Friday, 30 October 2009

440,000 must buy septic tank licence - Gormley

MORE than 400,000 homeowners will be forced to buy a licence for their septic tank under new laws planned for next year.

Yesterday, Environment Minister John Gormley said he would introduce a licensing and inspection system for septic tanks, which will affect 440,000 homes across the country, mostly in rural areas.

The department has not yet decided how much a licence will cost, but in Scotland similar licences cost €82.

And some homeowners could be forced to replace their tanks if the licensing authority decides they are not working properly and pose a risk to public health.

Sources said that tanks located on waterlogged sites or with clay soil may have to be replaced at a cost of up to €4,000 per tank.

The move, which is a commitment in the Renewed Programme for Government, comes after the European Court of Justice ruled yesterday that Ireland had broken EU law for failing to enact legislation to deal with domestic wastewater from septic tanks and other treatment systems.


Homeowners currently have a "duty of care" but, under a new licensing system, a public body -- such as a local authority -- will inspect tanks to ensure they are not causing pollution.

Fines of up to €5,000 or three months' imprisonment can currently be imposed for not ensuring the wastewater is properly treated. Penalties are likely to be of a similar order under the new system.

Households not served by public sewers usually depend on septic tank systems to treat and dispose of wastewater.

A typical tank takes wastewater from a toilet, bath, kitchen and washing machine.

Heavy solids settle to the bottom where bacteria partially decompose them into sludge, and tanks are pumped to prevent overflowing.

Excess wastewater is filtered through the soil where it is absorbed. If tanks overflow or are not maintained, they can cause contamination of groundwater, rivers and streams with potentially dangerous bugs, including e-coli.

Yesterday, Mr Gormley said he would be considering the court's judgment and introducing a licensing system.

"We know that in far too many instances septic tanks or on-site sewage treatment systems are causing pollution. The absence of a licensing and inspection system is a major weakness in our overall environmental management structures," he said.

Paul Melia
Irish Independent

EU ruling on waste water hits permission for one-off housing

IT will be increasingly difficult to secure planning permission for one-off rural homes that aren’t connected to public sewers, following a judgment of the European Court of Justice yesterday.

The Luxembourg-based court ruled that Ireland had failed to fulfil its obligations to comply with an EU directive that waste water from septic tanks is recovered and disposed of without endangering human health.

The ECJ said standards used in granting planning permissions "did not ensure a level of environmental and human health protection as high as that pursued by [the EU] directive".

During the hearing in the case, the commission heavily criticised Ireland’s track record on environmental protection, especially in relation to the handling of waste from septic tanks. It argued that various Irish environmental laws had not enabled pollution to be reduced in practice. It is estimated there are around 400,000 households in Ireland which rely on septic tanks to collect waste water.

The commission claimed there were "serious shortcomings" throughout Ireland which were capable of adversely affecting the environment. EU officials claimed such problems were linked to deficiencies in construction, unsuitable siting, insufficient capacities, maintenance and inspection as well as "inactivity" by local authorities.

However, the commission said the sole exception were by-laws introduced in Co Cavan which had adequately addressed the issue of the disposal of domestic waste waters in the countryside through septic tanks.

In contrast, the Government insisted that, contrary to claims by Brussels, the existing national legislation fully met Ireland’s obligations under the EU directive.

However, State lawyers acknowledged that Ireland had not expressly or specifically transposed the 1975 directive into national legislation even though they argued that Irish law as a whole ensured compliance with all the obligations arising from the EU legislation.

Irish Examiner

EPA warns better preparation needed for climate change

THE Environmental Protection Agency has warned that Ireland needs to prepare itself better for the unavoidable impacts of climate change.

The EPA yesterday published "A Summary of the State of Knowledge on Climate Change Impacts for Ireland", an assessment of the current knowledge on climate change and its expected impacts for Ireland.

The report provides what its authors say is a high level assessment of possible impacts for key economic and social sectors in Ireland and identifies a number of "adaptation options" and "gaps in knowledge".

Laura Burke, EPA director of the Office of Climate, Licensing and Resource Use, said: "Climate Change is happening in Ireland. This report sets out the likely impacts of temperature rises, wetter winters and warmer seas on areas as diverse as agriculture, fishing, disease control and infrastructural networks. We need to adapt to climate change and to ensure adaptation actions are environmentally and economically sustainable."

Changes already identified in Irish climate include:

* Air temperature increased by 0.7C since 1890. The increase was 0.4C during the period 1980-2008 which is equivalent to 0.14C per decade. Temperature is expected to rise by 1C to 3C by 2100.

* There has been a significant rise in total rainfall in the north and west. Projected changes include wetter western winters and drier summers in the south-east.

* The frequency of storms has decreased, but the intensity has increased.

Meanwhile, the Government has said it wants to slash harmful greenhouse gas emissions by 10% in one year to meet EU targets.

With just over a month to go until an international climate change conference in Denmark, a new website advises people how to reduce their carbon footprint.

The European Union has already agreed to reduce emissions by a fifth by 2020 and up to 95% by 2050.

Environment Minister John Gormley claimed the level of change needed to meet the radical targets was almost inconceivable. "The sort of change that is required now is, I think for most people, incomprehensible. It would mean huge reductions in greenhouse gas emissions across all sectors. These are going to be very onerous targets indeed, but also very necessary."

The website calls on everybody to sign a pledge supporting the Government’s efforts to secure a deal in Copenhagen and encourages the public to slash their CO2 emissions.

A special Oireachtas committee yesterday unveiled legislation shifting the onus for tackling global warming on to Taoiseach Brian Cowen. The new laws would make the Taoiseach and his successors answerable to the Dáil on what progress Ireland was making to slash its greenhouse gas emissions. Mr Gormley had not read the proposals, but vowed climate change legislation would be introduced by the Government.

Irish Examiner

EU court raps Ireland over waste water treatment

THE EUROPEAN Court of Justice has reprimanded Ireland for not properly implementing EU rules on waste water in rural areas, which the European Commission said has caused “serious damage to the environment”.

In its judgment the EU court, which sits in Luxembourg, took the European Commission’s side, which said there were “serious shortcomings” in the way septic tanks and other private waste water treatment systems are installed and maintained throughout the countryside.

The European Court said that Ireland – with the exception of Co Cavan, which introduced water pollution bylaws in 2004 – had failed to properly implement a 1975 EU directive on waste. The Government has been ordered to pay its own costs and three-quarters of those incurred by the EU executive in the case.

Minister for the Environment John Gormley said in reaction to the judgment, “We know that in far too many instances septic tanks or onsite sewage treatment systems are causing pollution. The absence of a licensing and inspection system is a major weakness in our overall environmental management structures and this needs to be addressed.” He said he was launching a public consultation to look into the issue.

An Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report on drinking water released this year found that the quality of private water supplies was inferior to those maintained by public authorities. It says that over 31 per cent of private group water schemes were contaminated with E. coli at least once during 2007 (184 out of 586).

However, Labour Party MEP Nessa Childers, the only Irish member of the European Parliament’s environment committee, described the court’s ruling as a “damning indictment” of the Government’s and Minister for the Environment John Gormley’s “green credentials”.

“The Greens should explain why a commitment in the new programme for government to introduce a scheme for the licensing and inspection of septic tanks and waste water treatment systems has been tarted-up and cynically presented as a new policy departure,” she said.

Gerard O’Leary of the EPA’s environmental enforcement office said proper treatment of waste water from septic tanks and other systems was a public health issue.

“If these systems are not designed and don’t dispose of the effluent properly, it’s lodged on your site, and . . . you can guarantee that E. coli is present.”

He said the EPA had been identifying concerns in drinking water reports for several years. More than 400,000 Irish homes had septic tanks in 2006, according to census data, due to the large number of scattered settlements in rural areas.

Irish Times

EU court raps Ireland over waste water treatment

THE EUROPEAN Court of Justice has reprimanded Ireland for not properly implementing EU rules on waste water in rural areas, which the European Commission said has caused “serious damage to the environment”.

In its judgment the EU court, which sits in Luxembourg, took the European Commission’s side, which said there were “serious shortcomings” in the way septic tanks and other private waste water treatment systems are installed and maintained throughout the countryside.

The European Court said that Ireland – with the exception of Co Cavan, which introduced water pollution bylaws in 2004 – had failed to properly implement a 1975 EU directive on waste. The Government has been ordered to pay its own costs and three-quarters of those incurred by the EU executive in the case.

Minister for the Environment John Gormley said in reaction to the judgment, “We know that in far too many instances septic tanks or onsite sewage treatment systems are causing pollution. The absence of a licensing and inspection system is a major weakness in our overall environmental management structures and this needs to be addressed.” He said he was launching a public consultation to look into the issue.

An Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report on drinking water released this year found that the quality of private water supplies was inferior to those maintained by public authorities. It says that over 31 per cent of private group water schemes were contaminated with E. coli at least once during 2007 (184 out of 586).

However, Labour Party MEP Nessa Childers, the only Irish member of the European Parliament’s environment committee, described the court’s ruling as a “damning indictment” of the Government’s and Minister for the Environment John Gormley’s “green credentials”.

“The Greens should explain why a commitment in the new programme for government to introduce a scheme for the licensing and inspection of septic tanks and waste water treatment systems has been tarted-up and cynically presented as a new policy departure,” she said.

Gerard O’Leary of the EPA’s environmental enforcement office said proper treatment of waste water from septic tanks and other systems was a public health issue.

“If these systems are not designed and don’t dispose of the effluent properly, it’s lodged on your site, and . . . you can guarantee that E. coli is present.”

He said the EPA had been identifying concerns in drinking water reports for several years. More than 400,000 Irish homes had septic tanks in 2006, according to census data, due to the large number of scattered settlements in rural areas.

Irish Times

Jackson Way rezoning action to be heard next year

AN ALLEGED beneficial owner of Jackson Way Properties (JWP), Jim Kennedy, is to give evidence to the High Court disputing claims by jailed lobbyist Frank Dunlop made in support of an action by the Criminal Assets Bureau (Cab) against JWP over its €53 million alleged unjust enrichment from the rezoning of lands in south Dublin.

The action will be heard sometime after October next year and is likely to last up to 12 weeks.

JWP had applied last July to have the action dismissed on grounds a number of affidavits for Cab, including one from Mr Dunlop and another from Det Supt John O’Mahoney of Cab, contained inadmissible hearsay evidence. Cab opposed the motions, describing them as “one last desperate throw of the dice” by JWP to avoid the action.

Mr Justice Kevin Feeney adjourned the case to yesterday to allow JWP file replying affidavits in which the allegedly inadmissible evidence should be specifically identified.

Yesterday, the judge heard several affidavits filed for JWP, including one by Mr Kennedy, with an address in Gibraltar, which took issue with many of the claims made against the company.

The judge also heard JWP is subpoenaing 11 people, including councillors Liam Cosgrave and Tony Fox, for the trial of the action.

Cian Ferriter, for Cab, said it was neither tenable nor practical to determine the motions by JWP at this stage of the proceedings.

Mr Ferriter said JWP was making “a wholesale attack” on the claims by Mr Dunlop but should do that at the full hearing, not via a preliminary motion.

Mr Dunlop would have to examine enormous material given to Cab by the JWP side and there were “logistical difficulties” getting that material to him where he was “presently confined”.

Declan McGrath, for JWP, said there was “a serious issue of principle” relating to the extent to which hearsay evidence is admissible under the 1996 Proceeds of Crime Act. It was his case the Act allowed only a very limited exception to the normal hearsay rule.

Mr Justice Feeney said he received some 13 affidavits, plus large quantities of exhibits, on Wednesday evening and this raised issues about how the case was to proceed.

After exchanges between the sides and the court, it was agreed JWP would not proceed with its motions but the sides would instead try to agree net issues in the case. Both sides also agreed on a timetable for the exchange of further affidavits with a view to the case going to full hearing some time in autumn 2010.

In the action, Cab claims a €53 million hike in the value of 17 acres of lands owned by JWP at Carrickmines after rezoning was a direct result of “corrupt conduct in procuring the rezoning decision” and amounted to “corrupt enrichment” of JWP under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Cab, which obtained freezing orders over the land in 2005 pending the outcome of its action, believes the rezoning decision was procured by corrupt payments to councillors made by Mr Dunlop.

Irish Times

Courts body takes issue with John O'Connor

THE COURTS Service has taken issue with chairman of An Bord Pleanála John O’Connor’s suggestion that a High Court judge “made a wrong assumption” in a recent case.

A statement from the Courts Service referred to remarks made by Mr O’Connor at a meeting of the Oireachtas environment committee on Wednesday.

The comments related to the case of Usk and District Residents’ Association Ltd versus An Bord Pleanála. Judgment was given on July 8th by Mr Justice John MacMenamin.

“It was suggested that the trial judge made a ‘wrong assumption’ as to whether the board had received legal advice prior to making the decision found to be unlawful because it was objectively biased,” the Courts Service statement said.

“The remarks attributed to the chairman might be interpreted as meaning the judgment had been based on incorrect facts or inferences from the evidence. This is not so.” In the case referred to, the judge concluded that a decision of An Bord Pleanála to grant planning permission for an engineered landfill would give rise to a reasonable apprehension that there had not been an impartial decision-making process. The board’s decision was irrational and in excess of its jurisdiction, and should be quashed, he ruled.

At the Oireachtas committee, which was discussing the An Bord Pleanála annual report, Fine Gael Senator Paudie Coffey told Mr O’Connor the judgment stated “there is no evidence the board moved to obtain legal advice at all prior to embarking on the course of action”.

Mr Coffey said it was clear from the judgment “that there was a problem with regard to the board” and Mr O’Connor responded: “It’s not clear. The judge made a wrong assumption.” The Courts Service statement said the case was heard on affidavit evidence and the court may act only on evidence.

“Had the board wished to put in evidence any matter it considered of assistance to its case, or relevant to its decision it was entirely free to do so. There was no such material before the court – a fact which was accepted at the hearing.” The Courts Service said a comment from an An Bord Pleanála spokesman could lead to misinterpretation.

“The spokesman said the judge had no evidence on ‘the appeal file’ that it had taken legal advice prior to the unlawful decision. In fact there was no evidence in the entire proceedings that the board had either taken legal advice or had referred to it prior to its decision.”

Irish Times

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Johnn O'Connor says judge made 'wrong assumption'

THE CHAIRMAN of An Bord Pleanála, John O’Connor, has suggested to an Oireachtas committee that a High Court judge “made a wrong assumption” in a recent case.

Fine Gael Senator Paudie Coffey, a member of the Oireachtas environment committee, quoted Mr Justice John MacMenamin’s remarks in the case of Usk and District Residents’ Association Ltd versus An Bord Pleanála.

The judge concluded that a decision by An Bord Pleanála to grant planning permission for an engineered landfill would give rise to a reasonable apprehension that there had not been an impartial decision-making process. The board’s decision was irrational and in excess of its jurisdiction, and should be quashed, he ruled.

Senator Coffey said: “The judgment at the end of July stated, and I quote: ‘Remarkably, there is no evidence that the board moved to obtain legal advice at all prior to embarking on the course of action . . . ’

“So it’s clear from that judgment that there was a problem with regard to the board.”

Mr O’Connor said: “It’s not clear. The judge made a wrong assumption.”

Mr Coffey asked Mr O’Connor if he was saying the judge was wrong and Mr O’Connor replied: “He made a wrong assumption.”

A spokesman for An Bord Pleanála later said that although the judge had no evidence on the appeal file that the board had taken legal advice, the board had in fact obtained advice. He said the board had already indicated to the court that it would not be appealing the judgment.

On a separate issue, the committee heard the outstanding amount for An Bord Pleanála’s recoverable legal costs at the end of the financial year 2008 was more than €3.3 million.

Mr O’Connor said the figure of €3,319,416 represented an accumulated outstanding total of costs owed to the board and not written off going back to 1999.

Mr O’Connor said the board was facing a very challenging financial environment in 2009 and 2010, “and costs are being pared to the bone in every part of the organisation”.

Committee member James Bannon of Fine Gael said planning decisions taken in many towns and villages had resulted in very serious social problems.

“Some estates have become slums because of bad planning decisions. I pity some people forced to raise families in such estates,” Mr Bannon said.

Irish Times

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

€460m sport, leisure complex planned

A PLANNING application for what Michael Lowry TD has described as “the most sophisticated and ambitious project that Ireland has ever seen” will be lodged with North Tipperary County Council this morning.

The Independent TD was speaking yesterday in Horse and Jockey at the launch of a €460 million cultural, sporting and leisure development featuring a huge casino and new all-weather racecourse.

The development, called the Tipperary Venue, is proposed for an 800-acre site close to the village of Two-Mile-Borris in the heart of Mr Lowry’s Tipperary North constituency.

The developer, Richard Quirke, did not speak during a one-hour presentation to invited guests. Mr Lowry said he wished “to explain to the media who he is”.

The former Fine Gael minister said: “In these times of economic challenge, our country needs businessmen like Richard Quirke” whom he described as “a local man made good who wanted to give something back”.

He praised his “ambition, vision and innovation” and thanked him for “having the strength and courage to commission this massive development.”

After the event, Mr Quirke, a former garda, told The Irish Times that he had “made a lot of money” from property in Dublin including the sale of the old Carlton cinema. His company, the Dublin Pool and Juke Box Co, runs the Dr Quirkey’s Good Time Emporium arcade on O’Connell Street.

Mr Quirke, who is from Thurles, has bought the land and already spent €30 million on the Tipperary Venue project.

He said he had “considerable monies” and was confident that he could raise financial backing from “foreign investors”. He would not approach Irish banks because “even if they were interested”, he “wouldn’t go near them”.

Mr Lowry said “no State money” would be needed for the project “which will float on its own commercial merit”. He was confident that planning permission would be secured by the end of the year and that construction could start early in 2010.

An estimated 1,000 jobs would be created in building the facility, which would eventually create 2,000 full-time jobs.

Mr Lowry said, however, the project was dependent on the Oireachtas passing proposed new legislation to enable the opening of casinos. The plans had “already been presented to the Taoiseach”, Ministers and other officials and “got a warm response”. He was confident that the necessary legislation would be passed and that there would be no objections to the plans, which have “the full support of the local community”.

Dublin architect Brian O’Connell, who designed the Tipperary Venue, said it would include a 500-bedroom, five-star hotel; a vast 6,000sq m casino; an all-weather racecourse; a greyhound track and a golf course.

It would also include an underground entertainment centre with a retractable roof capable of holding 15,000 people which would be “the rural equivalent of Dublin’s 02 complex”.

Mr O’Connell said Ireland’s gambling laws were “outdated” and that the Department of Justice was broadly in support of the plans” for the casino.

The site, which is located off the M8 Dublin-Cork motorway, would also feature a full-size replica of the White House in Washington as “a memorial to James Hoban”, the 18th-century Irish architect from Co Kilkenny who emigrated to the US and won a competition to design the president’s residence.

The “Tipperary White House” would be used as “a banqueting facility” and also to host wedding receptions. A chapel is to be built in the grounds which will have parking for up to 8,000 cars and “aerial access” via a large heliport.

The existing racecourse at Thurles is to be closed when the new facility is built. The project claims to have the backing of Horse Racing Ireland.

Irish Times

Court told council failed to disclose Garda statements on Wicklow dump

COPIES OF Garda statements made by waste investigators at Wicklow County Council, as part of criminal proceedings relating to illegal dumping, were retained by the council which failed to disclose them in compliance with a High Court order, it has been alleged.

The High Court was also told that Wicklow county manager Eddie Sheehy was incorrect in his evidence to the court last July, when he said the council had not retained copies of the statements.

Mr Justice Daniel O’Keeffe was hearing a number of applications to strike out or dismiss an action by Wicklow County Council against the former owner of the Whitestown dump, John O’Reilly; Brownfield Restoration Ireland, which bought the lands from Mr O’Reilly in 2003; and two waste companies, Swalcliffe, trading as Dublin Waste, and Dean Waste.

In a counter-claim, Brownfield and Dean Waste allege the council was itself engaged in dumping and should bear the remediation costs.

At stake is a €60 million bill to clean up the Whitestown site and remove or treat large quantities of hospital and other hazardous waste and contaminated soil amounting to 1,140,000 tonnes.

Ian Finlay SC, for Brownfield Regeneration, said yesterday that Wicklow County Council had failed a number of times since December 2007 to make full discovery to the court of documents, diaries and electronic records which it either owned or was in a position to procure.

Mr Finlay told Mr Justice O’Keeffe his clients might never have seen the documents if the court had relied on Wicklow County Council’s initial response to the order for discovery.

While the council said a number of times it had made full discovery of all relevant papers, it had left out papers submitted by its environmental consultant Donal Ó Laoire, the Garda statements and other relevant documents, until after witness evidence began to be heard this July.

The court is expected to hear replying affidavits prepared by Mr Sheehy this morning.

Irish Times

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Developer O'Reilly calls on planners for more leeway on retail schemes

One of Dublin's most active developers, Joe O'Reilly, has called on planners to acknowledge the "unprecedented adverse economic conditions currently being experienced" and to expand the level of retail development, increase car-parking provision at shopping centres and be more flexible about energy-saving obligations for big firms.

O'Reilly is the founder of Chartered Land, which owns the Dundrum Town Centre, the Ilac Centre and the Pavilions in Swords. In a submission to Fingal County Council, O'Reilly's representatives call on the local authority to permit an "uplift in retail need" in the Fingal area and to allow Swords to experience continued development.

O'Reilly's company is also looking for "a more flexible approach" to the provision of car-parking spaces in the Fingal area.

Chartered Land also points out that Swords is now the third-largest town in Ireland. The company is particularly concerned about the local authority being prescriptive about energy usage by major retailers and other businesses.

The company has concerns about the use of the Building Energy Rating (BER) in the local authority area. "We would encourage the council to adopt a more holistic approach, which recognises the minimum performance requirements for new buildings," states a submission it has made.

The company is also strongly in favour of the Metro North project and acknowledges that it has land near the proposed North Swords stop which "should continue to be identified and promoted for major town-centre development, in all future statutory plans".

The submission says that despite the current downturn, an additional 110,000 sq m of retail space can be accommodated in Swords and at Pavilions.

"The promotion of this retail floor area quantum at Pavilions must be reflected in revisions to the country's retail strategy made as part of the overall development plan review process. We would emphasise that this is of utmost importance in order to secure the long-term strategy of providing a solid retail base," says the company's submission.

The firm acknowledges that public transport must be promoted, but that when it comes to retail the situation is more complicated because of the need to carry large amounts of goods.

"A more flexible approach to the provision of car parking for retail development is however recommended," the submission states.

Sunday Tribune

Local area plan to be completed

A LONG-awaited local area plan for Rivermeade in St Margaret's will be completed by the middle of next year, according to Fingal County Council.

Cllr Tom Kelleher (Lab) put a motion to a meeting of the Balbriggan/Swords Area Committee last week asking for an update on the RV1 or rural village plan. The council's planning department said that a number of issues identified in December of last year have delayed the plan.

Some of those issues relate to the need to examine the ecological impacts of development in the area on the Broadmeadows Estuary through the river Ward which traverses Rivermeade.

The limited capacity

of Swords Wastewater Treatment Plant which services the area is also an issue and the possibility of increasing flooding of the Ward River.

The location of the proposed Swords Western Ring Road also had to be looked at as part of the plan.

The council says to progress the local area plan for Rivermeade fully, the results of the Fingal East Meath Flood Risk Assessment Management Study FRAM), is required.

Interim results from the study have been delayed, but are now due in November 2009.

The planning department hope that, pending those results and of its own 'appropriate assessment' of the risk to Broadmeadows Estuary, the plan will be completed by early to mid 2010.

Fingal Independent

Fingal area plans making 'steady progress'

THE council is reporting 'steady progress' on a raft of Local Area Plans (LAP) that remain on its drawing board for completion around the county.

But the local authority is blaming 'pressing demands on staff resources' for the delay in progressing some of the plans. The statement came in response to a question tabled by Cllr David O'Connor (NP), who asked for a progress report on outstanding LAPs around the county. Among the outstanding plans is one for Broomfield in Malahide which the council plans to finish by mid-2010.

Also planned for completion around that date is the LAP for lands at Oldtown and Mooretown in Swords. Also in Swords, plans for Metropark, Fosterstown North and the lands at Celestica are still on the drawing board.

Bidding for a 2010 completion date are plans for Rivermeade in St Margaret's and Coolquay, with the latter heavily dependent on how the proposed Thornton Hall prison project progresses or does not.

Lands at Cloghran and Rolestown are also lined up for the LAP treatment, with the Rolestown plan due for completion in late-2010.

In the north of the county there are rural plans in the offing for Naul, Garristown, Oldtown, Ballyboughal and Balscadden, which are all due for completion late next year.

An LAP and port study for Bremore in Balbriggan is also on the drawing board but no definitive date has been given for its completion or the completion of an LAP for Townsparks in Skerries.

Fingal Independent

Top trainer fights incinerator plan

ONE of the country's top racehorse trainers believes plans to build a huge incinerator outside a rural village would devastate the equine industry.

Noel Meade -- a man well-known for his success in Irish racing -- is worried about the impact on prize thoroughbreds of burning up to 105,000 tonnes of waste every year .

Mr Meade has expressed concerns about the effect of emissions on animals he trains if plans by College Proteins to build an incinerator outside Nobber, Co Meath, get the green light.

The champion trainer -- along with other key members of the Irish equine sector -- are mounting a strong lobby against the proposal. They are hoping to replicate the success of horse trainer Aidan O'Brien, who vehemently opposed an incinerator in Co Tipperary last year.

In July 2008, Mr O'Brien's campaign paid off when An Bord Pleanala ruled against a waste incinerator near his Ballydoyle stable and Coolmore stud.

Speaking to the Irish Independent yesterday, Noel Meade said an incinerator in Co Meath would make no sense.

"If it wasn't good enough to be done in Tipperary, I don't see how it can be done in Nobber."


The third week of An Bord Pleanala's oral hearing into the application by College Proteins gets under way in Carrickmacross today.

Earlier, the oral hearing into the application heard from College Proteins ceo John Gilroy. Mr Gilroy had contested statements that the company was unable to manage the current plant. The company currently processes animal by-products and generates 37,500 tonnes of meat and bone meal (MBM) annually. It wants to develop its plant as it believes this will ensure its long-term viability.

The company previously stated MBM would be carried in sealed containers with appropriate certification verified by the Department of Agriculture. It also stated that "fly ash" -- a by-product from incineration -- would be contained in the correct tankers.

Eimear Ni Bhraonain

Irish Independent

New Aviva stadium in Lansdowne Road

THE curves and expanse of the elegant stadium roof follow a graceful dive, like the down sweep of a giant skateboard ramp. From the south side, it races from its highest point, falling towards Havelock Square and the city centre. There, it dips dramatically at the north end, where Dart travellers can catch a glimpse inside to the rising stands and to what might soon become the dominant building on the Dublin skyline.

On the south end is the area where rugby fans used to have to cross the Dart lines from Lansdowne Road Station with a grim mix of fear and exhilaration. They will soon be swept safely underground on both sides of the tracks to avoid the famous crush. Here, there is another dip in the roof, albeit more subtle, a sort of little brother to the more dramatic sag of the north end.

The Aviva Lansdowne Road Stadium is a fraternal adventure between the sports governed by the IRFU and the FAI. In its new polycarbonate cladding and steel-tube splendour, with its reconstructed hour-glass curves, it is also unmistakably younger and more feminine than the venerable but declining old Lansdowne lady, with her decaying concrete, asbestos roof and famously over-flowing urinals.

Sexy probably isn’t what Henry William Dunlop had in mind in 1872, when he set about pulling together the means for what is the world’s oldest international rugby venue, one that represented the sport’s prudent and conservative values.

Now, the inescapable fact is that the building does look pretty cool, even with six cranes and lifts ploughing up the infield, and a township of stacked containers outside the veranda at the front of the Lansdowne Road Rugby Club pavilion.

No, she is not quite ready for a night out. There are still some last-minute touches to be seen to, such as grass, a finished roof and inside fittings. But the appeal and a strong impression of what the finished product will look like, the vision of architects HOK Sports Architecture (now called Populous), in conjunction with Scott Tallon Walker, can now be clearly seen in outline and girth. It is shamelessly modern and ambitious, reflecting the new success and popularity of the rugby of Leinster, Munster and Ireland. In that respect, the IRFU’s partner in the development, the FAI, is lagging some way behind.

The stadium already has four tiers, with the lower and upper tiers to be used for general access, the second tier for premium tickets, and the third tier for corporate boxes. There are also two basement levels and seven storeys of floors, which are more visible from the back of the building.

From the south stand, which used to be terraces with their back along Lansdowne Road, you can peep north towards the new Docklands. Staring back is what looks like a giant glass beer can, heroically teetering backwards – the National Convention Centre. While the chimney stacks at Poolbeg power station remain the set-piece landmarks of the Dublin docklands and city, the fact that their very existence is coming under threat suggests that a new building defining the cityscape might be required.

A quick sweep of the Dublin city skyline, from the second of the four tiers, puts Poolbeg, Lansdowne Road, Croke Park and the Spire as the major, recognisable pieces of architecture on the capital’s horizon.

U2 immortalised the chimneys in the music video for Van Diemen’s Land but by next August the Irish rugby team will begin the rehabilitation of the 50,000-seat Aviva venue, after three years of squatting in the 82,300-capacity Croke Park.

The convention centre in the complex, which can cater for up to 800 delegates, will open for business before the rugby kicks off. The company is already taking bookings for next May. The first match will be rugby, on November 6th (see panel).

It is a matter of record that the IRFU has already applied to the European Rugby Cup to stage the 2011 Heineken Cup final in the new stadium, a request that, given that Munster and Leinster have won the past two competitions, is unlikely to be met with entirely deaf ears. Hopeful is how the IRFU describes the state of play on that issue. Dublin has not staged a European rugby final since the all-French affair in 2003, when Toulouse beat Perpignan.

The FAI has already attracted the Uefa Europa League final (the former Uefa Cup) in 2011, as well as dual World Cup winners Argentina for the first football match, scheduled for August 11th, 2010. The Aviva Stadium will become Ireland’s first Uefa Elite Stadium.

Luminaries have already visited the ground, including former French midfield maestro Michel Platini, who has long since swapped the soccer locker room for the harder hitting presidential offices of Uefa. Former Irish football manager Jack Charlton has had a peek and so has an array of rugby players, with Irish second row Malcolm O’Kelly a regular visitor, through his surveying interests.

From a punter viewpoint, modernity often means being further away from the players, and Aviva is no different. Those fans who used to loiter at the back of the west stand hours before kick-off will no longer be able to catch a glimpse of the players trekking off the bus in the car park or grab an autograph as they make their way to hospitality.

The team bus will now sweep in under the south stand and drive around inside the stadium to the changing rooms, which are located on the traditional west side. Vehicles can complete a full circle of the stadium around the inside tunnel.

One of the most pressing issues of the new stadium, however, has not been fully resolved, and that is whether fans can take their drinks to their seats and watch the match, as they do in other countries around Europe.

Rugby is one of those sports where fans safely mix and in which there have been no instances of any serious trouble. The most famous and serious disturbance in the old Lansdowne Road was triggered by a football match between the Republic of Ireland and England.

It is currently within the remit of the Garda whether rugby followers can drink and watch the match from their seats, while soccer fans will be subject to Uefa regulations, which clearly state that no public sale or distribution of alcohol is permitted inside the stadium.

Close up, the glass exterior of the stadium at the Lansdowne Road end curves smoothly northwards. It looks tighter between the houses and the stand, but the road here will actually be twice as wide as it was before. Construction of a much broader entrance and exit gate for Dart commuters approaching from the north of the city is under way.

It is an eye-catching construction and clearly a design based on a compromise between the needs of the sporting organisations and the people who live in the area. But that association ensures the shape is innovative. Even with the semi-transparent cladding, which makes the exterior look something like a giant armadillo, the stadium, viewed from the north of the city looking south, has the shape, head-on, of a low-slung sports car.

And the old roar, the old atmosphere? It will be more contained, we’re told, which suggests that it will be even better.

Stadium Statistics

Cost: €411 million

Original cost of leasing in 1908: £50 per annum

Capacity: 50,000 seated

Roof: 3,000 tonnes

Completion date: April 2010

Naming rights: Aviva, €40 million over 10 years

Location: 1.5km from city centre

Highest attendance: 1981, Ireland v France World Cup qualifier (football) – 53,500

Irish Times

Galway port plans €200m expansion

GALWAY HARBOUR Company will seek planning permission for a €200 million modernisation of the city’s port early next year.

The State company’s chief executive, Eamon Bradshaw, told the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport yesterday it intends redeveloping the port in two phases, the first from 2010 to 2015 and the second by 2020.

The redevelopment of the port will cost €200 million. The company intends applying to An Bord Pleanála for planning permission next April.

It will present the plans to Galway City Council members next month and to their County Council colleagues in December.

Galway port can only take vessels with a maximum capacity of 7,500 tonnes, but needs to be able to handle craft of up to 20,000 tonnes, which requires a full-scale redevelopment.

The plans also provide for marine leisure facilities and cruise ship docking.

Mr Bradshaw told the committee that as the Government wants port companies to fund their own developments, Galway harbour would not be entitled to seek support from the State for the project.

He pointed out that smaller ports are being treated in the same way as their bigger competitors, and suggested that the Government look at this again.

Meanwhile, Enda Connellan, chief executive of Dublin Port Company, told the committee it is essential that An Bord Pleanála approve its plans to extend the port and add new berths and deepwater facilities. He warned committee members that if the plans were not approved, it would not be good for Dublin Port Company.

“But that’s not the issue,” he said. “Goods must be landed, and the further away from the city, which is the main consumer of those goods, that they are landed, then that’s going to add to the cost of those goods.”

Irish Times

Planning board defers key Corrib pipeline decision

AN BORD Pleanála has deferred a key decision due to be have been delivered yesterday on the controversial Corrib gas onshore pipeline in north Mayo.

The appeals board told The Irish Times that Shell EP Ireland’s application to modify the gas onshore pipeline route was under “active consideration” during board meetings that took place from Wednesday to Friday of this week.

“There was no outcome,” a board spokesman said. “Further meetings will be held next week, and there will be an outcome in the week starting November 2nd,” he said.

The deferral is the second by the appeals board since the oral hearing earlier this year into the application for a new route and for compulsory acquisition orders to private land. A spokesman said this was due to the “complex nature of the case”.

The 19-day oral hearing chaired by inspector Martin Nolan considered the application under the Strategic Infrastructure Act.

The new route runs through special areas of conservation designated under the EU habitats directive and includes two river crossings.

The offshore pipeline was laid by the developers during the summer, and construction of the onshore gas terminal at Bellanaboy is nearing completion.

The previous pipeline route was not subject to planning, and consent to compulsory acquisition of private land by a private company was signed by former marine minister Frank Fahey under amended gas Acts.

Opposition to this on health and safety grounds resulted in the jailing of five Erris residents, known as the Rossport Five, for 94 days in 2005.

The Health and Safety Authority informed the appeals board at the outset of the oral hearing last May that it had no remit, as off-site gas pipelines are not controlled by the Control of Major Accident Hazard Regulations 2006.

Irish Times

Objective bias found in ruling by An Bord Pleanála

Objective bias found in ruling by An Bord Pleanála

Usk and District Residents Association Ltd -v- An Bord Pleanála Ors

High Court

Judgment was given on July 8th, 2009 by Mr Justice John MacMenamin.


A decision of An Bord Pleanála to grant planning permission for an engineered landfill would give rise to a reasonable apprehension that there had not been an impartial decision-making process, was “irrational” and in excess of the board’s jurisdiction, and should be quashed


The “legal war of attrition” in this case included an initial refusal of planning permission by Kildare County Council and a successful appeal to An Bord Pleanála in July 2006, although the board’s inspector had recommended against granting the permission; a 2004 High Court decision from Mr Justice John Quirke that the owners of much of the land intended for the landfill at Usk, Co Kildare, should restore it as far as possible to agricultural use; and a judgment by Mr Justice Peter Kelly in March 2007 quashing the decision of An Bord Pleanála granting planning permission for the development of the landfill. He remitted it back to the board for reconsideration.

On July 30th, 2008, An Bord Pleanála again granted permission to Greenstar for the development and operation of an engineered residential landfill, intended to receive annually 200,000 tonnes of waste.

The waste facility was intended to cover 19.3 hectares, with the footprint of the landfill itself 12.5 hectares.

The residents’ association sought an order quashing the decision on a number of grounds, including a claim of objective bias or want of fair procedures; a failure to address the non- implementation of a previous order of the court that remediation works be carried out prior to the institution of the development; a failure to address relevant environmental considerations and an allegation that the board unlawfully failed to comply with the EC environmental directive.

The 2004 High Court order on the restoration of the land was never implemented and the expert specified in the order has not yet been appointed.

In his 2007 judgment Mr Justice Kelly said that he would confine himself to facts and findings necessary to support an order of certiorari .

In his judgment, he said he was making a number of recommendations that would minimise the risk of further judicial review.

These recommendations included that, when the matter was remitted to the board, it be considered only by board members who had not heard the previous appeal.

He strongly recommended that the oral hearing be reopened and that it be conducted by members who had not been involved in the previous appeal.

In fact, what occurred was that four of the board members, who had participated in the 2006 decision, considered and unanimously granted the 2008 application to the board.

This led to the applicants seeking the quashing of the decision on the grounds of perceived bias.

Mr Justice MacMenamin said: “Remarkably, there is no evidence that the board moved to obtain legal advice at all prior to embarking on the course of action now to be described.”

He outlined the sequence of events leading to the second decision.

These included the fact that the inspector again recommended refusal of planning permission.

The chairman of the board wrote a memorandum on the hearing, in which he said that there was “established practice” that the chairman and deputy chairman be involved in the decision, adding: “The exclusion of the five members who took the quashed decision would seriously weaken the level of experience and expertise that will be brought to bear on determination of the case at board level.”

It was therefore agreed that a meeting be convened of all available board members, including those who had participated in the previous decision.

Mr Justice MacMenamin drew attention to the curricula vitae of five members of the board excluded from the ultimate decision.

“They do not demonstrate any want of qualification on the part of the five members not so involved,” he said. “To the contrary, I think they demonstrate a high level of expertise in the planning and environmental area.”

There was no statutory rationale or objective justification for specific categories of decision- making being dealt with by any particular board members, he said.

In fact there were alternative board members available to hear the case, he said, yet four of the board members who had made the decision in 2006 chose or were assigned to make it again in 2008. “The logic of the board’s reasoning here is unfathomable.”

The board denied that the planning permission granted in 2008 was identical to that granted in 2006.

Mr Justice MacMenamin compared the two and concluded: “An objective observer would have little difficulty in seeing the symbiotic relationship between the two. I am constrained to conclude that the 2006 was used as a template for that made in 2008,” he said.


Mr Justice MacMenamin said there were very substantial departures from the 2007 judgment, the very object of which was to avoid the appearance of bias on remittal.

“These departures and what has been described, taken together, allow only for the conclusion that the reasonable objective observer would apprehend that there had not been an impartial decision-making process,” he said.

He also said that it was unclear how the entire waste facility permission was to be reconcilable with the 2004 order that the site should be restored, as far as possible, to agricultural use.

For these reasons, he considered that the residents were entitled to judicial review of the board’s decision.

He also considered other issues, including environmental mitigation measures, changes in the proposed landfill liner and complying with an EU directive.

He said that in relation to the directive, the board asked itself the wrong question in identifying its jurisdiction. “It misdirected itself as to its powers and duties. This led to irrationality.”

That authority and duty of the court was formulated to give effect to the consequences of the finding under EC law, that is, to annul the decision.

He granted an order of certiorari quashing the board’s decision on these grounds also.

The full judgment is on

Paul O’Higgins SC and Oisín Collins BL, instructed by Donal Reilly Collins, for the applicants; Nuala Butler SC and Niamh Hyland BL, instructed by Barry Doyle and Co, for the respondents.

Irish Times

€300m Kilkenny complex plan rejected

AN BORD Pleanála has refused permission for a €300 million shopping, business and residential development in the centre of Kilkenny city.

Developers had planned to build “Citymart”, a mix of 25 shops, restaurants, offices, cinema, medical centre, hotel, 54 apartments and 1,200 car-parking spaces on a “brownfield” 13-acre site which formerly housed the livestock mart. The mart relocated to a new site on the outskirts of Kilkenny in 2007.

The planning authority overruled its own inspector’s report, which had recommended approval, and refused permission for a project which it said “provides for a poor form of urban design for this important site”.

The board also stated that the proposal was “premature” given the inadequate roads infrastructure and that the new shopping centre would have a negative impact on the “vitality and viability” of existing shops in the city.

In a significant setback for the development of the site, which was scheduled to create hundreds of new jobs, the board concluded that the project would “require a complete redesign”.

The Mayor of Kilkenny, Green Party councillor Malcolm Noonan, welcomed the decision and said the proposed shopping centre could have posed a significant threat to existing retailers. While accepting that the site would “eventually have to be developed”, he hoped it would be “a scaled-down development more in keeping with the future needs of Kilkenny”.

The project was envisaged as the second phase of a major urban regeneration programme involving an overall investment of €600 million. The first phase, MacDonagh Junction – a development of shops, offices and apartments built on a brownfield 10½-acre site beside Kilkenny railway station – opened two years ago although it still has vacant units.

However, the local authority in Kilkenny refused planning permission for Citymart, citing the “inadequacy of the existing roads infrastructure” to cope with the proposed development.

The county council said that while it was “in favour” of the project in principle, an inner relief road and a new bridge over the River Nore would be required before the development could proceed.

A spokesman said that “building a new road and bridge in the heart of medieval Kilkenny would be difficult given the city’s architectural and archaeological heritage”.

The developers appealed the council’s decision and it has taken the planning board two years to consider and refuse the appeal, which was lodged in November 2007. A spokesman said the long delay was due to the complexity of the case and a backlog of appeals.

Citymart is a joint venture between Kilkenny Livestock Market Ltd and Melcorpo Property Development Ltd. Reacting to the decision, managing director David Lyons said the company would “consult with its professional advisors” and “decide upon the means of proceeding with the development of the site in coming weeks”.

Citymart had reportedly been in talks with British retailers Tesco and Marks Spencer as potential tenants for “anchor stores”.

The decision means that Kilkenny is likely to remain the only county in Ireland without a branch of Tesco. The British multiple had planned to open a store in the town of Callan, but that plan was also rejected by An Bord Pleanála.

Irish Times

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Surveyors in spot of planning bother

THE SOCIETY of Chartered Surveyors (SCS) has been refused permission to convert part of its Georgian HQ into much needed office space. The SCS has always taken great pride in its period house at 5 Wilton Place, D2. But pressure on space has intensified with more surveyors looking to the SCS for help after losing their jobs. To accommodate them, the SCS sought permission to convert a top floor two-bed apartment to office/educational use and said that this would not involve physical construction works.

Planners were having none of it, as the change would be contrary to the zoning objective “to protect the existing architectural and civic design character, to allow only for limited expansion consistent with the conservation objective and to allow primarily residential and compatible office and institutional use”. It also said that by allowing the society to exceed the maximum 50 per cent office space permissible would “create a precedent for an inappropriate pattern of development”. The appeals board took the easy way out and endorsed the refusal.

The decision by the planners may have been justified when it was fashionable and profitable to own a Georgian building. Not any more, as an increasing number of these buildings become vacant as companies move to cheaper and more efficient modern space. It is now virtually impossible to let a Georgian on one of the city squares. Had the planners been in touch with what is happening on the ground they may have acceded to the wishes of the SCS. To refuse permission to a reputable society brings the planning process into disrepute. The verdict may well lead to another empty Georgian.

Irish Times

Bord's report doesn't have much appeal

AN BORD Pleanalá’s handsome looking annual report for 2008 contained no great surprises. The workload was down 16 per cent on the previous bumper year; there was a 20 per cent drop in the number of appeals dealt with in relation to one-off houses in rural areas and the percentage of local authority planning decisions appealed to the board showed an increase of 8.1 per cent compared to 6.7 per cent in 2007.

The rate of reversal of local planning authority decisions appealed showed a slight increase, 33 per cent in 2008 compared to 32 per cent in 2007.

The board met its statutory objective in dealing with appeals within 18 weeks in less than 50 per cent of cases – that doesn’t sound like something to boast about but the report sees it as a positive in that the previous year it only met the 18-week target in less than a quarter of the cases.

It says that “excessive and unsustainable zoning of land has been a contributor to the property bubble and its aftermath” and that “some of this land will have to be rezoned”.

Presenting the report, the chairperson of the board, John O’Connor, said that “it would be extremely short-sighted if there was a tendency to relax good planning standards in response to our current economic difficulties”. A reader from Mars might deduce from that that planning standards during the loadsamoney boom were fantastic. The number of ghost estates dotted around the country, the ugly holiday villages and empty apartment blocks tell a different story.

Irish Times

Lissadell case adjourned after documents found

THE LEGAL row over whether there are public rights of way through the historic Lissadell Estate in Co Sligo has been adjourned for several weeks following the recent discovery of documents potentially relevant to the issue.

The adjournment came yesterday after lawyers for Sligo County Council told the High Court documents had recently been discovered, some believed to date from the early 19th century, which may be relevant to the case.

Mr Justice Bryan McMahon agreed to an application by the owners of the estate, barristers Constance Cassidy SC and Edward Walsh SC, to adjourn the proceedings in those circumstances.

Donal O’Donnell SC, for the owners, following discussions between the parties, had asked the judge to adjourn so as to “allow certain inquires to be made” with a view to recommencing the hearing.

Nuala Butler SC, for the council, consented to the adjournment.

Mr Justice McMahon earlier refused Mr O’Donnell’s application to abort the case completely after saying he he did not wish to make a judgment “in ignorance of evidence” that may come into the public domain.

He wished to consider the case as fairly and as expeditiously as possible, he said.

The case will be mentioned before the High Court in December to see how matters have progressed.

In their proceedings, Ms Cassidy and Mr Walsh, with addresses at Morristown, Lattin, Naas, Co Kildare, and Lissadell, are seeking orders and declarations that four routes in the estate are not subject to any public rights of way.

The council is also facing a claim for damages for alleged slander of title, negligence and intentional and/or unlawful interference with the owners’ economic interests.

The council denies all the claims and, in a counter-claim, wants a declaration the four routes are subject to a public right of way.

The proceedings were initiated after the council on December 1th last passed a resolution to amend the Sligo County Development plan to include a provision for the “preservation of the public rights of way” along certain routes at Lissadell.

The council has claimed no decision to begin the formal process of amending the plan has been made to date and that it assured the owners it had not determined public rights of way exist over the lands.

However, as a result of the council’s resolution, the owners closed Lissadell House, the former home of the Gore-Booth family, to the public last January. The Gore-Booth family owned the Lissadell Estate, which originally consisted of some 32,000 acres, for more than 400 years.

The owners claim they would be unable to operate the estate as a tourist amenity if the rights of way existed.

They bought the estate, the former home of Countess Constance Markievicz, for almost €4 million in 2003 and have spent some €9.5 million restoring it.

Irish Times

Residents want flats razed and rebuilt by Dublin City Council

RESIDENTS OF St Teresa’s Gardens have asked Dublin City Council to honour its commitment to demolish and rebuild the run-down 1950s flat complex.

The St Teresa’s Gardens Residents Association yesterday met the city council following the decision to abandon the public private partnership (PPP) regeneration of the complex.

Resident association representative Kris Taylor said the flats were in an advanced stage of decay. Rats run along the balconies and stairwells and through the flats, she said. The complex is infested with flies in the summer and the vermin problems are exacerbated by an inadequate sewage system.

“Raw sewage, needles and toilet paper comes up the pipes . . . It’s pushed into the baths and the showers.”

The flats were damp and the walls were mildewed, the kitchens were tiny and there was nowhere for families to sit and eat together, she said. There were also problems with crime, with residents subject to intimidation and violence, and cars regularly burnt.

“These are things that can’t be put right with precinct improvement. What is required is the demolition of the complex . . . We want financial resources to be made available and targets to be set.”

Labour councillor Michael Conaghan said it was clear there was an urgent need for regeneration. “The PPP process is dead but regeneration is not. Regeneration is within the competence of the city council, the PPP was beyond our control and beyond our competence.”

Fine Gael councillor Ruairí McGinley said the council had evaded its responsibility to maintain the complex because it was the subject of a planned regeneration, but he said the onus was on the Department of the Environment to produce funds.

The complex of 346 flats in 14 four-storey blocks was to have been demolished and replaced with 300 social and affordable units, 300 private apartments, retail and commercial units, and community buildings.

Despite the collapse last year of five similar regeneration schemes due to have been built by developer Bernard McNamara, three bidders remained in the running. However, during the year it became clear a PPP project was no longer viable, the council said, and the decision was taken to abandon the competition for the project.

Irish Times

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

No public right of way at Lissadell, say owners

THE OWNERS of Lissadell Estate in Co Sligo have insisted before the High Court that there are no public rights of way in the historic estate, the former home of Countess Constance Markievicz.

If such rights of way exist, it would be “impossible” to run Lissadell as a tourist attraction, Donal O’Donnell SC, for owners Eddie Walsh and Constance Cassidy argued.

An assertion of such rights of way over the 410-acre Lissadell Estate was “bizarre” and “unprecedented in law” as they do not exist, counsel said.

He was opening judicial review proceedings arising from the dispute between the owners of the estate and Sligo County Council. The case is being heard by Mr Justice Bryan McMahon and is expected to last for several weeks.

Ms Cassidy and Mr Walsh, with addresses at Morristown, Lattin, Naas, Co Kildare, and Lissadell, are seeking declarations that the routes in question are not subject to any public rights of way, and an order restraining the council and others from wrongfully asserting the routes are subject to a public right of way.

The council is also facing a claim for damages for alleged slander of title, negligence and intentional and/or unlawful interference with the owners’ economic interests.

The council denies all the claims and, in a counter-claim, is seeking a declaration that the four routes are subject to a right of way in favour of the public.

The proceedings were initiated after the council last December passed a resolution to amend the Sligo County Development Plan to include a provision for the “preservation of the public rights of way” along certain routes at Lissadell.

The council has claimed that no decision to commence the formal process of amending the plan has been made to date. It also says it had assured the owners it had not determined that public rights of way exist over the lands.

As a result of the council’s resolution, the owners closed Lissadell House, former home of the Gore Booth family, to the public last January. The Gore Booth family owned the Lissadell Estate, originally consisting of some 32,000 acres, for more than 400 years.

Yesterday, Mr O’Donnell said the owners would not be able to operate the estate as a tourist amenity if the rights of way existed. One of the four routes at issue went right up to the front of Lissadell House, which was built in 1830, he said. A right of way would mean it was open to all members of the public, be they “joy riders or truck drivers”.

Counsel said the estate was of great benefit to Co Sligo and had in 2008 attracted approximately 50,000 visitors. It offered guided tours and entry to gardens, and contained exhibits related to its association with historical figures such as Countess Markievicz, the poet WB Yeats and the painter Jack Yeats.

Mr O’Donnell said the claims of a public right of way were based “on low grade evidence”, including fragments of maps and memories and recollections of the distant past. It was his clients’ case that this was a misunderstanding, and that the reputed right of way was in fact trespass.

To be satisfied such a right existed, the court must be satisfied a land owner had dedicated a route on his property for public use, counsel said.

There was no evidence from documents, including family papers of the Gore Booths dedicated to the public library in Northern Ireland, ward-of-court papers related to a Gore Booth family heir being a ward of court from 1944 until his death in the 1980s, or from Sligo County Council’s own documents to show such a dedication ever took place.

A historian would give evidence that the inner part of most landed estates were always kept private, counsel added.

Mr O’Donnell told the court his clients had purchased Lissadell from the Gore Booth family in 2003 for approximately €4 million and had since spent more than €9.5 million restoring it. When they bought it, they were never informed by the council of any public rights right of way, he said.

Irish Times

Swedish design for Galway pier project

SWEDISH ARCHITECTS have won an international competition to design a new centre pier performance space for Galway harbour.

Entitled "The Sky Pier - Unity in Duality", the successful entry was confirmed last night as Galway marked the opening of the city's first Open House architectural festival.

The judges described the design by JM - Konrad Milton and Carl Jägnefält - as "creating a compelling architectural image with a linear building along the northern edge of the pier, which then rises vertically to form a tall thin tower at the point where it meets the sea".

"The fact that the stage is powered hydraulically from a pool on the top level of the tower adds to the delight of this scheme," the panel said. The Swedish architects will receive a majority share of the €10,000 prize, while two Galway architects, Laura O'Brien and Faela Guiden, took first place in the student category. Their winning design was described by the judges as a "lucid and evocative response to the site, the brief, and the character of the place".

Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland director John Graby said that the competition "shows a huge, suppressed creativity among architects, which should be used to help shape a better future for the built environment in Ireland".

Galwegians have been invited to cast their own votes on the winning entries, which will be displayed this weekend from noon to 4pm in the Centre Pier building.

More than 100 entries were submitted for the contest to redevelop the Galway harbour centre pier. Competitors were asked to design a building incorporating a public stage, retail space, marina facilities, tourist information kiosk and commercial offices.

The building "should reflect Galway's importance as a maritime and cultural city", the jury said.

Members of the jury included: Galway Harbour Company chief executive Eamon Bradshaw; Galway City Council senior executive architect Sebastian Feldmann; Dublin Docklands Development Authority director of architecture John McLaughlin; Druid Theatre artistic director Garry Hynes, and Marcus Donaghy of Donaghy and Dimond Architects.

Galway's Grammar School, Augustinian Church, Druid Theatre and Western Fisheries Board headquarters are among a series of recently refurbished buildings open to the public this weekend as part of the Open House festival.

The three-day festival is being held in partnership with the Irish Architecture Foundation. Details are on

Irish Times

Plan to take water from Kenmare river opposed

A PLAN to extract 2,500 cubic metres of water a day from the Sheen river to tackle serious water shortages in Kenmare, one of the country’s top tourist towns, has met vigorous opposition at Kerry County Council.

The proposal to use the Sheen to augment current lake supply is a key part of the €12 million scheme needed for the town.

Opponents who include residents of communities along the Sheen are fearful their land will be sterilised when it comes to farming practices and planning for new houses, want the council to extract the water from surrounding mountain lakes, primarily the Barfinnihy lake.

However, the council says the Barfinnihy option would cost €3.5 million more than the Sheen river option and would require three dams and roadways to be constructed.

“We need water for Kenmare,” Kerry county manager Tom Curran said. “We need it urgently. If you reject this plant today I have nowhere to go.”

The proposal is to extract water from near the mouth of the Sheen, almost at tidal level, and pump the water to a new treatment plant north of the town.

Kenmare is supplied with a maximum of 1,800 cubic metres of water a day while it needs 2,650 and will in future need more than 4,000 cubic metres, consultants have found.

Anglers fear that the extraction of thousands of cubic metres will harm the salmon and sea trout river and its water falls.

“They will have to take the Falls out of the Sheen,” warned councillor Michael Healy-Rae, referring to the well-known Sheen Falls Hotel.

Director of waters services Oliver Ring said: “Kenmare is going to be without water the next dry summer that comes along. We need to get water for Kenmare and this is the best option.”

He said the best solution was to put it before An Bord Pleanála.

Irish Times

Shell 'geotechnical' work under way in Mayo

SHELL EP Ireland has said it is conducting authorised “geotechnical” work on private land in north Mayo in advance of a Bord Pleanála decision on its application for a new onshore pipeline route.

Erris community group Pobal Chill Chomáin has sought clarification from the planning board on the status of the work, which began last week on the proposed pipeline route. Shell-to-Sea spokeswoman Maura Harrington said the work “illustrates the unbridled arrogance of Shell”.

The appeals board has yet to give a ruling on the application for a modified pipeline route under the Strategic Infrastructure Act.

It held a 19-day oral hearing on the application early in the summer, and in August said it had deferred a decision until “on or before October 23rd”.

In a statement yesterday, Shell EP Ireland said that it could “confirm that it is carrying out site investigation works on private lands in Aughoose”.

“This work will provide geo-technical information for the detailed design of the onshore pipeline,” the company said. A spokesman told The Irish Times that the work was authorised.

Pobal Chill Chomáin chairman Vincent McGrath has asked the planning board to confirm if the works are authorised. He said it is understood the proposed works will include borehole drilling.

The modified onshore pipeline route runs from a landfall at Glengad under Dooncarton mountain, which was the location of a series of landslides in 2003. It continues through a mixture of farmland, commonage and protected habitats. The offshore pipeline has already been laid this summer, and work was carried out on the Glengad landfall.

A spokesman for the board said the authorisation of works at Aughoose/Lenamore by Shell was a matter for Mayo County Council.

Irish Times

Monday, 19 October 2009

Tesco seeks removal of caps on floorspace for additional stores

Tesco, the country's largest retailer, has said it will build more stores and increase employee numbers in Ireland – but only if the planning mix is right and no caps on floor space are introduced by planners.

In a submission to Fingal County Council, seen by the Sunday Tribune, the giant retailer says it will deliver "additional food stores" and create new jobs during a period of economic contraction. However, it tells Fingal that the council needs to be proactive in facilitating such moves.

One of the firm's chief demands, in relation to a new development plan for Fingal, is that no "quantitative floorspace caps'' should be included.

The retailer holds out the prospect of price reductions if planners are more flexible in their approach to the retail sector. "The average price of the shopping basket remains high in Dublin relative to comparative EU cities and this can be addressed through the appropriate provision of retail facilities at the source of demand," it states.

The company, which entered the Irish market by buying Quinnsworth, says a larger provision of stores in Fingal and other areas should prevent a "leakage" of customers to Northern Ireland and should also reduce prices.

"There is an identified need for additional retail facilities within the jurisdiction of Fingal County Council which has been recognised in the retail strategy," says the firm. It points out that "traditionally" planning has slowed and restricted the delivery of retail floorspace. It suggests caps are one of these impediments.

"The implementation of floorspace caps may result in reduced competition, reduced employment and underprovision of retail floorspace, particularly where a settlement experiences rapid population growth," suggests the company's submission.

"The planning authority should ensure the appropriate retail designations are in place to support revenue and employment-generating retail development."

The retailer, led by chief executive Terry Leahy, devotes a large part of its submission to calling on planners to expand the amount of car parking allowed with retail centres.

Tesco rejects the idea that the retailing sector will necessarily be damaged by the downturn, "as a substantial proportion of convenience goods are staple".

Sunday Tribune

Glass Bottle site may be 'effectively worthless' due to toxic waste issue

A ruling on allegedly high levels of toxic methane gas at the former Irish Glass Bottle site in Ringsend, part owned by state company the Dublin Docklands Development Agency (DDDA), will determine whether the project is "effectively worthless" and whether the semi-state agency will be forced to spend even more public money on the project.

The board of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will decide in the next few days whether the 24-acre site, bought for €412m in 2006 by the DDDA, Bernard McNamara and Derek Quinlan, has managed to make use of €30m to remove and clean contaminated soils and methane gas from the site.

Methane was produced because parts of the site were for four decades used as a main Dublin dump for household waste.

Any possibility of the DDDA retrieving money from the project's remaining value, which has been officially written down by 85% last week, now depends on the EPA decision, Phil Hogan, Fine Gael's environment spokesman told the Sunday Tribune.

EPA files show that a former EPA inspector Malcolm Doak, in a four-page technical submission to the EPA in late July, alleged 30% levels of methane gas existed on the site's perimeter and that the project therefore posed a "significant gas risk".

Arup Consulting, the engineers working on cleaning the site, in August wrote to the EPA rejecting Doak's claims and said that "best practise" preparing contaminated land for "future proposed high density mixed-use development" were followed. Doak, a leading professional hydrologist, is understood not have worked on the Glass Bottle site while at the EPA.

Hogan said that the site was "worthless" because more money will be needed to prepare it for proposed high-density residential use.

Calling for an investigation into the roles as owner, developer and powerful planning authority played by the DDDA, Hogan said that "effectively the value of the site is nil.

Sunday Tribune

Demolition of Dun Laoghaire pier may be illegal

The controversial demolition of historic buildings on a Victorian mailboat pier in Dun Laoghaire by a semi-state company could contravene planning regulations, the local authority that sanctioned the works has admitted.

In early September, the Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company demolished a group of derelict buildings on the Carlisle pier in Dun Laoghaire without planning permission.

An Taisce have expressed "grave" concern that Dún Laoghaire Rathdown Council indicated to the harbour company at the time that they did not need planning permission to demolish the buildings and then allowed the firm to carry out the works.

The national trust maintains the harbour company should have sought permission to demolish the buildings because they are located within the area of the harbour itself, a protected structure.

Kathleen Holohan, head of the council's planning department, had stated that the demolition works constituted "exempt development" be­cause the pier fell outside the curtilage of those elements of the harbour, which are protected structures.

But in a letter to councillors last week, county manager Owen Keegan indicated that the local authority had significantly altered its opinion of the status of the works.

"The initial view of the planning authority was that the proposed works were exempt and did not require a grant of planning permission. This view was communicated, in good faith, to Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company," he said.

"However, on more detailed examination... the planning authority formed the view that there was, in fact, uncertainty in relation to the planning status of the works."

Contractors working on behalf of the council demolished several of the buildings on the pier last month.

Sunday Tribune

DDDA report to show €20m loss

The delayed 2008 annual report of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA) is likely to show a loss of €20 million for last year, when it is released in the coming weeks.

The DDDA has a number of development projects in the docklands which have been threatened by the collapse in property values, and questions have been raised about the future financial viability of the agency.

Professor Niamh Brennan, the chairman of the agency, is believed to be examining decisions made by the authority in the past, including some property deals financed by Anglo Irish Bank.

Members of the Anglo Irish board, including former chief executive and chairman Sean FitzPatrick, were also members of the board of the DDDA.

Brennan was asked to chair the agency earlier this year after concerns arose in government about the corporate governance of the agency.

Among the DDDA’s interests is a 25 per cent stake in the former Irish Glass Bottle Site in Ringsend. The agency bought the site in 2006 with property developer Bernard McNamara and financier Derek Quinlan for €412 million.

Last week, The Sunday Business Post revealed that the value of the site had be en estimated at just €60 million, wiping out the majority of state agency’s investment. The DDDA has also been financing the clean-up of the 25-acre site, including the removal of asbestos.

The success of the clean-up is now in doubt, and awaiting an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decision .Without EPA clearance, the site cannot be developed.

While the DDDA’s delayed annual report is expected to be published soon, further investigations may stem from the report, according to one source who is familiar with the government’s concerns about the agency.

Sunday Business Post

Waterford bypass opens today

The 23km Waterford city toll-bypass is to officially open later today 10 months ahead of schedule.

Part of the N25, the road was developed at a cost of more than €500 million and will feature the longest cable-stayed bridge in the State.

The 465m bridge spanning the river Suir will be officially opened by the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism Martin Cullen and chairman of the National Roads Authority Peter Malone at 12.30pm today.

Sightseers and pedestrians will be free to wander the length and breadth of the bridge, following the ceremony before motorised traffic is allowed across it from about 4.30pm.

Charges for using the route are to be €1 for motorbikes, €1.90 for cars and €3.40 for buses and coaches. Goods vehicles pay a maximum of €6.10.

It is expected that 14,000 vehicles will use the route each day, reducing volumes in Waterford city by about 30 per cent and removing up to 12,000 vehicles a day from the city’s quays.

The new route begins at Kilmeadan to the west of the city and crosses the River Suir to tie in with the existing N25 route to Rosslare, Waterford and Cork to the east, at Slieverue village.

The bypass includes a new connection, known as the Western Link, to industrial areas to the southwest of Waterford city. It also links to the M9/N9 and N24 to the Grannagh Interchange.

The route is expected to cut 20 minutes off the journey on the N25 between Cork to the port of Rosslare, via Waterford city. The current N25 route passes along the congested city quays and crosses the River Suir over Rice Bridge.

Irish Times

Friday, 16 October 2009

Fenit to Tralee walkway opposed

A PROPOSAL by Kerry County Council to turn the old Fenit to Tralee railway line into a walkway and cycle path to boost tourism and provide a local amenity is meeting stiff resistance by some villagers who fear it will bring anti-social behaviour and loss of privacy.

The 12.5 km line, with views of Tralee Bay and the Slieve Mish mountains, operated between 1887 and 1978 and is still largely intact. However, it would cost €11 million to reopen as a railway.

A free bus tour is being offered to interested parties to visit a similar scheme on the old Abbeyfeale-Newcastle line, 28km of which are a similar walkway/cycleway. Originally there were also strong objections to that route.

John Williams, from Fenit, said many people had concerns about the project, including anti-social behaviour, planning, lighting and security issues.

Kerry County Council has got a licence agreement from CIÉ, owner of the line, to turn it into a dedicated walkway and cycleway directly from the heart of Tralee to the deepwater port of Fenit.

The project manager said it had also ironed out many difficulties with residents along the line and had held meetings with communities over the past year or so.

Mayor of Kerry Bobby O’Connell said: “Both visitors and locals will have the opportunity to cycle or walk from Tralee to Fenit on a dedicated path without interference from traffic.

“The amenity value of the cycleway will be immense also as it passes through rolling countryside with glorious views of the Slieve Mish Mountains and Tralee Bay, ” the councillor added.

Irish Times

Councils blamed for water problems

THE Department of the Environment has assigned blame for prolonged pollution problems in drinking water supplies to local authorities for failing to take priority actions.

Secretary general of the Department Geraldine Tallon, said it was up to county councils to move schemes forward once funding had been approved.

She was responding to questioning from Fine Gael deputy Padraic McCormack, who said the department should have cracked down on Galway City Council for leaving parts of the city around Terryland without safe water.

Ms Tallon told the Oireachtas Committee on the Environment budgets had been sanctioned for water improvement projects under the National Development Plan but the Department could not manage them directly.

She told the Committee despite upgrade works many householders around the country still had to boil water before it was safe.

A list mentioned at the committee revealed more than 41,000 people drawing from 18 different water schemes are now being advised to boil water to avoid contamination from the likes of E-coli and Cryptosporidium.

The longest suffering residents are in Ennis, Co Clare, where the Drumcliffe treatment plant has been subject to a boil water notice for almost four and a half years.

A further nine areas have been under a notice for more than six months with the majority of boil water orders concentrated in Galway, West Cork and Kerry.

The Environmental Protection Agency was also represented at the meeting and said it was policing county councils which did not adhere to European standards. The EPA said it issued more than 100 warnings to local authorities on the quality of water being provided.

Galway County Council has been successfully prosecuted. And the EPA is awaiting a judgment in a case against Clare County Council.

Its director, Mary Kelly, said in the majority of cases authorities brought themselves into line once a directive was issued.

In cases where it was not resolved satisfactorily Ms Kelly said it was prepared for prosecutions.

However, the department indicated future funding projects are likely to suffer from budgetary constraints.

Ms Tallon said the entire water service upgrade programme, included in National Development plan, was to cost €4.7billion.

This included €1.1bn of contributions from development levies.

However, she admitted there was likely to be difficulty meeting this because of lower levels of development and the difficulty chasing down monies due to local authorities.

After being quizzed by Roisín Shortall of the Labour Party, officials outlined the case of Dublin City council where 64 enforcement orders had been issued against developers who had not paid levies due.

Irish Times

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Maurice Craig - Ireland's first conservation warrior

Architectural historian Maurice Craig began his battle against the demolition of historic Irish buildings in the 1940s. He's now nearly 90 and a new edition of his book about Irish mausoleums is about to be published

“I’VE BEEN remarkably lucky,” says architectural historian Maurice Craig as he approaches his 90th birthday and as the new edition of his book Mausolea Hibernica , which was illustrated by his son Michael, is about to be published. Meeting the right people at the right time, he says, led to the publication of his books on architectural history, bookbinding, poetry and a collection of belle lettres called The Elephant and the Polish Question which, he says was a critical but not a commercial success: “Booksellers didn’t know what category to put it under.”

He doesn’t relish being 90 – “it’s not very nice, I don’t recommend it” – but he is still a dedicated storyteller, both verbally and in print. Despite cursing his declining memory he still recalls complete poems and songs from the past and is not inhibited about performing them to illustrate a point or to periodically keep himself and others amused.

Through his writing, campaigning and photographs of an Ireland that has now disappeared, he made people aware that our historic buildings were national treasures that should be saved from demolition – because of this, he has now become a national treasure himself.

He was born in Belfast in 1919 and went to school in Dublin – whose historic buildings and their decline he was later to document – but his interest in architecture came in his late teens.

“Like all small boys I didn’t look at buildings. I was in Dublin between the ages of eight and 13 and I can give you first-hand testimony that kids do not give a great deal of attention to architecture. I became more interested bit by bit. When we went on family holidays I would generally take some note of buildings and later I went, in what is now called a gap year, to Paris. The architecture I saw there made a prodigious impression on me.”

Yet back in Ireland it was literature that tickled him. “I had taken to going to Dublin from time to time partly because of the Abbey Theatre and Yeats still living here so my interest had rather a literary emphasis.”

To this day he takes a wide interest in the arts. He speaks of one friend who is involved in the world of building conservation, of whom he is very fond, but criticises their lack of interest in poetry, music and animals.

A scholarship to study history at Magdalene college in Cambridge deepened Craig’s love of buildings. “I got rooms in the absolutely delightful 17th century Pepys Building. Cambridge was a revelation; I loved it and have been in love with it ever since.”

He then returned to Dublin and was “tickled pink at the buildings”. Nicer than his native Belfast? He chuckles and then counters it with: “Don’t make me laugh. Bits of Belfast are quite nice – about Queens – and there was a quarter down near the town centre that had been quite good but the buildings have nearly all been pulled down and replaced by offices.”

His response to a question about what the city was like before The Troubles covers its artistic scene. “There was a small literary coterie in Belfast – with the likes of Richard Rowley, John Hewitt and artists George and Mercy MacCann. The literati used to go for coffee in Campbells near the City Hall and I was friends with Denis Ireland who was well known in those days. He was an odd man out because he was a Protestant nationalist – as were some of the others: liberals and nationalists.”

Craig moved to Dublin in the early 1940s: “It was the capital and that’s where things are.” He brought his love of literature with him – specifically for the poet Walter Savage Landor – and planned to write a book about him. “One day I was walking along Merrion Square when I met Paddy Kavanagh – Dublin society was so small that people like me would know Paddy as well as others including Seumas O’Sullivan and Austin Clarke, and we would meet in the Palace Bar and later The Pearl – so I was walking along Merrion Square and Paddy said, ‘What’s up?’ And I said I was going to write a book about Landor.” The poet suggested that Craig do it as a thesis in Trinity.

“The PhD on Landor was of enormous value because it taught me how not to write a book. The first thing is, don’t try to put everything in – you need to keep it as short as possible – the second is to try and give it an overall shape.”

Craig’s writing beautifully combines his knowledge of history and literature – being both learned and readable and incorporating occasional doses of welcome wit.

He looks surprised: “I don’t do this on purpose.” Well there was his reference to a saying in his book The Architecture of Ireland: from the earliest times to 1880 that it is better to be deaf in England and blind in Ireland (to ignore the self-coloured concrete buildings). “I said it was a well-known saying but it wasn’t at all, I made it up. It was the type of wit that was simply the fruit of my effort to explain a difference between the English and the Irish. If you can do that in four words so much the better,” he says proceeding to illustrate the wit of James Joyce, who he went to see on a visit to Paris in 1938.

A discussion on the musician Sir Hamilton Harty lead Craig to observe that it was easy to get into the Church of Ireland church in Hillsborough, Co Down, where Harty was an organist.

“Joyce said, ‘the trouble with my church is getting out of it’.”

In a letter to Craig, Joyce asked him to track down the source of the quote: “May the lord in his mercy be kind to Belfast.” That proved a lengthy quest and by the time Craig found it Joyce was dead.

“I was so taken with it I wrote a ballad entirely based on it,” says Craig, reciting it. President Mary McAleese has quoted the poem and Brendan Behan also used it in one of his books.

“I wrote it one morning – it wrote itself in about half an hour,” which was unusual for Craig. “I write very, very slowly. It takes me a long time to push a sentence around, back to front, inside out, and I vary the vocabulary until the thing will run.”

He enjoyed writing Mausolea Hibernica – which contains his son Michael’s intricate drawings – because he was given a clear brief and a certain amount of space in which to write about each of the mausolea featured (the difference between mausolea and tombs is that you can enter the former). “It was an extraordinary privilege to work with my own son on a project of a kind in which he is an acknowledged master. All I had to do was fill in the spaces and produce this lovely book.

“Mikey did the drawings and I was told I would be allowed x words. In my enthusiasm, I had written more than x words because I had more to say, but I was sternly told by the master that I had to shorten my entries so they would sit comfortably opposite the drawings.”

The book took seven years to compile and became a family bonding exercise with expeditions to go and see mausolea across Ireland, with Michael’s wife Gemma Fallon doing the driving. “I wanted to do this book because I felt that mausolea were being ignored,” says Michael. Maurice enjoyed it for similar reason – he had covered just about every building type in Ireland in his book on Irish architecture. But not this.

Craig was at the forefront of the conservation movement, and his collection of photographs from the 1940s and 1950s shows an Ireland in which a horse-and-cart was still a key mode of transport. The pictures depict parts of Dublin that are no longer there, including photographs of Gardiner Street before many of its period buildings were demolished and on Longford Street, near Aungier Street in Dublin 8, the last pair of curved ‘Dutch-billy’ gabled buildings in Dublin which were demolished in about 1960.

“In Ireland at the time you expected a large rumpus about this or that, but there was no rumpus about things that were quietly taken down. Regarding Longford Street, I put my case to the official channels and was assured that they would look after them but they didn’t. In the meantime I had taken photographs of them and made a sketch survey.”

In 1952 he wrote Dublin 1660-1860 , the book that began his recording of the city’s history and its important buildings. “I wrote the book under contract. The publishers did the normal thing that publishers do if you go to them with an idea. They say: ‘Young man if you write about the following subject we will publish it.’ They wanted a book on Dublin and I am sure they thought they would get the usual stuff about snuff boxes and hoop skirts. But I was interested in architecture and researched it by keeping my eyes open and going around on my feet.”

Many people were blinkered to the demolitions, he says, and although there was a list of buildings that needed to be preserved, Craig contends that “when push came to shove they didn’t make any effort to save them. I was at war with them .”

Even now he finds that architecture in Ireland is not given its due, citing a large tome on Irish history which had no category on architecture. “They farmed out various bits to various people to write, on agriculture, finance and coinage, but divil a word about buildings: didn’t look at them.”

And if he were to write a book on architecture in more recent times? “It would not be a long book.” I suggest that much new architecture in Dublin has been knitted discreetly into the city, rather than as iconic structures. “Some people tried to design buildings that were decent without being especially memorable, which is not as easy as it sounds. A very good example is the new part of Dún Laoghaire town hall by McCullough Mulvin . They did it really well. You can tell at a glance that it is a 20th century building. It fits in with the older part and is not quarrelling with it.”

He still prefers older buildings though, and his favourite part of Dublin is near the Liberties, where some of Dublin’s oldest structures lie, including the Royal Hospital (1684), Collins Barracks (1701) and Steevens’ Hospital (1733).

Attitudes have changed towards building conservation and much is to do with the highlighting of issues by the likes of Maurice Craig and the Knight of Glin, who co-authored a book with Maurice. It must be heartening to feel he had some influence. “I hope so. I hope I have been of some use but I would not be so vain as to put it all down to my influence.”

Mausolea Hibernica is published by Associated Editions and will be available from book shops from October 22nd or from, price €25 paperback, €50 signed hardback

Irish Times