Thursday, 24 February 2011

Traffic blamed for partial collapse of Slane bridge

CONSTANT HEAVY traffic on Slane bridge appears to have been why it partially collapsed last month, an oral hearing by An Bord Pleanála into a proposed bypass of Slane village heard yesterday.

At the time, Meath County Council said the collapse of a stone wall on the western facade of the bridge was due to icy weather.

However, yesterday Seamus Mac Gearailt of Roughan O’Donovan engineers, which oversaw the selection of the bypass route on behalf of the council, said “it appears to have been due to heavy traffic loading over years”.

The council is seeking permission from the planning board to build a 3.5km dual-carriageway at a cost of €46 million to the east of the village. The route will take it some 500m from the buffer zone to Brú na Bóinne, a Unesco world heritage site that includes Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth.

Mr Mac Gearailt also told the hearing, chaired by planning inspector Michael Walsh, that it was not just Slane bridge that posed risks to traffic but all of the road layout through the village.

The N2 has steep hills on both approaches to Slane bridge and it also intersects with the main Drogheda to Navan road in the middle of the village.

Mr Mac Gearailt said Slane had the “longest and most severe descent on any national primary route”.

As a result, “vehicles have considerable difficulty in braking safely – overheating can lead to brake failure at a critical point”, he told the hearing.

Between 1996 and last year there were 40 incidents in Slane, of which 35 per cent involved trucks.

The steep gradient is the key factor, the hearing heard.

At the moment, some 17,700 vehicles pass through the village each day; after the bypass, the number of vehicles will drop by a third. The number crossing Slane bridge daily will reduce by 7,700.

Mr Walsh said it was not proposed to build a bypass to the west of Slane, although it had been desirable to “tease out” what a route to the west would look like and this took place last year.

At the start of the hearing it was put to Mr Walsh that the environmental impact statement submitted by the council could be deficient and inadequate.

Mr Walsh said the board “has not decided yet whether it is adequate or not. I haven’t either”.

He was speaking after Colm Mac hEochaidh SC, for former attorney general John Rogers, who lives in the area, said the recommendation by the board to the council to retain an expert on the impact of the scheme on Brú na Bóinne, including Newgrange, implied that the environmental impact statement submitted needed “a fix”.

He said it appeared the statement could be deficient “in that it does not address the impact on the world heritage site”, and if that were the situation then An Bord Pleanála had no jurisdiction to hold the oral hearing.

He put it to Mr Walsh that the first thing the board must do is decide on whether it had a lawful environmental impact statement.

The hearing also heard that the flight paths of bats in the Boyne valley were taken into consideration in selecting the height of the bridge that would carry the road across the Boyne.

It was decided that a three-span, steel-concrete composite 200m bridge that was 21m above the valley floor would be the preferred design.

Mr Mac Gearailt said the bridge design “respects its surroundings” and “we recognise it is an intrusion but leaves no stone unturned in trying to blend into its environment”.

Irish Times

Labour Senator tells Slane bypass hearing of value for money

A COST-BENEFIT analysis of the proposed Slane bypass found it represents good value for money, according to Meath Labour Senator Dominic Hannigan.

Mr Hannigan was speaking in favour of the proposed 3.5km road at the Bord Pleanála public hearing into the scheme in Drogheda yesterday.

A civil engineer with experience in transport projects, he said the bypass “comes in at three to one, so, for every €3 we spend, we get €1 back, and that’s very good.”

Mr Hannigan compared it to the cost-benefit for Metro North, which he said came in at 1.5 to 1.6 to one. “In terms of bang for your buck, in the Slane bypass you get twice that when compared to Metro North,” he added.

Environmentalist Peter Sweetman, on behalf of groups concerned with natural habitats, said the board could not make a proper decision on the basis of the information before it. He said the information was “flawed” because of what he claimed were inadequacies, including evidence in relation to bats and swans – both of which are protected species.

Maria Meagher of the Bypass Slane Campaign asked: “When will we be given the same level of protection as swans and bats? We feel we are an endangered species.”

The bypass will pass 500m from the perimeter of the buffer zone for the World Heritage Site of Brú na Bóinne which includes Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth. At least 22 people have died in accidents at Slane bridge in living memory. Meath Fine Gael TD Shane McEntee spoke in favour of the bypass and said the bridge – which has been the scene of dozens of deaths – “was built for an ass and cart to bring the queen to see whoever is in the [Slane] castle.”

Planning inspector Michael Walsh was told by Ian Lumley, heritage officer with An Taisce, that “the real question is why Slane remains a national route”, referring to its designation along the N2, the main Dublin to Belfast road.

Mark Clinton, archaeologist for An Taisce, described the present core area of the World Heritage Site as “decidedly minimalist” and the buffer zone consequently as inadequate. “The criteria for the status of World Heritage Site have evolved over the past 20 years. The conditions are now more rigorous . . . it is of paramount importance to the Boyne Valley region, and indeed beyond, that such an invigorated selection process be anticipated and nothing done to impair qualification.”

Mr Clinton said the bypass would create as many problems as it would resolve. It was “a roads authority Trojan horse” and would become another motorway in Meath. “World Heritage Sites are decidedly thin on the ground in Ireland, let us not endanger the status of one of the only two sites we have got.”

Prof George Eoghan, an expert on Knowth who has excavated at the monument since the 1950s, said the full extent of the World Heritage Site was not yet known.

In hindsight, he added, the buffer zone “is too restrictive” and the World Heritage Site has already been impinged on by the M1 motorway. The bypass, which includes a new bridge over the river Boyne, would be a further “infringement on the landscape.”

Irish Times

Concern over road to Kerry mast site

A CONTROVERSIAL telecommunications mast near Killarney which was refused permission by Kerry County Council but granted on appeal by An Bord Pleanála, could be serviced occasionally by a new road that was not included in the planning application, a council meeting was told yesterday.

The mast at Kilcummin has attracted protests by a residents’ group which claims the area is already well served by masts and does not need the health risk of another.

The Hutchinson 3G mast was the subject of a special meeting of the council last week, after which legal advice was sought. It is within a kilometre of a number of houses.

Some 85m of access road had been made through adjoining land, with the agreement of the landowner, after the protesters blocked the private road earmarked for the site, and up to 90 trucks a day would be using the new road during construction works, yesterday’s meeting was told.

“The road was constructed and you can dress it up as much as you like, it is there,” Labour councillor Marie Moloney (Labour) told senior management.

People felt very let down by the council and by public representatives, she said.

The road applied for was different from the one being used and residents felt they were being “railroaded”, she said.

The road is not temporary because access will be needed to service the mast, councillors argued.

Senior counsel’s advice was that the temporary road did not need planning permission, the meeting heard. John O’Connor, acting manager, said the legal advice was unequivocal.

On a proposal by Mr Moloney, the council is to ask the company to suspend work to allow the residents to seek further legal advice.

Irish Times

Slane bypass may risk Boyne status, says expert

CONSTRUCTION OF the proposed Slane bypass in Co Meath could have implications for the world heritage status of Brú na Bóinne, the site that is home to the megalithic tombs of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth, a planning hearing was told yesterday.

An international expert on heritage sites said construction of the bypass was likely to result in Unesco “monitoring” the impact on the world heritage site.

Dr Douglas Comer told the An Bord Pleanála hearing that “failure to maintain the outstanding universal value of a world heritage site can threaten its status as such”.

Meath County Council is seeking permission from the board to build the road and the oral hearing is expected to continue until early next month.

Dr Comer, an archaeologist and international expert on culture sites, said there could be “a very large adverse impact” on the site because of the proposed route of the road. He was asked by the council to prepare a heritage impact assessment of the road plan. He said “one might reasonably expect that the bypass will be seen as a further, incremental intrusion on the landscape”.

Dr Comer’s report said that if assurances are given that the bypass will not stimulate new construction in the vicinity of the heritage site and if it is only visible from the top of Knowth, then it would represent a minor change with a moderate/large adverse effect.

However, without such assurances and if the road can be seen from several locations in the Brú na Bóinne site, then it would have a “large/very large adverse impact”, he concluded.

The 3.5km dual carriageway would bypass Slane to the east of the village at a cost of €46 million and divert traffic from the village and Slane bridge where 22 people have died in traffic accidents in recent years.

Archaeologist Finola O’Carroll, who assessed the scheme for the council, said the new road would be visible from Knowth and Newgrange but the long-term impact of this was “in the visual and landscape assessment deemed respectively to be ‘medium and neutral’ and ‘low and neutral’.”

She said that the design of the bridge and the road seeks to minimise the visual disturbance in accordance with the principles of cultural heritage management.

Landscape architect Declan O’Leary said that to reduce the impact of the 200m long bridge, it is designed to sit within the existing topography. It will be 21m above the valley floor and made from a steel/concrete composite. Its crossing is set at a level to reduce the cutting into the valley sides, “limiting the impact on the Boyne valley”, he added.

Irish Times

Heritage findings at Slane being 'ignored'

MEATH COUNTY Council has been accused of ignoring the magnitude of the findings of an international expert who says the Slane bypass could threaten the status of Brú na Bóinne as a Unesco world heritage site.

Dr Douglas Comer had also said the proposed road breaches the council’s own development plan, which says development must protect the amenity, views and landscape of the monuments in the world heritage site which includes Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth.

At the public hearing into the plans for the Slane bypass, Colm Mac Eochaidh SC, for former attorney general John Rogers who lives near the buffer zone for the world heritage site, asked whether they would be told if Dr Comer’s report constituted “significant further information” and as such it should be advertised to the public.

Dr Comer said the landscape’s heritage value was “as high as it gets” and the building of a road at or near a world heritage site was “the most problematic of all possible developments”. Of the effects of the proposed bypass, “none can be viewed as non-significant”.

The council is seeking permission from the planning board to build a 3.5km dual carriageway at a cost of €46 million.

It retained Dr Comer on advice from An Bord Pleanála to assess independently the heritage impact on the site of the proposed road. He had advised the hearing that “almost certainly,” there would be a visit by experts from Unesco asking about gaps in information on the proposed road.

The three likely outcomes of that process included being de-listed as a world heritage site. He said “nowhere else in the world” had the monuments and continuity of settlement that was found at Brú na Bóinne.

Dr Comer also said he could not find any study on the implications of simply banning heavy goods vehicles from the village – proposed nearly two years ago – or a study on other alternatives to building the bypass.

He added that the Boyne bridge on the M1 motorway was “without a doubt incompatible” with the landscape that led to Brú na Bóinne being inscribed by Unesco.

Irish Times

Nursing home plans rejected

Plans for a nursing home in a rural location 3km from Waterford city have been refused by An Bord Pleanála on the grounds that the development could put public health at risk, reports Olivia Kelly.

The construction of a 90- bed nursing home and 41 retirement houses at Waterford Manor Hotel, Killotteran, Butlerstown, posed a risk of water pollution and would have an adverse impact on the rural amenity of the area, the board said.

In its judgment, the board said the proposal to discharge foul effluent from the wastewater treatment system of the “large-scale” development into a tributary of the river Suir posed an “unacceptable risk of water pollution”.

The location, next to a recently discovered national monument, the Woodstown 6 Viking Settlement, was remote and poorly connected to the urban area, it said.

Irish Times

Slane plans pose 'no immediate danger'

THERE IS no immediate danger posed to the Brú na Bóinne site in Co Meath by plans to build a bypass of Slane village, according to a world heritage expert.

However, Dr Douglas Comer warned the project would be another intrusion on the site and if there were others in the future, they could undermine its designation as a world heritage site of outstanding universal value.

Dr Comer was replying to questions from Gerry Browner, senior architect with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, on the seventh day of an oral hearing by An Bord Pleanála into plans by Meath County Council for the bypass.

The proposed 3.5km dual carriageway, including a new bridge over the Boyne east of the village, would pass within 500 metres of a buffer zone around Brú na Bóinne which includes the ancient burial sites of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth.

Supporters of the project claim the bypass and bridge are urgently needed to improve safety for locals in Slane, which has been the scene of at least 22 fatal road crashes.

Opponents say the new road and bridge would have a detrimental effect on the local landscape, especially the archaeological sites. Dr Comer said some features already intruded into the site, such as the M1 motorway and Boyne bridge, the cement factory chimneys at Platin and the new Indaver incinerator at Carranstown, Duleek.

He said if the bypass got the go-ahead, Unesco’s world heritage committee would likely send a fact-finding reactive monitoring mission to assess its impact on the Brú na Bóinne site. The committee might then decide there had been no deterioration to the site, place it on a list of endangered sites, or delist it.

Mr Browner added that the department had already received a yellow card from Unesco over the incinerator.

Irish Times

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Appeals body to host hearing into casino

AN ORAL hearing to discuss objections to a planned casino venue in Tipperary is set to take place on March 8th.

The State planning appeals board, An Bord Pleanála, has decided to host the oral hearing to discuss the planned €460 million development near Thurles.

A final decision is expected to be made before next June.
If the business venture gets the go-ahead, it is expected to create 2,000 full-time jobs. A further 1,000 people will be employed during the three years of construction.

The planned 800-acre development will be known as the Tipperary Venue and the chief investor is Dublin-based businessman Richard Quirke.

A former garda from Thurles, he is best known in the gaming industry for his Dr Quirkey’s Good Time Emporium.

The ambitious project includes a racecourse featuring a national hunt track, sprint track and all-weather floodlit track.

A 500-room hotel is also planned to incorporate a casino and the centrepiece of the venue will be a replica of the White House in Washington, in homage to local man James Hoban, who designed the original building.

A golf course and greyhound track and a 15,000-seat entertainment venue are also planned.

The Tipperary Venue is also being backed by racehorse trainer Aidan O’Brien, concert promoter Denis Desmond and local Independent TD, Michael Lowry.

The oral hearing is to take place at the Horse and Jockey Hotel close to the town of Thurles.

Irish Times

Go ahead sought for major toxic dump

PLANS FOR a major landfill capable of taking hazardous ash from Ireland’s proposed incinerators have been lodged with An Bord Pleanála.

Murphy Environmental Hollywood Ltd (Mehl) is seeking permission for a 500,000-tonne-per-annum landfill to include hazardous waste on a site west of the M1 motorway at Hollywood Great, Nag’s Head, Naul, Co Dublin.

According to plans, the landfill would be capable of taking all of the estimated 86,000 tonnes of “hazardous flue gas treatment residues” produced annually by three incinerators in development in the Republic, as well as one in Northern Ireland.

The incinerators include the Poolbeg waste to energy plant in Dublin and the Indaver Ireland plant at Carranstown in Co Meath which are under construction. Also named in the application is the Indaver Ireland plant proposed for Ringaskiddy, Co Cork, along with a fourth, described as “provision for waste to energy in Northern Ireland”.

The application is being considered by An Bord Pleanála, which has set a deadline of February 11th for submissions. A licence is also required from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Naul site is a former quarry operating as a landfill and licensed by the environmental agency for 500,000 tonnes of inert material per annum. The proposers note there would no need to change the permitted tonnage involved.

According to the environmental impact assessment associated with the application, the flue gas residues would typically contain heavy metals and dioxins and lime.

Dioxins are known carcinogens while other elements of the gases are classed as irritants to skin and respiratory systems. According to the plans, an onsite “solidification” facility would receive the treatment residues, solidifying them before their removal to “engineered cells”.

The application is for a term of 25 years and the area of the site is 54.4 hectares.

In a statement, Mehl general manager Patricia Rooney said the company was engaged in extensive public consultation on the project and pointed out it was national policy to have a licensed hazardous landfill in place by 2012.

A spokesman for Indaver Ireland said it was favourably disposed towards the project. He pointed out that a hazardous landfill was part of waste management infrastructure which the environmental agency said this week was lacking in the Republic.

However, PJ Rudden of RPS Consultants, who are working on the Poolbeg incinerator, said it was not disposed to send either its non-hazardous “bottom ash” or its hazardous flue ash to Mehl for treatment.

Mr Rudden said it was intended to choose recycling ahead of landfill and the bottom ash would be sent to the UK with the flue ash going to Scandinavia.

A spokesman for An Bord Pleanála said it was policy to hold public oral hearings into applications which come before its strategic infrastructure division.

However, no date for a hearing has been set.

Irish Times

Tesco criticised as application for off-licence rejected

TESCO’S CHARACTER has been called into question and doubts have been cast over its bona fides by a District Court judge who criticised the retail giant this week for the way planning and off-licence applications have been made by it or on its behalf.

In a ruling which could have implications for any future applications for off-licences which Tesco Ireland makes, Judge Mary Collins of Dublin District Court rejected an application for an off-licence at the former ESB showrooms in Temple Bar, where it plans to open a shop on the basis of the retailer’s character.

As all Tesco licences are applied for under one name – Tesco Ireland – the finding that it was not of sufficient character to hold a licence could make it difficult for it to make applications for new licences and could even place existing licences in jeopardy as they come up for renewal.

Tesco declined to comment on the judge’s ruling other than to say it would be launching an appeal.

While the District Court hearing focused on the new Tesco store on Fleet Street, Judge Collins expressed annoyance with the manner in which the retailer had handled a number of planning and off-licence applications.

Last summer Tesco applied for planning permission for the new Temple Bar store and, at the same time, made a court application for a declaratory order entitling it to a drinks licence once planning permission was granted.

There were no objectors to the application for the drinks licence and it was granted by Judge Collins, pending planning permission.

Despite objections to the planning application by Temple Bar Traders and other retailers in the area, it was approved by Dublin City Council and, at the end of last month, it was granted on appeal by An Bord Pleanála.

The planning board also approved the retailer’s application for its proposed off-licence.

Earlier this week, however, in Dublin District Court, Temple Bar Traders and others succeeded in an objection to the granting of the off-licence certificate.

This week’s objection was made on four grounds: the character, misconduct or unfitness of the applicant; the unfitness or inconvenience of the new premises; the unsuitability for the needs of persons residing in the neighbourhood and the adequacy of the existing number of licensed premises of the same character in the neighbourhood.

At the hearing, Judge Collins said the only objection she could entertain related to the character of Tesco as no application had been made at an earlier stage in connection with the other three objections.

According to a legal note of the proceedings seen by The Irish Times, Judge Collins described it as “disturbing” that Tesco had “an intention to make various applications in the hope to defeat prospective objectors”.

She was “mildly annoyed that an application be made to this court and that full facts in relation to planning not be disclosed” and described the “manner in which Tesco have applied in the past” as “of grave concern”.

She said Tesco had shown a “total lack of bona fides in making such applications. Is it such that the character of the applicant is in such doubt that the application should be refused?” she asked.

Judge Collins said if she had had any indication how Tesco had conducted planning applications when she was ruling on the declaratory order for Fleet Street, in Dublin city centre, she would have refused it until full planning had been granted.

“Was it granted erroneously – possibly? Having granted it, I deprived objectors of their right to object on other grounds other than character. I find it very hard to grant this application today, therefore I refuse it.”

Irish Times

Planning permission for Monaghan quarry quashed

An Taisce -v- Ireland Ors Neutral citation (2010) IEHC 415. High Court Judgment was delivered on November 25th, 2011, by Mr Justice Peter Charleton.


Planning permission issued by An Bord Pleanála was quashed on the grounds that no reasons were given for the granting of the permission for the continued use of a quarry at Lengare, Clontibret, Co Monaghan.


On July 20th, 2009, An Bord Pleanála granted planning permission to John McQuade Quarries Ltd to continue to use a quarry at Lengare, subject to conditions. It did so on the basis that the quarry had begun to operate before the implementation of the 1963 Local Government Planning and Development Act in 1964 and the use had not been changed since through intensification.

A judicial review of this decision was sought on the grounds that An Bord Pleanála had failed to consider its usage before the implementation of the planning code in 1964; had failed to consider its use before 1964 and engaged in an irrational approach to its use before 1964; failed to give any reason for any decision it may have made about its pre-1964 use; and failed to give an consideration as to whether there were exceptional circumstances for its retention.

Mr Justice Charleton said ordinarily, the use of land before October 1st, 1964, was outside the scope of planning control once a building exists or a use is established before then and continues. Quarries were made an exception to that exemption in the 2000 Act, which required all quarries to be registered, subject to planning scrutiny and, where appropriate, subjected to conditions. Quarries with an extraction area of five hectares or more must submit an environmental impact assessment when applying for planning permission.

Whether the use involved is impermissible intensification of use, as opposed to a proportionate and lawful continuance of pre-planning control use, is a question for analysis by the planning authority based on case law, he said.

Mr Justice Charleton quoted section 261 of the 2000 Planning and Development Act and pointed out that under section 261(7), a planning authority, or An Bord Pleanála on appeal, was obliged to have regard to the existing use of land in respect of a quarry greater than five hectares.

“What is crucial, however, to the proper operation of the subsection, is that an unlawful use of land must be disregarded,” he said. “Regrettably, it is apparent on the face of the order that a number of significant errors were made in the decision of the board.”


The first of these was the reference in the board’s decision to “mining on this site [from] the 19th century”. Mr Justice Charleton said that mining could not be equated with quarrying, which could have significant adverse effects on the landscape, on noise and on the emission of pollutants.

The board also pointed to the registration of the quarry. However, this did not establish its pre-1964 use. If the use of a quarry was unlawful before registration, that status remained afterwards.

In addition, he said the imposition of conditions did not alter the status of a quarry. There was no need for a decision on the issue of whether there had been an irrational approach by the board to the issue of pre-1964 use.

However, he added that some observations were necessary. He referred to a report in May 2008 by an inspector from An Bord Pleanála which pointed out that An Taisce made the case that a large portion of the site was unauthorised. The inspector had said that the case had been made “quite convincingly” that the pre-1964 quarry related to only a portion of the subject’s site, so its expansion was unauthorised.

The pre-1964 use involved some blasting and the removal of stones by horse and cart. The current level of operation involved more than 40 lorry loads and 10 tractor and trailer loads of minerals being removed each working day. There had been no analysis by the board, apart from the inspector’s report, of An Taisce’s evidence of change of use through intensification.

Section 34 of the 2000 Act stated that a planning authority, or An Bord Pleanála on appeal, must give reasons for its decisions. In particular, where the report of an inspector is not accepted, the reasons for this must be stated. In this decision, the reasons were manifestly absent and there was no consideration of pre-1964 use.

The court quashed the planning permission for retention.

Full judgment is on

For An Taisce: Casey Co

Irishh Times

UCD transport facility gets approval

OBJECTIONS TO a “commuting west” facility, involving a five-storey car park and bus terminal to be partially located on tennis courts at UCD, have been withdrawn by the National Transport Authority.

The proposed facility is for a transport hub to be located between the current sports hall and water tower at the western side of the Belfield campus.

The authority withdrew its objection from An Bord Pleanála following a commitment from the college to sustainable transport and an assurance it would reduce parking spaces elsewhere. Planning permission granted by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council has now been confirmed.

The 17,000 sq m building is to rise to a height of 41.3m and will incorporate 583 car parking spaces and a relocated bus terminus for the college with five coach standing or parking areas.

It is to be located on a 3.84 hectare site currently occupied by five tennis courts, 88 parking spaces and landscaped areas. Also included in the proposal are shower, changing and locker room facilities; a retail unit of 113sq m and staff areas; and storage and circulation space. Provision is also to be made for 617 bicycle spaces and 81 motorbike spaces.

There is to be revised landscaping and boundary fencing around the water tower. The remainder of the site will include new landscaped areas, including a covered walkway of about 300m.

In its conditions Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council called for payment of more than €2 million in development levies. The council said it appeared “reasonable” that in excess of €500,000 would be levied for drainage services; a further €500,000 for parks and landscaping; and a contribution of €1 million to the roads network. The conditions stipulate that further “general contributions” should be agreed before the work gets under way.

Irish Times

Objection to works rejected

AN OBJECTION by the National Roads Authority to the expansion of a nursing home in Co Tipperary has been rejected by An Bord Pleanála.

The authority appealed a decision by the planning office of North Tipperary County Council to grant the owners of Patterson Nursing Home at Lismackin, Roscrea, permission to construct an extension at the rear. A total of 15 conditions were attached to the granting of planning last September to owners Thomas and Betty Patterson, but the authority objected on safety grounds.

Appealing the decision to An Bord Pleanála, the authority highlighted concerns over the development and stated the nursing home was located on the N62 national primary road where the maximum speed limit applies. It pointed out any further development would “endanger the public safety by reason of a traffic hazard”.

The planning appeals board’s inspector recommended refusal of the plan but the board later decided to grant permission. The board took into account the fact there was already a nursing home on the site, the planning history of the site and the proposed acquisition of more land for the additional sites as mitigating factors.

Irish Times

Traffic blamed for partial collapse of Slane bridge

CONSTANT HEAVY traffic on Slane bridge appears to have been why it partially collapsed last month, an oral hearing by An Bord Pleanála into a proposed bypass of Slane village heard yesterday.

At the time, Meath County Council said the collapse of a stone wall on the western facade of the bridge was due to icy weather.

However, yesterday Seamus Mac Gearailt of Roughan O’Donovan engineers, which oversaw the selection of the bypass route on behalf of the council, said “it appears to have been due to heavy traffic loading over years”.

The council is seeking permission from the planning board to build a 3.5km dual-carriageway at a cost of €46 million to the east of the village. The route will take it some 500m from the buffer zone to Brú na Bóinne, a Unesco world heritage site that includes Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth.

Mr Mac Gearailt also told the hearing, chaired by planning inspector Michael Walsh, that it was not just Slane bridge that posed risks to traffic but all of the road layout through the village.

The N2 has steep hills on both approaches to Slane bridge and it also intersects with the main Drogheda to Navan road in the middle of the village.

Mr Mac Gearailt said Slane had the “longest and most severe descent on any national primary route”.

As a result, “vehicles have considerable difficulty in braking safely – overheating can lead to brake failure at a critical point”, he told the hearing.

Between 1996 and last year there were 40 incidents in Slane, of which 35 per cent involved trucks.

The steep gradient is the key factor, the hearing heard.

At the moment, some 17,700 vehicles pass through the village each day; after the bypass, the number of vehicles will drop by a third. The number crossing Slane bridge daily will reduce by 7,700.

Mr Walsh said it was not proposed to build a bypass to the west of Slane, although it had been desirable to “tease out” what a route to the west would look like and this took place last year.

At the start of the hearing it was put to Mr Walsh that the environmental impact statement submitted by the council could be deficient and inadequate.

Mr Walsh said the board “has not decided yet whether it is adequate or not. I haven’t either”.

He was speaking after Colm Mac hEochaidh SC, for former attorney general John Rogers, who lives in the area, said the recommendation by the board to the council to retain an expert on the impact of the scheme on Brú na Bóinne, including Newgrange, implied that the environmental impact statement submitted needed “a fix”.

He said it appeared the statement could be deficient “in that it does not address the impact on the world heritage site”, and if that were the situation then An Bord Pleanála had no jurisdiction to hold the oral hearing.

He put it to Mr Walsh that the first thing the board must do is decide on whether it had a lawful environmental impact statement.

The hearing also heard that the flight paths of bats in the Boyne valley were taken into consideration in selecting the height of the bridge that would carry the road across the Boyne.

It was decided that a three-span, steel-concrete composite 200m bridge that was 21m above the valley floor would be the preferred design.

Mr Mac Gearailt said the bridge design “respects its surroundings” and “we recognise it is an intrusion but leaves no stone unturned in trying to blend into its environment”.

Irish Times

Volumes of waste fell by 8% in 2009, report shows

MUNICIPAL WASTE volumes on Ireland are tumbling due to the recession, with a drop of more than 8 per cent in 2009 alone, according to the latest national waste report published today by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

This followed a 5 per cent drop in waste volumes during the previous year “in line with reductions in GDP and personal consumption levels”, the agency said, noting that this had happened despite an increase in the Republic’s population.

As a result, “Ireland is currently on track to meet its EU Landfill Directive diversion target for biodegradable municipal waste for 2010” while the recovery rate for packaging – at 70 per cent – is already ahead of the EU’s 60 per cent target for 2011.

The Economic and Social Research Institute, in a 2009 report commissioned by Dublin City Council to justify the Poolbeg incinerator, forecasted that waste levels would continue to grow by about 4 per cent per annum to 2025.

The 8.4 per cent fall in waste volumes in 2009 was most pronounced in the construction sector, where the amount of waste being generated declined by 62 per cent, followed by the commercial sector (12 per cent) and households (3 per cent).

However, the EPA report calls for continued efforts to divert biodegradable waste from landfill, improve the use of three-bin source-separated waste collection services, and “prevent waste arisings from all sectors of society”.

It notes that the amount of biodegradable municipal waste landfilled fell by 11 per cent, “leaving Ireland within 143,000 tonnes of meeting its EU Landfill Directive diversion target for 2010”.

Overall, waste volumes were down to less than three million tonnes.

Commenting on the report’s findings, EPA director Laura Burke, said: “The economic downturn is having a marked effect on waste generation, particularly in the commercial waste and the construction and demolition waste streams.

“While the reductions in waste generation and the improvements in recovery seen in 2009 are welcome, we must continue to focus on resource efficiency to ensure that when economic growth does return, it is not accompanied by a surge in waste generation.”

The report “clearly shows that Ireland is expected to meet a key EU target for diverting biodegradable municipal waste from landfill in 2010”.

However, it warned that the tougher EU targets for 2013 and 2016 would be more difficult to achieve.

“Urgent and sustained actions are required if Ireland is to meet these EU targets, including the further roll-out of source-segregated collections, recovery of organic waste and development of infrastructure for the pre-treatment of municipal waste prior to disposal.”

These actions would include ensuring that there are adequate facilities to treat “very large quantities” of organic (particularly food) waste that must be collected separately and diverted from landfill and also for the organic component of the mixed residual waste stream.

There was also a need to develop outlets for the products of such treatment, update and clarify national waste policy, promote food waste prevention through national waste prevention programme initiatives and put in place more source-separated collection services.

“The new EU Waste Framework Directive, which came into effect in December 2010, will be a significant influence and driver of change in waste management practices and governance in Ireland and elsewhere over the coming decade,” Ms Burke said.

The full report is at

Irish Times

Council says Poolbeg needed due to increasing waste

DUBLIN CITY Council has predicted that the volume of municipal waste in the capital would increase by one-third to reach 4 million tonnes annually by 2025 “to be trucked to landfills around the country” in the absence of an incinerator at Poolbeg.

Responding yesterday to claims by the Green Party and the Irish Waste Management Association that the planned incinerator was too big at 600,000 tonnes per annum, it said there was “no space in Dublin’s landfills” for the city’s waste “until Poolbeg opens”.

The council noted that the 2009 national waste report, published by the Environmental Protection Agency, said Ireland’s waste infrastructure, including waste-to-energy plants such as Poolbeg, “remains underdeveloped”.

It also noted the agency’s conclusion that it would be “a challenge” to meet waste diversion and recovery targets under EU directives “if municipal waste generation increases with economic recovery and the necessary waste infrastructure is not in place”.

A spokesman for Covanta, the council’s US partners in the Poolbeg project, said the 8 per cent fall in Dublin’s municipal waste in 2009, as reported by the agency “is exactly what was predicted by Covanta last year [and] comes as no surprise”.

He said Covanta’s business case with the Dublin authorities “is based on a reduction in the amount of waste being produced by individual households and an increase in the amount of recycling.” But the waste management association, which represents most private sector waste companies, insisted that the agency’s report “confirms that the proposed Poolbeg incinerator is seriously oversized relative to the Dublin region waste market”.

Spokesman Brendan Keane said the latest data highlighted “significant errors” made by the ESRI in its waste reports for Dublin City Council by predicting waste growth for 2008 and 2009 when, “in reality, waste levels plummeted by more than 13 per cent”.

This meant the local authorities “do not have enough waste for a 600,000-tonne incinerator at Poolbeg” and that “the writing is on the wall” for the project, which could expose taxpayers to up to €350 million in penalty payments.

“Waste levels are falling, recovery rates are rising and local authorities are exiting the waste market. Incineration is part of the solution to Ireland’s management of waste, but the Poolbeg project should be resized to approximately 300,000 tonnes per annum,” Mr Keane said.

Irish Times

Incinerator opponents 'frustrated' with silence

OPPONENTS OF plans for a hazardous waste incinerator at Ringaskiddy, in Cork harbour, have expressed “sheer frustration” over the continued silence of UCC, Cork Institute of Technology and the National Maritime College of Ireland on the scheme.

The maritime college is located across the road from the site chosen by Indaver Ireland for both the proposed hazardous waste incinerator and a separate municipal waste incinerator. There are plans to locate a maritime and energy research campus alongside the college.

Known as Merc3, this joint venture by the university, the institute of technology and the maritime college and private investors would also include a “commercial cluster” and secured €7 million last year in funding for its development. It is widely seen in Cork as a vehicle to create high-level, sustainable jobs.

All of the stakeholders involved are aware of Indaver’s plan, but they have declined to express any views on the proposed incinerators despite repeated representations by the Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment (Chase) which has led the campaign against it.

“I have communicated with them all to impress upon them that this proposed development of Indaver’s will impact on their plans to develop the area adjacent to the maritime college as an energy campus,” the alliance’s chairwoman, Mary O’Leary, said.

“Sadly to say they will not even engage in dialogue.

“I have sent them all the new information that has been submitted since November 2010 expressing the concerns of planners, HSE, Cork County Council and Chase, but have got no response, which I think is unacceptable.”

Expressing “sheer frustration” over the silence of all three colleges, Ms O’Leary noted that the maritime college is just 15m (49ft)from Indaver’s site, which would have to be designated under the EU’s “Seveso” directive covering sites that constitute major accident risks.

She also pointed out that Peter Daly, chief emergency officer for the HSE’s southern region, had expressed his concerns about the inventory of waste that Indaver is seeking to incinerate and the threat it poses to the public and to his staff in the event of an incident.

Giving evidence in a personal capacity at an oral hearing on Indaver’s planning application in October 2009, Mr Daly said: “The credible scenarios must include the possibility of a vapour cloud explosion.”

He also noted that there was only one entry to and exit from the site.

“Put simply, the proposed facility is too big for this site,” he said.

“The concept of persons being evacuated from the NMCI being compelled to move towards the [Indaver] facility, before being able to flee to the left or to the right, will be of significant and ongoing concern.”

Capt John Clarence, head of the maritime college, said he had no comment to make.

“There have been numerous attempts to try and drag the NMCI into the debate. Any comments should be sought through CIT”, he added. But CIT did not respond to queries from The Irish Times. Neither did UCC.

Val Cummins, director of Merc3, said its official position was that “we’re respecting due process” and leaving the matter to An Bord Pleanála to decide. “There are planning officials who have expertise and responsibility in this area,” she added.

“There is a big difference between an institutional perspective and a personal one,” Ms Cummins said.

“It’s certainly not an ideal neighbour to have, speaking personally . . . UCC is keeping a watching brief on it, but as an organ of the State it isn’t entering into public debate.”

Indaver Ireland has submitted revised plans after being requested to do so in January 2010 by An Bord Pleanála, which sought further information on how it would deal with coastal erosion and flooding.

Tomorrow is the deadline for making submissions to the board.

Irish Times

Planning reform one of several major achievements

Reckless rezoning and badly insulated houses should be things of the past after the Greens’ stint in office, but other issues remain unresolved, writes FRANK McDONALD, Environment Editor.

THE RECKLESS planning and rezoning of land that inflated the property bubble should become a thing of the past as a result of the 2010 Planning Act – one of the Green Party’s major achievements in Government.

Its principal aim was to make “evidence-based planning” and responsible zoning a legal requirement for local authorities.

Party leader John Gormley, as minister for the environment, also issued new guidelines curtailing development on floodplains and intervened to ensure that “inappropriate zonings” in Co Monaghan were overturned.

Gormley amended building regulations to ensure that all new housing and commercial buildings would be at least 40 per cent more energy-efficient and have at least 40 per cent lower emissions. Former minister for energy Eamon Ryan introduced the national insulation programme, with the aim of retrofitting 100,000 homes.

Over 15 per cent of Ireland’s electricity is now coming from renewable sources – 10 times more than a few years ago. Earlier last month, the amount of electricity coming from wind hit a new record of 1,250MW – enough to provide power for more than 800,000 homes.

The ESB has committed itself to becoming carbon neutral by 2030. The Greens also claim that wind energy is keeping the cost of electricity lower, as its value is nearly double the €43 million in subsidies paid to producers.

The long-delayed introduction of a carbon tax in last year’s budget put a price on emissions, providing an incentive for the transition to a low-carbon economy. Motor taxes were also reformed to be based on carbon emissions, encouraging motorists to switch to cleaner cars.

More controversially, the Greens persuaded their coalition partners to impose a €200 annual charge on second homes, which yielded €80 million in its first year – providing a new funding stream for local authorities that seems likely to increase in future years.

Gormley ran into opposition from rural interests over a number of measures, including his ban on stag hunting, turf-cutting in special areas of conservation and legislation to curtail puppy farming. The Greens also managed to sustain record investment in water services, averaging €500 million a year since 2007. Ultimately, this will be funded by consumers, with water meters to be extended to all households by 2014.

Curbing water pollution was one of the factors that helped reduce by a third the number of cases against Ireland for failure to comply with EU environment legislation. Others included measures to protect wildlife habitats and reform environmental impact assessments.

Hotels and restaurants are now required to compost their food waste, instead of bagging it for landfill. Recycling rates in general are also higher, driven by increases in the landfill levy, which doubled from €15 to €30 per tonne during Gormley’s term.

However, the Green Party’s leader did not succeed in stopping plans for the Poolbeg incinerator in his own constituency.

A Bill dealing with noise nuisance is almost complete.

Other measures that were well advanced include the Climate Change Response Bill, a White Paper on local government reform and the Bill to provide for a directly elected mayor of Dublin. Whether these measures will be resuscitated by the next government remains to be seen.

A review of archaeological policy led to the publication of a new National Monuments Bill, but savage cuts in heritage funding in the budget took many by surprise. In response, Gormley agreed to reinstate the Heritage Council’s capital allocation.

It is largely due to the Greens that Metro North remains a live project, but a decision to proceed with it could jeopardise Dart Underground, identified by an independent review of Transport 21 as more strategically important and better value for money.

Other measures for which the party claims credit include the Cycle to Work scheme, promotion of organic farming, inclusion of an “environmental pillar” in the social partnership process and legal protection for same-sex couples.

The introduction of genetically modified (GM) organisms at European level was not supported by Ireland while the Greens were in government. Last week, however, Fianna Fáil said it would now vote in favour of GM proposals.

Irish Times

Monday, 7 February 2011

Gutted cathedral to rise from ashes

A LANDMARK cathedral, ruined by fire on Christmas Day 2009, is to rise from the ashes over the next five years as part of a multi-million euro project.

The Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise, Colm O'Reilly, yesterday announced that a contract had been signed with a design team of top-level architects to restore St Mel's Cathedral in Longford town.

A packed congregation of 700 worshippers attending Sunday Mass in a temporary chapel in the gym of the nearby St Mel's College applauded as Dr O'Reilly named Dr Richard Hurley, a distinguished church architect, as the lead designer in alliance with Colm Redmond, of FitzGerald, Kavanagh and Partners.

The historic cathedral, which was founded by Bishop William O'Higgins in 1840, was rated as a gem of Irish building, with critics acclaiming its interior to be "one of the most beautifully conceived classical spaces" in the country.

Today is the feast day of St Mel, the diocesan patron saint, and Dr O'Reilly said that each year on the Sunday closest to February 7, he would give updates on the progress of the restoration.

The 76-year-old bishop said that an annual restoration collection would be held on the Sunday closest to St Mel's feast day, as it was "the people's cathedral and it would be restored by the people".

He added: "We believe we are taking an important step towards a new day when we will be able to reverse the disaster of Christmas 2009.

"I am convinced that the two architects can deliver a restored cathedral which will not just be faithful to its original architectural splendour, but also a place of worship which will be inspirational for a new time in the life of the church in Ireland."


No figure is yet available for the final cost of the project, but Dr O'Reilly, has promised transparency by publishing details annually.

Dr Hurley vowed to recast St Mel's cathedral as "a religious space of powerful resonance, respecting the past, living in the present and pointing towards the future".

"If this can be achieved the cathedral will live again."

Dr Hurley, whose portfolio includes churches in Ireland, Britain, Africa and Australia, recalled how the man who began work on the cathedral, Bishop William O'Higgins, was inspired by classical buildings such as the Madeleine in Paris, the Pantheon in Athens and the Great Basilicas of Rome.

Referring to the many-times-destroyed Chartres Cathedral, Dr Hurley said his team was approaching the restoration "with the same ardour and belief that St Mel's will rise again and live again at the centre of Catholic life in the diocese of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise".

Up to €2m has been spent so far on essential maintenance to preserve the cathedral, explained project manager Niall Meagher while showing journalists the extensive damage to the walls, plaster work, columns, statues and marble decorations.

Mr Meagher pointed to the temporary roof put on the cathedral last August, which he said "has prevented the building from further disrepair from inclement weather".

The diocese has agreed with the design team to provide an apprenticeship scheme to train workers in specialist conservation skills, according to Seamus Butler, chairman of St Mel's Cathedral Project Committee

"It is a once in a lifetime opportunity for skilled workers," he added.

While insurance will cover replacing the building, further costs will be incurred by the installation of toilets, a creche, wheelchair facilities, and meeting health and safety standards.

John Cooney Religion Correspondent

Irish Independent

Councillors to decide future of planned retirement home

A CONTROVERSIAL retirement village proposed for the foot of the Dublin mountains near Sandyford may be closer to development after a local authority meeting next week.

Councillors in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council are to consider a motion to amend the council’s county development plan specifically to allow for a nursing home on lands in a scenic location at Ticknock near Sandyford.

The Grange Retirement Village, on 16 acres of land zoned for agricultural development on the mountain side of the M50, would include residential accommodation, a nursing home, a stroke rehabilitation clinic and community and recreational facilities.

When the development, proposed by the landowner Rod McGovern, was initially discussed at council, on November 19th, 2009, it was rejected outright by councillors following a recommendation by county manager Owen Keegan.

However, a week later, on November 23rd, councillor Tom Joyce (FG) and councillor Tom Murphy (FF) proposed a specific local objective for the site to allow for the development and councillors from both parties voted for it.

The objective was ratified as part of the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Development Plan 2010-2016 in March 2010.

It was believed planning permission for the retirement village could then be applied for.

However, planning consultants on behalf of the developer discovered a “technical hitch” in the zoning which meant that the objective alone was not enough to allow the development to be considered by the council’s planning department.

A variation to the development plan would be needed.

Councillor Neale Richmond (FG) and councillor Gearoid O’Keeffe (Ind) attempted to suspend standing orders at January’s council meeting to remedy the hitch. However, because they needed a two-thirds majority to suspend the meeting, their motion was rejected.

It is understood a variation to the county development plan will be proposed at the council meeting next week.

It will add a footnote to the definition of what development is allowed on land zoned agricultural so that the retirement village can be built at Ticknock.

It will be specific to the 16-acre site.

Cathaoirleach and councillor Lettie McCarthy (Lab) said the development was not suitable in “such an isolated area” and that there was enough zoned land elsewhere to support it.

“This is a prominent elevated site immediately adjoining a high amenity area,” she said.

The development would be visible from a wide area and would cause “serious injury to the rural character and visual amenity” of the area, she said.

But Mr O’Keeffe said the development would provide badly needed healthcare facilities for elderly people in the county, hundreds of building jobs at construction stage and long-term jobs when the facility was opened.

The variation will be debated at next week’s council meeting.

Irish Times

Sisters of Charity claim land 'targeted'

The Sisters of Charity have claimed a decision by Dublin City Council to impose more restrictive conditions on development of certain lands in the new development plan for Dublin appears to be “targeted” at lands owned by religious institutions.

The order wants to see where that decision originated, its lawyer said.

It claims the lands being zoned Z15, a designation it claims treats privately owned land as resource land to be used for the benefit of the community, are “almost exclusively owned by religious institutions”. There are numerous examples of lands owned by other institutions which are not subject to Z15 zoning, the order claims.

It claims the council, in sanctioning the zoning under the new Dublin city develoment plan 2011-2017, is effectively diverting private property into public ownership and effectively “sterilising” its lands without compensation.

The Z15 zoning requires a greater proportion of open space and social affordable housing than applies in any other zoming under the development plan, they also claim.

Mr Justice Peter Kelly today granted an application by Brian Murray SC, for the order, to fast-track its action against the council over the Z15 zoning of its lands.

All of the order’s 108 acres of lands in 18 separate parcels have been zoned Z15 in the new plan, imposing more restrictions on development than included in the previous plan. A similar challenge to the Z15 zoning was initiated last month by RTÉ in relation to lands at its Montrose complex at Donnybrook.

The Sisters of Charity claims the decision breaches the nuns' property rights and has serious implications for their ability to fund their religious mission and their work. The nuns said they sometimes borrow money from financial institutions to support their work and that their capacity to do this is directly affected by the value of their properties.

Mr Murray said it appeared the more restrictive zoning was applied disproportionately as it was not applied to other lands privately owned and his side wanted to see where the decision came from.

James Connolly SC, for the council, had sought an adjournment of the application to transfer the case and said he was awaiting instructions in the context of a meeting yesterday evening.

Mr Justice Kelly refused the adjournment and agreed to transfer the judicial review to the court, which fast-tracks the hearing of commercial disputes.

The High Court had last month granted leave to the order and RTÉ to bring their separate judicial review proceedings against the council arising from the zoning changes.

The Z15 designation means future uses such as housing development are not open for planning consideration which has implications for the ability of the Sisters of Charity and RTÉ to sell off land to fund their activities.

The order claims the development plan is substantively illegal on grounds it applies a restrictive zoning to an arbitrary selection of lands including St Vincent’s Private Hospital; St Mary’s day care centre, Donnybrook; the hospice at Harold’s Cross and a number of school sites in the north and south city.

It wants orders quashing the adoption of the zoning on their lands and a stay on the operation of the section of the plan affecting its property. The order is also claiming damages for alleged breaches of their private property and religious freedom rights under the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.

Irish Times

Council says incinerator penalty costs 'will not arise'

AN ESTIMATE that taxpayers could be exposed to penalties as high as €350 million over 25 years for the proposed Poolbeg incinerator has been described as “hypothetical” by Dublin City Council.

“The four Dublin local authorities are satisfied that, even after maximum recycling, there will be sufficient waste for the Poolbeg incinerator and therefore the scenario envisaged [in a report by John Hennessy SC] will not arise,” it said.

But the Irish Waste Management Association, which opposes Poolbeg, said the report commissioned by former minister for the environment John Gormley “highlights the huge financial risk that this project poses to taxpayers”.

Association spokesman Brendan Keane said the potential waste of money “now mirrors the types of losses more commonly associated with Nama” and the full report should be made public.

Minister for the Environment Éamon Ó Cuív said he had sought advice from Attorney General Paul Gallagher on a number of legal issues and would be working with Cabinet colleagues to conclude this process.

“I am anxious to ensure that the matter of publication and related issues . . . are fully considered,” the Minister added.

Dublin City Council said there was nothing surprising about extracts from the report published yesterday because of the way in which Mr Hennessy’s terms of reference were drafted when Mr Gormley was minister.

It said the controversial “put or pay” clause in its contract with US waste management company Covanta would give the four Dublin local authorities “priority access to 320,000 tonnes of treatment capacity at the Poolbeg plant” over its 25-year term. The council said Covanta also had the option to source waste from the market and was in negotiations with waste collectors – although the company itself had no comment to make. Dublin’s waste is now being landfilled in counties Kildare and Cavan.

In 2008, even with a recycling rate of 40 per cent, more than 735,000 tonnes of waste from Dublin was landfilled. While the volume of waste was decreasing as a result of the recession, it “will increase in line with economic recovery”.

The council claimed the Hennessy report’s terms of reference did not take into account “the millions of euro that will accrue to the Dublin local authorities annually from the electricity and district heating”. The plant would generate sufficient electricity for 50,000 homes and district heating for a further 60,000 homes annually from the non-recyclable waste that would be treated there. “This is valued at some €10 million annually, at today’s prices.”

Fine Gael environment spokesman Phil Hogan TD has said his party ‘‘would not rely in any way’’ on the Hennessy report.

Instead, it would commission another senior counsel to examine what exposure would arise for taxpayers if the project was cancelled.

Mr Hogan called on Mr Gormley to retract an “outrageous slur” on his political integrity by suggesting on Newstalk radio that an official complaint he had made about the former minister’s actions had been done in conjunction with Covanta’s lawyers.

Ruairí Quinn, Labour TD for Dublin South East, is on record as describing the Poolbeg incinerator as a “foolish proposal”. He was joined by Labour councillors in objecting to the plan when it came before An Bord Pleanála in 2006. The board approved it, however.

Irish Times

Kerry An Taisce agm told of ghost estates

OVERDEVELOPMENT IN Kerry has resulted in dozens of so-called “ghost estates” half-finished and abandoned, and well outside town and village boundaries.

Some of the most “striking” of these leftover developments are in the county’s most scenic tourist parts, the annual general meeting of the Kerry association of An Taisce has heard.

An Taisce was severely criticised by developers and their promoters during the Celtic Tiger period, but was probably now being thanked for saving some from going under, the meeting in Killarney also heard. There were 35 ghost estates in Kerry and this and other overdevelopment were a result of overgenerous zoning in local area plans.

“The problem was exacerbated by councillors adding in even more land at the behest of other landowners and there was massive over- zoning,” Dr Catherine McMullin, honorary planning officer with An Taisce told the meeting. The most striking of the ghost estates was outside Castlemaine, on the Dingle road, a major tourist route, she said. In 2000, permission was granted for 50 houses and four years later for a further 14 houses, as well as three apartments and a hotel.

However, the development was never included within the boundary of the village in the local area plan.

Most of the 50 houses are built to wall plate level, but some were only at foundation stage. Four blocks of two-storey houses had been built adjoining the main road but were not yet habitable.

“The whole development has been abandoned for the past few years and there is very little hope of it being completed,” she said.

Dr McMullin said she had heard of one developer toasting planners because they had refused him permission for a large development which, had they not refused him, would have gone ahead and landed him in Nama.

“During the boom period, An Taisce was often criticised for opposing development, but it is quite likely we also saved a few developers from landing in the same trouble,” she added.

The meeting heard how a large extension and holiday-home development granted by Kerry County Council at the Great Southern Hotel in Parknasilla owned by developer Bernard McNamara was “under-utilised”.

A further development of 104 holiday homes at the hotel was successfully appealed by An Taisce.

“It is quite likely the 104 holiday apartments, appealed to An Bord Pleanála by the Kerry Association of An Taisce, would also have been built and now be a liability for their owners,” Dr McMullin said.

She also outlined a number of large developments which the organisation had appealed, including a large commercial development in the grounds of the former Great Southern Hotel in Killarney, now the Malton. This was granted but had not gone ahead, she noted.

Irish Times

Dún Laoghaire developing plans to attract 'next generation' cruise liners

PLANS ARE being made to turn Dún Laoghaire harbour into a port-of-call for “next generation” cruise liners with a capacity for up to 5,000 passengers.

The plans are being supported by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council as well as the local chamber of commerce, retail and tourism interests and will be advanced by a new master plan being drawn up for the harbour.

Gerry Dunne, chief executive of the Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company, said the east coast has no facility to cater for cruise ships of the size now being built for a market that is expected to double in the next 10 years.

“We propose to build that facility here and we’re looking seriously at the business case for this investment,” he said. He could not say, however, what it might cost or how the project would be funded.

It would involve excavating to a depth of 9.5 metres and building a berth to accommodate liners up to 330m in length, compared to 160m for current cruise ships with a capacity of up to 2,500 passengers.

Asked about the attitude of Dublin Port, which attracts some 80 cruise ship visits a year, to these plans, Mr Dunne said it was aware of them, adding: “A cruise ship coming into a beautiful harbour is preferable to going into an industrial zone”.

He said Dún Laoghaire needed to think about the future as it was likely that the Stena high-speed ferry services would be replaced by more conventional ferries on the Holyhead route. The harbour company’s “lucrative contract” with Stena expires in April.

Mr Dunne said the revenue from Stena accounted for 70 per cent of the harbour company’s income, but it would be “a lot less” under a new contract currently being negotiated, and other sources of revenue would have to be found.

The new master plan now being developed would include increasing public access to the harbour, providing for waterfront development and harbour-related uses and redeveloping the Carlisle Pier on the theme of Ireland’s diaspora.

He confirmed that the harbour company had just lodged an appeal to An Bord Pleanála against the county council’s decision to refuse planning permission for the retention of its controversial demolition of the old railway terminal on the pier.

Mr Dunne emphasised that the decision to demolish the pier’s derelict ferry terminal was taken in the knowledge it was not classified as a protected structure – a point that had already been accepted by the council and the appeals board.

“We need a master plan to underpin the changing emphasis of Dún Laoghaire harbour from a commercial to a recreational harbour and to secure the harbour’s future by addressing the impact of the change in profile of ferry sailings on the Dún Laoghaire-Holyhead route.”

He also noted that the harbour would celebrate its bicentenary in 2016.

In tandem with the master plan, architects Shaffrey and Associates are preparing a heritage management plan, aimed at maintaining its fabric to a high standard.

Members of the public have been invited to contribute ideas for the master plan through its website, or by post to Masterplan Team, Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company, Harbour Lodge, Crofton Road, Dún Laoghaire.

Irish Times

An Bord Pleanála turns down plan for McDonald's in Sandymount

A PLAN to locate a McDonald’s “drive-thru” restaurant backing on to a primary school in a residential area of Sandymount, Dublin 4, has been turned down by An Bord Pleanála.

The fast food giant had intended to locate what it described as a “flagship” store on the busy junction area at Beach Road, close to Sandymount Strand, and about halfway between the new Aviva Stadium at Lansdowne Road and the 02 arena.

The site was formerly the Winfield Motors car showrooms and is now owned by Maxol Ltd, which operates an adjacent petrol station. Last July, Maxol had applied to Dublin City Council for planning permission to demolish the car showrooms and construct the drive-thru restaurant, which would then be operated as a McDonald’s outlet.

After more than 50 objections to the application from local residents and politicians, the council rejected the application last August on the grounds that the development was not permissible under the residential zoning of the area.

Maxol Ltd appealed the decision to An Bord Pleanála, which has now upheld the council’s decision to refuse the restaurant. In its ruling the board said that a takeaway on the site would be contrary to proper planning and sustainable development of the area. It also said the drive thru would be a traffic hazard.

Local Labour councillor and general election candidate Kevin Humpreys said the issue of the traffic which the development would generate had been of great concern locally.

“Refusing this development was just common sense. A flagship McDonald’s at such a busy junction in a residential area would be a clear breach of the zoning.”

Several local residents had also objected to the application due to concerns over the health of local children. The site backs on to St Mathew’s primary school and is also close to the Star of the Sea primary school, both of which operate healthy eating policies.

The applicants had said the “drive-thru” element would account for about 29 per cent of the restaurant’s sales and thus would be ancillary to the restaurant element. They had also estimated the restaurant would create 60 full-time and 40 part-time jobs.

Irish Times