates than commercial car parks.

Rail chiefs have drawn up plans to provide new pay-parking facilities at over 60 stations, many of which are packed by 7.30am daily.

The move coincides with major increases in frequencies and capacities of services planned across the network under Transport 21.

The additional spaces will meet current demand and allow for further expansion into the future.

A spokesperson for Iarnrod Eireann said yesterday the spaces will cost €2 a day or €5 a week. The revenue will be used for maintenance of the car parks and the provision of CCTV.


Highlights of the proposals include: the largest public transport park and ride facility in the country; a 1,200 space car park, north of Dunboyne at the M3 interchange -- the terminus for the Clonsilla-Dunboyne (M3) line, which will serve the wider area of Co Meath and beyond.

It will also feaure major car parks at new stations such as Dunboyne, Midleton, Carrigtwohill, Dunkettle, Clondalkin's Fonthill Road and Oranmore, as well as enhancements to parking at over 50 existing stations, including over 20 in the greater Dublin commuter belt.

As well as expanding car park facilities, work will incorporate enhanced bicycle facilities, and CCTV and other security features.

The programme will be phased in over the coming five years and will be prioritised according to demand, land availability and as planning permission allows.

Dr John Lynch, CIE and Iarnrod Eireann chairman, said yesterday: "It is critical that we open up the benefits of rail investment to as wide a catchment area as possible through the development of quality car park facilities.

"Although this programme addresses over 60 stations, we will continue to seek opportunities for further car park development around our network," he added.

Transport Minister Noel Dempsey TD said: "People can feel re-assured that they can leave their car at a station and take the train to work, thus reducing the hassle of getting in and out of work and improving their commuting experience."

Treacy Hogan and Shane Hickey
Irish Independent

Convent demolition may cost firm €12.7m

DUBLIN City Council is to prosecute a developer who illegally demolished a 19th century convent in Terenure over a year ago.

Despite having been told in November 2006 to re-instate the building, which was in the process of becoming a protected structure, Kimpton Vale has failed to do so and now faces fines of up to €12.7m if found guilty of an offence.

The council has already given the company and its principal Laurence Keegan two opportunities to rebuild the Presentation Convent, and the matter will be referred to the courts.

It is understood that the company has not been in contact with the council.

Now city manager John Tierney has instructed the council's law agent to institute proceedings under the Planning and Development Act 2000 after Kimpton Vale failed to comply with an enforcement notice issued by the council.

The 1830s convent was part of a three-acre site on Terenure Road West sold for infill development in April 2006 for €15m. The convent was described as being in good condition at the time of the sale, but homebuilders Kimpton Vale Ltd razed it on November 4, just two weeks after Dublin City Council began the process of adding it to the Record of Protected Structures (RPS).

Bulldozers moved in to demolish the convent at 7am and by the time a dangerous buildings officer from the council arrived at 9.30am, so much was razed that the remainder had to be demolished on public safety grounds.

The company also faces legal proceedings because it failed to secure planning permission before demolishing the convent.

The enforcement proceedings are being taken under the 2000 Planning and Development Act, which states: "Any person who, without lawful authority, causes damage to a protected structure or a proposed protected structure shall be guilty of an offence."

Anyone seeking to demolish a "habitable" building is required to get permission prior to the work being carried out, which did not happen in this case.


The company was instructed to reinstate the convent "to the satisfaction of the planning department of Dublin City Council", but failed to do so.

Laurence Keegan was involved in a company which made a record tax settlement just four years ago.

Mr Keegan, of Parkmore House, Auburn Drive in Castleknock, was a director with Lido Construction until January 2002, nine months before it made a €7m settlement with the Revenue Commissioners for under-declaring corporation tax and VAT. At the time, it was the biggest published settlement in the history of the State.

As a result, Mr Keegan was restricted as a company director for five years from January 2004.

Mr Keegan also made a personal settlement with the Revenue Commissioners in 2002, totalling almost €84,000 for under-declaration of income tax -- of which €45,000 was interest and penalties.

He could not be contacted yesterday for comment, nor was anyone from Kimpton Vale available.

It is not yet known if Kimpton Vale was told that the convent was going through the process of becoming a listed building

City managers have previously forced developers to reinstate buildings after they were illegally destroyed. In 1999, the Art Deco Archer's Garage on Fenian Street was razed, but the council forced the developer to rebuild it.

Paul Melia
Irish Independent

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Locals tell council to 'arise and go' with new bridge plan

It was a view that inspired a young WB Yeats to pen one of his most iconic poems.

Now Sligo Borough Council's plans to construct its own contemporary icon -- a bold, modern bridge across the Garavogue river which will drastically alter the mystical surroundings of the Isle of Innisfree on Lough Gill.

The famous poem begins with the immortal lines: "I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree".

The proposed eastern crossing of the Garavogue river is being bitterly opposed by hundreds of the town's most elderly residents whose tranquil view of the island and lake will be replaced by two walls of up to three metres high which are to flank a new two kilometre long carriageway.


And what is a relatively quiet road which runs along the river taking about 900 cars daily is projected to clock up 20,000 car journeys per day by 2021.

"There is the strongest sense of anger in this community, where the average age is 70," said Eugene McGloin, spokesman for the Garavogue, Doorly Park, Martin Savage Park and Hazelview residents.

He maintained there had been no consultation between the council and the local residents before the publication of the Environmental Impact Statement which is currently in circulation.

"Most of these people moved here as the original tenants of these in the 1950's when this part of town was still countryside and they worked hard all their lives so that they could buy out their houses.

"Now they are being asked to spend their later years behind these eight- to 10-feet-high walls with a major carriageway on their doorsteps," he said.

For Sligo Borough Council, the bridge is the next step in upgrading the infrastructure of the growing city which has already seen the opening of an inner relief road and the pedestrianisation of some of the main streets.

It says the proposed bridge would provide an eastern relief road, reducing traffic congestion, and establish a vital link for communities south of the river with Sligo General Hospital and the Institute of Technology.

However, Eugene McGloin disagrees, arguing that a visually stunning landscape will be irreparably damaged.

"We are not opposed to a river crossing. However this is the wrong place for it.

Anita Guidera
Irish Independent

An Taisce hits out at council over library proposal

A local authority has been accused of neglecting its responsibility as a custodian of heritage after unveiling plans to build the biggest public library in the country.

An Taisce said Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council will alter the heart of Dun Laoghaire if it goes ahead with a number of controversial developments.

They include a €35m library and a high-rise apartment development on the grounds of a landmark hotel. The coastal suburb is recognised in the County Development Plan for having the highest concentration of protected structures outside Dublin city.

A spokesperson for An Taisce in Dun Laoghaire said that the new library building would be "a massive, contemporary, structure" in a prominent position in the town. She said it would have a major impact on the architectural environment into which it was being placed.

The environmental protection lobby group has already raised concerns about a proposal to build 107 apartments over retail outlets at the Royal Marine Hotel.

It claims it will lead to the loss of open space and views of protected structures.

"The council insists that it is committed to ensuring that this heritage plays its part in the future of sustainable development of the county," said Mairead Mehigan of An Taisce, Dun Laoghaire. "However, its recent track record does not support this statement."

However, the council's director of Culture, Community Development and Amenities Charles MacNamara said: "Not only will this project offer the public a state-of-the-art facility, but it will offer unrivalled access to arts, culture and research facilities."

Anne-Marie Walsh
Irish Independent

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Tara album adds voice to protest

A new album featuring artists protesting against the building of the M3 motorway near the Hill of Tara in Co Meath has been launched to coincide with the winter solstice.

The double album called Gather The Mighty In features artists including Liam Ó Maonlaí in collaboration with Steve Cooney, Kila, Mercury Music Prize nominee Lou Rhodes and the harpist Laoise Kelly, among 45 different contributors.

The album contains contributions from Nobel Prize winning laureate Seamus Heaney, actor Stuart Townsend and environmentalist and television presenter Duncan Stewart. It also contains details of an alternative to the M3 proposals put forward by environmentalists which would see the proposed motorway being replaced by a 2+1 road system which would be routed away from the Hill of Tara.

The album has been compiled over the last nine months by performance poet and environmentalist Seano Braonain.

The Irish Times

Dunne loses DDDA records case

Property developer Seán Dunne has lost a High Court bid to compel the Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA) to provide him with certain documents for his legal challenge relating to a €200 million development on the city's north quays.

In Commercial Court proceedings, Mr Dunne is seeking an order quashing the DDDA's decision that the project is exempted development and argues that it should be subject to particular conditions.

The action has been taken by Mr Dunne and North Wall Property Holding Company Ltd, with registered offices in the Isle of Man, against the DDDA and a company called North Quay Investments Ltd, a company controlled by rival developer Liam Carroll.

The DDDA has entered into an agreement with North Quay Investments to develop a site bounded by North Wall Quay, New Wapping Street, Mayor Street and Castleforbes Road.

Construction work is already underway. Mr Dunne's property is surrounded on three sides by the project. In his action, Mr Dunne claims the DDDA was wrong to conclude the project does not require planning permission. He claims the development does not comply with the Docklands North Lotts planning scheme, including the objective of providing an east-west route between New Wapping Street and Castleforbes Street.

The proposed mix of uses, height and design of the development is also inconsistent with the planning scheme, Mr Dunne claims. A "monolithic" eight storey apartment block proposed to the immediate eastern boundary of his property has no regard for these and other issues in the planning scheme, he claims.

The case was first before the Commercial Court on December 10th last and yesterday a lawyer for Mr Dunne applied for discovery of all records and documents relating to the decision taken by the DDDA on this project. Garrett Simons SC, for Mr Dunne, said the application had become necessary because, since the case first came before the court, an agreement between the DDDA and North Quay Investments made on May 31st last had come to Mr Dunne's attention. Mr Dunne was also seeking to amend his claim against the DDDA.

Michael Cush SC, for the DDDA, opposed the discovery application saying his clients had already co-operated with Mr Dunne. Counsel added that his side was not opposing the application to amend the claim.

Mr Justice Peter Kelly said applications for discovery in judicial review cases like this were very limited and the case had already been dealt with quickly and had a hearing date in the Commercial Court on January 22nd next. He believed Mr Dunne and the company could "do no better" than refer to the terms of the new agreement on May 31st, of which they now have possession, in terms of discovery of documents.

He refused the application for discovery but said the claim could be amended.

He also awarded costs to the DDDA for the hearing of yesterday's application for discovery.

The proceedings brought by Mr Dunne and North Wall Property Holdings, in relation to whether it is exempted development, arises out of a certificate issued by the DDDA under Section 25 of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority Act 1997.

A second set of proceedings - brought under Section 160 of the Planning and Development Act 1960 - seeks orders restraining alleged unauthorised works at the site of the disputed development and an order requiring restoration of the lands.

According to court documents, development has already begun on the site with some €15 million spent to date by North Quay Investments. The company has expressed concern that the uncertainty caused by the proceedings had the potential to have serious adverse economic consequences for it.

The Irish Times

M&S opt for Killarney after planning setback

Marks & Spencer is to open a store in Killarney after An Bord Pleanála turned down its appeal for a store at a retail park in Tralee.

Earlier this year, in a controversial decision, Tralee's councillors denied the retail giant a material contravention.

The Killarney M&S outlet will open in May at the Deerpark shopping centre employing 80 people, and its arrival has been gleefully welcomed in the town.

Although anxious to play down ancient rivalries, councillors and the business community can hardly believe their luck and see the arrival of M&S as boosting considerably the tourist town's retail cachet, which had fallen behind Tralee in recent years.

"The increased presence of international brands will appropriately compliment the superb traditional indigenous retail offerings for which Killarney is well known internationally," the Killarney Chamber of Commerce said this weekend.

Earlier this year, to considerable public surprise, town councillors in Tralee refused to grant M&S a material contravention of the town plan to allow them into the retail park at Manor West on the outskirts of Tralee.

Instead they hoped to persuade them to locate to a shopping centre nearer town.

Originally, a smooth passage was expected for M&S at Manor West, in line with other retail giants who now operate from there.

However, shortly before the first vote on the matter local developers announced plans for a shopping centre in the Austin Stack Park, Tralee, nearer the town centre.

The expectation was that M&S would be moved into the new retail park at Austin Stack Park. Some councillors said alternative locations nearer town might be considered.

However, there was a public outcry at the councillors' decision and even the Church of Ireland rector wrote to parishioners and joined in a protest outside the council chambers in support of M&S.

The rejection of the retail giant was the single biggest issue on the doorstep in the general election last May, candidates found, and cost Labour candidate Tralee Cllr Terry O'Brien and Fianna Fáil Cllr Norma Foley dearly in votes.

The Killarney store will open in May at the Deerpark shopping centre where Tesco are the anchor tenants.

It will generate 80 full-time jobs. Moreover, it will be smaller than the €6 million store originally planned for Tralee but will also include a food hall, clothing store, bakery and cafe.

Chief executive of Marks and Spencer in Ireland Neil Hyslop said he was disappointed with the planning board's decision - especially as there had been overwhelming support in Tralee for the store, but confirmed the decision to open in Killarney.

The company had no plans to open elsewhere in Tralee, he said.

The Irish Times

University seeks waiver of €300,000 in planning levies

The University of Limerick (UL) is seeking to have the imposition of more than €300,000 in planning levies waived on its new Irish World Academy of Music and Dance.

Last month Clare County Council gave the university permission for the centre at Garraun, Clonlara, but imposed €304,000 in levies towards the provision of public infrastructure.

The university has appealed the conditions to An Bord Pleanála.

The new building will house two theatres, one for 80 people and the other for 240, and a number of lecture theatres.

In the appeal, the university says "the development is located on the Clare campus of the university and deliberately so to celebrate the rich tradition of Clare music and dance through learning, accreditation and research".

It states it is seeking to raise locally "in excess of €6 million".

"Donors have expressed interest in funding the project," it adds.

The appeal states: "The imposition of development contributions on this development . . . would impede the viability of the project and contradict the spirit and letter of the scheme by applying commercial levies to non-commercial voluntary work."

The Irish Times

NRA attributes motorway services delay to Department

Three planning applications for service areas on the M1 and M/N4 are being held up as a result of delays by the Department of Transport, according to the National Roads Authority.

At a recent board meeting the NRA noted that the Department was required to approve regulations before planning could be sought. "Unfortunately this has not happened yet, notwithstanding its urgency, and we are delayed in submitting the M1/M4 service areas for planning approval," the board noted.

A spokesman for the NRA said that the planning applications were going through "parliamentary regulatory procedures" and that a response was expected "early in the new year".

Regulatory approval is required before the plans can be submitted to An Bord Pleanála.

The NRA has committed to having its first service areas operational by the end of 2009 and the spokesman said that, currently, it was still on course to meet this target.

Some 12 locations along the motorway network have been identified as suitable for service areas. The first will be sited on the M/N4 with two more along the M1. The Authority says it plans to have service areas on all the inter-urban motorways by 2010.

A Department of Transport spokeswoman said a piece of legislation was being drafted and work was progressing as fast as possible. "It is before the parliamentary council, but there is a lot of work there. However, as far as we are concerned the . . . service stops are on schedule. There are no delays."

Citing security and other concerns, the NRA recently changed its policy on rest areas and has decided against providing 11 such sites, which were to provide parking and toilet facilities.

Despite this decision, the NRA spokesman said that the number of service areas was not going to be increased.

The NRA recently awarded a contract to infrastructure consultants Halcrow Barry Ltd, to provide expert advice during the development of service areas.

Service areas will offer food for 16 hours a day and fuel and toilet facilities around the clock. They will also provide extensive parking for cars and HGVs and a Garda enforcement area.

Deciding on how best to provide motorway facilities has been a difficult process for the NRA. The initial NRA view, in 2004, was not to provide such areas along mainline carriageways for safety reasons.

However, this policy was changed, partly because the benefits of by-passing towns was being lost as commercial traffic left the main routes in search of fuel and food.

While the exact sites have yet to be determined, the NRA has said the service areas will be located along the carriageways, rather than at junctions, to prevent a build-up of development at junctions.

The locations chosen for service areas are: along the N11 near the Arklow bypass and on the proposed M9 north of Carlow and near Kilcullen.

For the M7, two service areas will be sited near Mountrath and between Nenagh and Roscea.

The M6 will also be served oneservice area near the M6 and N17 interchange and the second near Athlone.

Motorists on the M1 will be served by two service areas, one south of Dundalk and the other south of Ballbriggan.

And on the M8 drivers will also have a choice of one between Fermoy and Michelstown and the second near Cashel.

As a general rule the service areas will be around 50kms apart.

The Irish Times

Council says yes to residential scheme on Dalkey school grounds

Plans for a new housing development on part of the grounds of Castlepark school in Dalkey have been approved by Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council.

The local authority has granted permission for 47 houses and apartments on a 3.7-acre part of the school grounds off Castlepark Road. The proposed site is off the main school avenue behind Mackeys garden centre, where developers Wesley Curran and Graham O'Donnell are looking to build 81 apartments. This scheme was approved by the local authority but is under appeal to An Bord Pleanála.

Castlepark school has sold off portions of its large landholding at Castlepark Road for residential development over the years. This time around it's believed that the school had struck a deal with a consortium of developers, including David Arnold and John Lombard, so that the site would be sold to them for a figure of around €10 million subject to planning permission being granted for the residential scheme.

The proceeds would contribute towards the redevelopment of the school, which is currently underway. This will involve the construction of an additional 39 classrooms, an indoor swimming pool, assembly hall, PE hall, caretaker's flat and 90 surface car-parking spaces.

Last year the school sought permission for 81 residential units at the site but this was refused on appeal to An Bord Pleanála, which ruled that the scheme would "seriously injure" adjacent residential properties on Hyde Road, and in Castle Close and Castlelands.

The scheme has been scaled back in height and density and will now involve 14 four and five-bedroom semi-detached houses and one four-bedroom detached house, all over three storeys. Some 32 apartments will also be built in two blocks from three to five storeys. The local authority granted permission subject to 40 conditions including that the developer pay contributions totalling €1.4 million to the council as well as a tree bond of €500,000. The decision by the local authority to grant permission is likely be appealed to An Bord Pleanála by local residents who have opposed the development on a number of grounds.

The Irish Times

Apartments planned for Hatch Hall

A former Jesuit student residence on Hatch Street in Dublin 2 is set to be transformed into a luxury residential development.

Six months after being refused planning permission to turn Hatch Hall into a five-star boutique hotel, Galway property developer Gerry Barrett is set to lodge a planning application to turn the listed building into a 36-unit apartment development.

Barrett acquired the building from the Jesuit community for over €16 million in 2004. It is currently in use as a 80-bedroom hostel for asylum seekers.

The 2,787sq m (30,000sq ft) redbrick building dates from the early 1900s and had been run by the Jesuits for around 90 years. It features attractive gardens, a courtyard and a chapel.

The plans drawn up by Edward Residential Assets, a subsidiary of Barrett's Edward Holdings, will involve the demolition of a two/three-storey building at Hatch Place to make way for a six-storey building - one storey lower than the previous hotel application.

Two additional storeys will be added to a four-storey building on Hatch Lane and 36 car-parking spaces will be provided at basement level.

The scheme, designed by Douglas Wallace Architects, will be firmly pitched at the top end of the market.

The majority of apartments will be two-bedroom units, including four duplexes.

The former chapel will be converted into two apartments, one of which will measure 120sq m (1,290sq ft) and will feature stained glass and an organ loft.

Barrett's previous hotel scheme was given approval by Dublin City Council, but this was overturned on appeal by An Bord Pleanála, which said the proposed hotel would involve altering the protected structure to an "unacceptable" level.

A proposed seven-storey addition to the hall would be "visually obtrusive" the board added.

Barrett, a former school teacher from Galway, started out building shopping centres before moving into building hotels and residential developments in Ireland and the UK.

The Irish Times

Appeals lodged against plan for building on Great Blasket

Appeals have been lodged against plans by An Blascaod Mór Teoranta for a cafe and services building on the Great Blasket Island off the coast of Kerry.

The realisation of the building is an integral part of the sale of most of the company's property on the island to the State, hammered out this summer.

New piers, paths and conservation of buildings are on hold until the building goes ahead, under the terms of the agreement reached with the OPW this summer.

A previous application for a somewhat larger services building was turned down by An Bord Pleanála two years ago.

The historic Irish writers' island, home to Tomás Ó Criomhtháin, Seán Ó Suilleabháin and Peig Sayers, also has a number of unique natural habitats and rare species. Already a special area of conservation, it is expected to be designated shortly as a special protected area for birds.

Last month Kerry County Council granted planning to An Blascaod Mór Teo, for the 330sq m construction, including a ranger room, a separate store for a tractor and a septic tank.

The appeals to An Bord Pleanála this week have been lodged by Sue Redican, the Blasket Island weaver, and by another third party.

Ms Redican, who has lived on the island for 20 years, said she feared the island's natural resources would be exploited for profit.

She has questioned how materials for the new building are to be transported from the pier and says the septic tank is inadequate.

Issues of scale and size and integration into the landscape have also been raised.

Dr Catherine McMullin, honorary planning officer with An Taisce in Kerry, said yesterday it was studying the appeal and expected to make a submission to An Bord Pleanála.

An Taisce has already questioned how a modern building will fit into an unspoilt island and how it is to be serviced with electricity.

The State has been attempting to purchase the island for almost 20 years.

It aims to turn it a national park and candidate for Unesco World Heritage Site status.

The Irish Times

EPA to decide quickly if it will hold Poolbeg hearing

A new oral hearing into the Poolbeg incinerator could be conducted next year by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) following the receipt of objections to its proposal to grant a licence for the facility.

The EPA said yesterday it would decide "as soon as possible" in the New Year whether to accede to requests for the hearing.

The incinerator, which would be Dublin's first municipal waste incinerator and one of the largest in Europe, was granted planning permission by An Bord Pleanála in November following a lengthy oral hearing this year.

Within days of the Bord Pleanála decision, the EPA announced its intention to grant a waste licence to Dublin City Council to operate the facility. A 28-day period of statutory public consultation on the proposal ensued. The consultation phase is now at an end, and the EPA has received 14 valid objections and eight requests for an oral hearing.

Had no objections or requests for a hearing been received, the board of the EPA would have automatically made a final decision at the end of the consultation period. However, it will now consider the possibility of a hearing.

"The closing date for submissions was just this week, and no decision on the requests for an oral hearing has been made yet, but that decision will be made in the New Year as early as possible," a spokeswoman said.

Objections to the licence were made by several politicians, local residents' groups and individuals.

Minister for the Environment John Gormley, before his appointment as Minister, made an objection to the potential granting of a licence in a letter dated October 5th, 2006.

Combined Residents Against Incineration, Sandymount and Merrion Residents' Association and the Ringsend Irishtown and Sandymount Environmental Group also made objections.

The Irish Times

Several shades of Green

Environment: Only six months in Government, and already the Green Party has discovered that power brings its problems, writes Frank McDonald , Environment Editor.

Getting into Government was a baptism of fire for Green Party leader John Gormley. On the day he took office last June, he was informed that his predecessor, Dick Roche, had signed an order for the "preservation by record" of a newly found national monument at Lismullen on the route of the M3 motorway.

Re-routing the M3 away from the Hill of Tara and the archaeological landscape that surrounds it was one of the Greens' demands in the negotiations to form a Government, but their Fianna Fáil partners wouldn't budge; the motorway was to go ahead as planned. Legally, there was nothing the new Minister could do to set aside Roche's directions that the prehistoric Lismullen henge should be archaeologically excavated, properly recorded and then removed from the path of the M3.

Gormley pledged to protect Tara and its environs by designating it a "landscape conservation area", even though this was an essentially meaningless gesture when the Gabhra Valley between the ancient seat of Ireland's high kings and the Hill of Skryne to the east was about to be scarred by a motorway snaking right through it.

But the new Minister, whose portfolio includes heritage protection, repeatedly said he had no authority to order a re-routing of the M3. Campaigners for the preservation of Tara's setting were outraged by what they saw as a betrayal of their cause by a party all too anxious to get its hands on the levers of power.

Five months later, Gormley suffered a major political setback when An Bord Pleanála decided unanimously to approve plans by Dublin City Council for a huge municipal waste incinerator on the Poolbeg peninsula - a highly contentious project that he had vigorously opposed as one of the local TDs. Again, there was nothing he could do to alter the outcome. Under the Planning Act 2000, the Minister for the Environment is debarred from interfering in the deliberations of the planning appeals board or, indeed, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which issued a draft licence for the proposed "waste-to-energy" plant a week later.

All Gormley could do - and he did so regularly over several months - was to indicate quite publicly that national waste-management policy favouring incineration was in the process of being changed. However, it hadn't been changed by statute, so An Bord Pleanála and the EPA could only base their decisions on existing policy.

The fact that the appeals board declined to cap the tonnage of waste to be incinerated at the Poolbeg plant - as its own senior planning inspector, Padraig Thornton, had recommended - made its decision an even more bitter pill to swallow; it certainly didn't go down well in Ringsend, Irishtown and Sandymount.

The Minister may seek to circumvent approval for the incinerator by issuing a policy directive under the Waste Management Act 1996 that would have the effect of undermining the economic viability of the project. But it is difficult to see how he could set aside the council's contract with a Danish-American consortium lined up to run it.

However, there were many things Gormley could do to advance the "green agenda". For example, he moved swiftly in publishing an amendment to the building regulations that would increase the energy-efficiency of new homes by 40 per cent. Another measure, which he announced in the State's first "carbon budget" earlier this month, will ban wasteful incandescent light bulbs from the Irish market from January 1st, 2009. This is expected to deliver carbon emissions savings of up to 700,000 tonnes per year and cut householders' electricity bills by €185 million annually.

Gormley's party colleague, Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan, has published a draft Energy Efficiency Action Plan, which provides additional funding for the highly successful Greener Homes Scheme as well as a limited "initial pilot programme" to encourage owners of older houses to upgrade their energy performance.

CHANGES IN MOTOR taxation, with all vehicles to be rated exclusively on the basis of their CO2 emissions (with larger ones such as SUVs paying proportionately more), are designed to enable motorists to make more informed choices in buying new vehicles - so that, ultimately, the "gas guzzlers" will be shunned as much as energy-wasting fridges.

However, as Gormley noted in his carbon budget speech, emissions from Ireland's transport sector have risen by 180 per cent since 1990 - mainly as a result of the spectacular increase in car ownership and use. Yet the lion's share (€2.7 billion) of public investment in transport during 2008 is earmarked for more roads and motorways.

The Minister billed the first "pilot" carbon budget as bringing climate change to "the heart of Government decision-making" - putting it on a par with managing the economy.

"We have to think carbon," he told the Dáil on December 6th. "If we are to successfully tackle climate change, if we have to de-carbonise society, then we have to put a price on carbon, and I hope that all deputies in this House will begin to understand the necessity of a carbon levy." Obviously, many of his Fianna Fáil colleagues in Government didn't share this view, because there was no provision in the Minister's carbon budget to impose such a levy. Instead, the issue was referred for further study to the proposed Commission on Taxation, which could take years to report back. In short, the carbon levy was flunked.

Comhar, the Sustainable Development Council, which sees the levy as key to ensuring that we meet our Kyoto Protocol targets, was disappointed. "Every year that passes without a levy is a year lost in making the progress that has to be made," said chairman Prof Frank Convery. "It is imperative that we introduce this levy in the next 12 months."The decision to kick for touch, even on the introduction of a modest €5 per tonne, would suggest that Minister for Finance Brian Cowen has yet to "buy in" to the firm pledge in the Programme for Government that the State would reduce its CO2 emissions by an average of 3 per cent, year on year, between now and 2012, when the current Kyoto "commitment period" is due to expire.

Budget Day provides the clearest indication of a Government's priorities, and this year's was no exception. However it was dressed up by Gormley in his carbon budget speech, it is evident that the Green Party has a tough road to travel in effecting real change.

Ireland's ranking in 44th place (out of 56 countries) in the latest Climate Change Performance Index will have come as a disappointment to the Greens. But then, they're barely more than six months in office and it will take a lot more time for them to make an impact.

The Irish Times

Friday, 21 December 2007

Emissions target will hammer the economy -- experts

THE Government's targets for tackling global warming are impossible to achieve without huge increases in fuel prices and severe damage to the economy, a new study published by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) concludes.

The Government target is to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gas carbon dioxide by 3pc a year to 2012.

"It is not clear where this target comes from," says Richard Tol, a researches with the ESRI. "It can only be achieved by drastic measures, such as a rapid reduction in the numbers of people or cattle."

He said a serious attempt to achieve such a 15pc reduction in the space of just five years would require the price of petrol to rise above €2 a litre and a threefold increase in the cost of electricity.

The resulting fall in demand would knock more than 2pc off economic growth by 2012, the research calculates.


"The Irish economy is currently projected to grow by 2.9pc. With climate policy this fall to 2.5-2.6pc; a reduction of one tenth to one fifth -- provided emission reduction is announced well in advance," the analysis says.

"In fact, the problem is more severe than this. In a five-year period, emissions are largely reduced on the demand side. This would imply that either one half of the population emigrates, or the average resident uses 50pc less energy.

"One would have to give up the television, the dishwasher, the washing machine and the refrigerator, and refrain from travelling by car four days a week," the report states.

Mr Tol said our models cannot find a way to get this reduction by 2012. "If one put the burden on agriculture, half the cattle in the country would have to be culled," he said.

"If it were industry, two-fifths of production would have to move overseas. And that would do nothing for global emissions -- just moving dairy farming or industry out of Ireland."

He said the problem is that nothing major can be done about the main sources of greenhouse gases over five, or even 10 years. There can be little change in the stock of power stations in five years, the housing stock will largely be the same as now, and public transport will increase marginally.

"The emission reduction target of the Irish Government can only be met by draconian measures. It would therefore be better abandoned," the analysis concludes.

The issue is serious because the Irish taxpayer could end up paying large sums to "buy" carbon if Ireland does not meet targets agreed at EU and international level.

Mr Tol favours a carbon tax which would rise slowly over time on emissions which are not covered by EU rules.

Brendan Keenan
Irish Independent

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Proposals for €40m Limerick city centre development to be lodged

PLANS for a €40 million development in Limerick city centre will be lodged with council planners later this week, it was announced yesterday.

One of the most ambitious projects to be undertaken in the city will involve the construction of six floors of commercial units.

This will consist of 60,000 sq ft of office and retail space developed on a site framed by Catherine Street, Glentworth Street and Mallow Street in the heart of the city.

Up to 600 jobs will be created within the office and retail complex.

A basement car park will hold 110 vehicles.

The project is being undertaken by the Catherine Street Partnership, a consortium which includes Limerick businessman Noel Harrington.

It is hoped work can get under way by next June.

The proposed site, adjacent to O’Connell Street, lies within the single largest employment centre in the mid-west with more than 12,000 people employed.

Zoned as commercial, the site forms part of the city area identified for conservation and re-generation activities by Limerick City Council. It includes the former printing works of the Limerick Leader newspaper.

Mr Harrington said the addition of office and retail accommodation would be a tremendous fillip to the city centre and would enhance its marketability as a location for business investment.

He said: “The project makes a confident statement about the future of Limerick. We believe it will be well received by local businesses and residents who will see it as creating critical mass of commercial and amenity infrastructure in an area earmarked for significant investment by Limerick City Council.”

The design is based around a free-flowing courtyard which will be accessible by pedestrians from Catherine Street and Mallow Street.

Mr Harrington said: “The courtyard provides light and ventilation to the surroundings spaces and access to the two main office entrances.

“The building design, by award winning architects Murray O’Laoire, is innovative and sustainable. The office accommodation is naturally ventilated with the openable sections concealed behind perforated copper mesh to simplify the facade. Glazing is sued in moderation and recessed throughout the building in order to reduce heat gains and provide cool light.”

Many of the existing buildings within the proposed development site are dilapidated and unoccupied.

Mr Harrington said: “This is a wonderful city centre site which, because of its overall condition, is crying out for development and rejuvenation.

“Our project is very much in keeping with the development strategies of Limerick City Council which see the city centre having, in addition to significant restoration of the old historic quarter of the city, a mix of high quality commercial, retail and amenity development. In terms of user access, the site is ideal. Catherine Street is within easy walking distance of Colbert Station, the primary rail and business station in the mid-west. This affords users of the proposed development comprehensive public transport connections to Ennis, Shannon, Cork, Dublin and other locations.”

The developers will be engaging in consultation on the project with local businesses, residents and other stakeholders over the coming months.

The announcement comes days after a revitalisation plan for the city centre was unveiled.

The authors of the plan warned the city centre was in need of development to keep pace with the retailing schemes which have raced ahead in the suburbs.

Irish Examiner

We're top of the population charts as immigration soars

Ireland has the fastest growing population in the European Union, even though most migrants leave after four years.

Only Spain and Cyprus came anywhere close to our steep annual growth rate among the 27 member states in the 12 months to April this year.

This is the third year in a row in which a rise of over 2pc in the number of people living in the Republic was recorded.

And the first in-depth survey of foreign nationals working in Ireland, also published yesterday, indicates that almost two-thirds of them leave within four years.

Figures released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) reveal that just 34pc of those given personal public service numbers (PPSN) in 2002 were still in employment last year.

Of the 83,140 foreign nationals who were allocated a number five years ago, 53pc were working the following year.

This dropped to 41pc the following year before diving to 34pc last year.

CSO officials said soaring levels of immigration was the main factor pushing up the population by 2.5pc this year, to an estimated total of 4.3 million people. The total number of immigrants in the year to April was 109,500, far higher than any year since 1987.


Analysts predicted last night that there will be no interruption in the inward flow of non-nationals over the next few years.

Speaking at the launch of the results yesterday, CSO senior statistician Aidan Punch said the population rate places us "way above our European counterparts".

He said the massive rate of growth that followed the addition of 10 accession countries to the EU in 2004 led to a dramatic 7.5pc rise in numbers living here since then. The new arrivals are mostly young and male and come from the 10 accession states.

In 2002 and 2003, there were less than 10,000 arrivals from these countries, but there was an influx of 59,000 in 2004.

The trend gathered momentum and last year there were 139,000 arrivals from the accession states, accounting for 61pc of all arrivals.

A total of 42pc were aged between 15 and 24, and 43pc were aged between 24 and 44, statistics show.


Most came from Poland, which accounted for 94,000 new arrivals last year, while 22,000 came from the UK.

However, many of the UK arrivals may be Irish nationals, or people who came from other EU countries after travelling to the UK first.

Of those from the accession countries, 67pc were Polish, 12pc Lithuanian, 8pc were Slovakian, and 6pc Latvian.

Our population growth rate is far ahead of the second most expanding country, Spain, where the growth rate is 1.64pc, according to figures from EU statistics agency Eurostat.

The third fastest growing state in the EU is Cyprus, which is increasing at a rate of 1.6pc.

Our population is growing at almost three times the rate it is in the UK, which saw a rise of 0.8pc this year.

Irish Independent