Thursday, 31 March 2011

Group says cancelling motorways will save billions

THE GOVERNMENT could save “billions” of euro by cancelling plans for up to 800km of new motorways and other major roads, according to a brief submitted to Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar.

Drawn up by PlanBetter, a joint initiative by An Taisce, Friends of the Earth, Feasta and Friends of the Irish Environment, the brief also calls for “full independent cost/benefit analysis” of major public transport projects such as Metro North and Dart Underground.

“Based on Australian practice, PlanBetter is recommending that an assessment panel be formed drawing together expertise already in the pay of the State but independent of individual projects,” it says, citing the ESRI as an example.

“Ongoing expenditure on projects such as Metro North, further motorways and consultation exercises which assume various projects will proceed, such as National Transport Authority’s Vision 2030, are premature pending independent cost/benefit assessment.”

PlanBetter is calling for all tolls on Irish roads to be replaced with multi-point electronic tolling where motorists would be charged 10 cent to 40 cent for travelling on sections of main routes. For journeys such as Cork to Dublin the total charge would be €16.

It wants plans for Metro North, Metro West and additional Luas lines replaced by advanced quality bus corridors.

Irish Times

Coastwatch claims breach of dunes order

ENVIRONMENTAL GROUP Coastwatch has claimed a ministerial restoration order for a protected dune habitat in Co Wexford, degraded by nearly nine years of use for the storage of cattle, is being breached.

The restoration order for Tinnaberna dunes, near Kilmuckridge, was made in January by former minister for the environment John Gormley after complaints by Coastwatch were highlighted by The Irish Times last July.

The order required the damaged area – amounting to some 11 hectares (26 acres) – should be free of visible accumulations of cow dung within three weeks, so it could be replanted with dune vegetation. It was estimated there were 10,000 tonnes of dung on the site.

“The dung removal period is now over . . . but a significant area has not been freed of dung,” Coastwatch said. “Pictures taken . . . show there are acres of the site where dung, contaminated sediment and massive weed cultures remain,” according to national co-ordinator, Karin Dubsky.

“Of most concern from the human health point of view is the land right beside a stream . . . [which] flows into the sea just north of the Kilmuckridge/ Morriscastle bathing water,” she said.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service recently informed Ms Dubsky that ecologist Karen Gaynor, who has been overseeing the work, is “happy” with the progress made so far.

Irish Times

Most zoned land not fit for building, says Nama chief

NAMA CHIEF executive Brendan McDonagh has put on record that the State agency “has a very real interest in the decisions being made by local authorities” on zoning more land for development.

He has also said that most of an estimated overhang of 60,000 acres of land zoned but not yet developed throughout the State is “probably unsuitable” for residential or other development.

In a letter to Cork-based environmental engineer Declan Waugh, who had complained about the overzoning of land around Bandon, he said Mr Waugh was “completely correct” about Nama’s interest.

Mr Waugh had said councillors “should take cognisance of development lands owned or in the control of Nama . . . given that the taxpayer through the vehicle of Nama needs to ensure a return on these investments by the State”.

As a result, priority should be given to having these lands developed or construction completed prior to zoning of additional lands for housing.

Mr Waugh cited a draft plan for Bandon, which “seeks to zone additional land for 1,700 houses on top of the already zoned and uncompleted lands where planning remains for 1,500 houses some of which are now under the control of Nama”.

Mr McDonagh told Mr Waugh that his letter had been considered by both Nama’s planning advisory committee and by its board, and it would also be taken up with the County and City Managers’ Association.

He said the security for loans held by Nama “is property, including land. It goes without saying that Nama has a very real interest in the decisions being made by local authorities with respect to zoning as this directly affects the value of the security held for these loans.”

Mr McDonagh wrote: “We would fully acknowledge that consideration of any additional zoning by local authorities must be conducted first of all on an examination of existing zoning.”

Mr McDonagh said “any additional zoning should be in a sequential basis taking account of the required need”.

In other words, local authorities should seek to ensure that existing zoned land would be developed before embarking on further zonings.

He told Mr Waugh that the issues raised were “of both local and national importance” and that Nama intended to pursue them with the managers’ association, with which its planning advisory committee had already engaged.

Mr Waugh, a member of Cork County Council’s strategic planning committee, said he was one of a number of professionals “working for the wider interests of society” to influence planning policies. “This work was undertaken voluntarily for the benefit of local communities in the interests of sustainable development and to prevent the mistakes that led to the recent collapse of the housing market and the current banking crisis,” he told The Irish Times.

This followed a meeting of the strategic planning committee at which “the views expressed by the representative of the construction industry were regarded as fact while the views expressed by myself as a professional environmental consultant were entirely disregarded”.

Irish Times

Transport plan a surreal wish list of excess

OPINION: Riddling Dublin with uncosted rail networks is an odd idea taking no account of our means, writes FRANK McDONALD

TEN YEARS ago, the then Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrat coalition adopted Platform for Change , an ambitious transport strategy for the greater Dublin area with a price-tag of €22 billion. Most of it was to have been delivered by 2010, including a metro running from Swords to Sandyford via St Stephen’s Green.

The Dublin Transportation Office, which drafted Platform for Change , was being unrealistically optimistic. Indeed, apart from building the Sandyford and Tallaght Luas lines and upgrading Dart and suburban rail services, none of the major public transport projects envisaged in 2001 were delivered.

By contrast, most of the major road schemes in the office’s strategy were implemented in full – the M1, M2, M3, M4, M50 (and its €1 billion upgrade), N7 “improvements”, M7, N9 and N11. All that’s left outstanding are the Eastern Bypass and a new orbital route (call it the M50 bypass) from Drogheda to Newbridge.

“One of the things that has bedevilled transport planning in Dublin is that what was intended as a seamless garment only arrives in patches,” one seasoned observer puts it. Or as Gerry Murphy, chief executive of the National Transport Authority, put it: “There was no engine of delivery for public transport as there was for roads.”

And Murphy knows that well, having been in charge of public-private partnerships for the National Roads Authority prior to taking up his new post. Even throughout the 3½ years when the Green Party was in Government, transport investment was still skewed in favour of roads by a ratio of at least two to one.

Now, the big-ticket public transport schemes are being wheeled out again – this time by the transport authority, which is holding public consultations. Apart from dropping two Luas lines that probably would never have happened anyway, it regurgitates the existing plans – without pricing them.

The absence of even ballpark estimates is quite remarkable. Given Ireland’s financial plight, one might have expected a serious review based on what we can afford. Instead, schemes that would cost billions are put forward simply because they were judged in-house by the transport authority to meet “all” of the strategy’s objectives: “Identified measures were assessed and taken forward where appropriate, based on their technological, political and legal feasibility; the contribution they are likely to make in meeting the objectives of the strategy; and their performance, based on a standard approach to transport appraisal set out by the Department of Transport.”

Thus, it includes not only Metro North, but also Metro West, a city centre link between the two existing Luas lines (with an extension to Grangegorman and Broombridge) and two new Luas lines – one from Lucan to the city centre with a possible extension to Poolbeg, and the other running from the southwest via Kimmage to the city centre.

In addition, the strategy endorses plans to extend the Luas Green Line from Bride’s Glen to Bray, where it would link up with the Dart line, as well as an extension of Metro North southwards from St Stephen’s Green (with tunnelling from St Stephen’s Green to Ranelagh) “enabling its services to run onto the Green Line”.

It also foresees implementation of Dart Underground linking Heuston with Docklands via St Stephen’s Green and completion resignalling and other projects associated with it, including electrification of the Maynooth and Kildare rail lines (so that they could run through the city centre tunnel) and extra track between Balbriggan and Connolly.

Taken together, these rail schemes would cost billions of euro. They are also based on population projections for the greater Dublin area that assume it will increase by 39 per cent between now and 2030. This is unlikely given the number of young people leaving Ireland.

There are numerous other, less costly, measures to promote walking and cycling; restrict traffic speeds in town centre, residential and school areas; and improve bus services – for example, by upgrading existing quality bus corridors. But this is being proposed while Dublin Bus services are contracting as its fleet is cut to save money. Murphy accepts “buses have been taken out of the system” and says “the big challenge is the level of subvention”, which is much lower in Dublin than in most European cities.

As for the enormous investment proposed in its strategy, he insists there’s nothing wrong with taking a long-term view. “We’re looking at a 20-year horizon, so it could be delivered on a phased basis,” he says. Despite constraints on public spending, “we can do an awful lot over the next three to four years”.

Following public consultation which concludes on May 6th, the authority (where 40 per cent of the 95 staff are drawn from the old Dublin Transportation Office) will finalise a six-year “implementation plan” within nine months. Indeed, a draft – unseen by the public – has been submitted to the department.

This is the biggest transport wish list to be put forward for Dublin since the transportation office had a go 10 years ago. In the best of times, it would be vaultingly ambitious and probably not achievable. In the worst of times, with Ireland burdened by €100 billion of debts, it seems quite surreal.

Irish Times

Campaigners urge action on environment treaty

COMMUNITY-BASED campaign groups have called on the Government to ratify a United Nations convention on public access to information, participation and justice in environmental decision-making.

Ireland is one of the few countries in Europe that has not yet ratified the Aarhus convention, which was adopted in 1998. Former minister for the environment John Gormley pledged to do so, but left office before he could fulfil the promise.

At the first All-Ireland Community Campaigns Gathering in Dublin at the weekend, it was claimed that communities from Ringaskiddy, Co Cork, to Rossport, Co Mayo, would have been “spared a decade of distress” if Aarhus had been transposed into Irish law.

Mamie Bowen, of the Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment (Chase), said: “Instead of signing international conventions such as Aarhus, the Irish Government is busy signing licences to allow private corporations impose dangerous projects on communities.”

She cited the decision by Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan last Friday to approve a foreshore licence application by Shell EP Ireland for the Corrib gas pipeline in northwest Mayo – despite concerns locally about safety and other issues.

“When Chase first took a legal action [against plans by Indaver Ireland for a hazardous waste incinerator in Ringaskiddy] 11 residents risked losing their homes in order to fund the legal challenge. The Aarhus convention would have protected them from this risk.”

The weekend gathering was attended by activists involved in campaigns from Cork, Derry, Donegal, Dublin, Kerry, Limerick, Mayo and Tyrone. Its aim was to learn from each other’s experiences, find common cause “and plan how to work together to win”.

One of the organisers, Jerrieann Sullivan, said: “It was inspiring to see campaigners from all over Ireland finding common experience in their struggle against corrupt, profit-oriented projects that threaten the health, safety and environment of affected communities.”

Irish Times

Minister risks returning to bad old days of planning

Phil Hogan aims to “review” legislation that put a halt to councillors engaging in reckless land rezoning

WITHIN WEEKS of taking over as minister for the environment in 2002, Martin Cullen identified the urgent need – as he and the construction industry saw it – to amend the 2000 Planning Act by removing its most innovative provision: a requirement under Part V that up to 20 per cent of all new residential schemes was to be set aside for social and affordable housing.

At the behest of builders who believed their overpriced private houses and apartments would become unsaleable if “poor people” were going to live in the same place, Cullen eviscerated Part V to permit them to provide social and affordable housing elsewhere or, alternatively, make a financial contribution to the local authority. It was a shameless cave-in.

Now, just two weeks after taking charge of the Custom House as Minister for the Environment, Community and Local government, Phil Hogan wants to “review” key elements of the 2010 Planning Act – probably the principal achievement of the Green Party during its fraught period in Government with Fianna Fáil – with a view to removing some of its shackles.

A populist position, or so it might seem superficially. According to Hogan, as reported in The Irish Times last week, “giving enormous powers to the minister of the day is unhealthy and not the way to deal with planning matters. Each region has different strengths. Centralisation of powers and planning functions in the Custom House is not the way to exploit that potential”.

What the 2010 Planning Act set out to do was to ensure the reckless rezoning of land that inflated the property bubble and gave us so many ghost housing estates would become a thing of the past. It aimed to make “evidence-based planning” and responsible zoning a legal requirement for local authorities, consistent with regional planning guidelines and the national spatial strategy.

This was a bitter pill for Fianna Fáil to swallow. But the Bill was vigorously opposed by Fine Gael because it “essentially amounts to watering down the powers afforded to councillors in regard to planning”, as Lucinda Creighton TD (now Minister of State for European Affairs) complained. Indeed, it would alter these powers “fundamentally”, she said during the Dáil debate last year.

The fact is that Fine Gael was as guilty as Fianna Fáil in rezoning land against planning advice over the years, not just in the Dublin area but throughout the State. Indeed, it was Fine Gael councillors who led the charge in 2005 to rezone hundreds of acres of land on the outskirts of every village in Co Laois, prompting then minister for the environment Dick Roche to use his powers to put a halt to their gallop.

In Co Monaghan, his successor – Green Party leader John Gormley – had to intervene in 2007 after councillors there had rezoned hundreds of acres for residential development (some of them located in floodplains) because this was “unwarranted” by housing need. Hugh McElvaney, the council’s Fine Gael leader, huffed that the minister was “against the development of villages the way we want them”.

Two years later, Gormley singled out Fine Gael councillors, in particular, for helping to inflate the property bubble – alongside Fianna Fáil and others.

They had been “embroiled in rezoning controversies across the country, and have embarked on nothing short of a rezoning frenzy in some cases. Yet the party leadership has been utterly silent on this behaviour”. Enda Kenny had nothing to say.

It is no secret that Hogan sought the post of Minister for the Environment. He had been Fine Gael’s spokesman, without having any obvious convictions about the environment. More importantly, he was Kenny’s bovver-boy when his leadership of the party was challenged last June and was also the party’s very effective director of elections, earning kudos for helping it to win an unprecedented 76 seats.

Hogan wanted the Custom House, and got it. One wonders why. On his desk is a file recommending that independent inspectors should be appointed to investigate planning irregularities in six local authorities, including one (Carlow County Council) in his own constituency. Even before taking up his post, he described these cases as “spurious, mostly”. It seems unlikely, therefore, that the investigations will proceed.

Meanwhile, Gormley’s plan for Dublin to have a directly elected mayor has been pigeonholed until 2014, if not killed off altogether. The ban on stag-hunting may also be overturned. Neither of these outcomes is surprising given that Hogan represents Carlow-Kilkenny, and his Minister of State for Housing and Planning, Willie Penrose, has been a “vote-getter” for the Labour Party in Longford-Westmeath.

Clientelist politicians to their fingertips, both Hogan and Penrose may be expected to pay more attention to the concerns of rural lobbies than they will to the fate of Dublin and other cities. Whatever “review” they carry out of the 2010 Planning Act – and it is to be done jointly – will need to be watched closely to ensure that we don’t blindly revert to the utterly discredited status quo ante.

Ironically for a man who told the Moriarty tribunal that he couldn’t recall being at a meeting with Denis O’Brien in October 1995 when the State’s second mobile phone licence was up for grabs, Hogan will be in charge of framing new legislation to ban corporate donations to political parties. More crucial will be whether this will shine the light of transparency into that murky zone where business meets politics.

Irish Times

Garda urges peaceful Corrib protests

A SENIOR Garda in north Mayo has appealed for any protests against work at the Corrib gas pipeline to be peaceful, on the eve of two “days of action” planned by the Rossport Solidarity Camp.

The appeal was made yesterday by Supt Pat Diskin of Belmullet Garda station, who said he respected the “right to peaceful protest” and the “right of people to go to their place of work”.

Shell E&P Ireland has begun preparatory work on the pipeline route, which was approved by An Bord Pleanála in January but is the subject of a judicial review application by An Taisce and two residents before the High Court.

Shell to Sea and members of the Rossport Solidarity Camp, along with community group Pobal Chill Chomáin, have described as “provocative” the developer’s decision to proceed with constructing a compound as part of preparatory work overseen by private security staff, while legal proceedings are still in train.

However, Shell acquired its necessary consents to construct the pipeline from the outgoing minister for energy Pat Carey and new Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan on February 25th and March 25th respectively.

Two arrests were made by gardaí yesterday morning at Aughoose, the location of one end of the proposed tunnelling works to lay the high-pressure pipeline.

Two people, including a female protester who was secured to the underside of a private security vehicle overnight, were taken to Belmullet Garda station. They were released without charge and a file is being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Supt Diskin said gardaí were investigating reports of alleged assaults on two security staff shortly before 11pm on Tuesday, and the alleged theft of property from security personnel.

Shell to Sea has said protesters were assaulted and injured, several people received medical attention, and one campaigner was referred to hospital with suspected broken ribs after an altercation with a security guard employed by Integrated Risk Management Services.

Supt Diskin said he had “no knowledge of any injuries”. The security firm’s spokesman said “in keeping with our standard approach we spoke with the gardaí and made a full statement about events of the past 24 hours”. Supt Diskin said his “door was open” to groups in the area with concerns about policing of the project and he invited some groups to engage in discussions in recent weeks.

He said he was invited to a public meeting, but felt there was more value in holding discussions with representatives of various groups. “I totally respect any decision not to meet me,” he said.

Pobal Chill Chomáin spokesman John Monaghan confirmed that invitations were issued by Supt Diskin. He said his group was waiting to hear back details, and agreed in principle to meet. He said residents had no advance warning of work and there were “at least 60 private security staff in the area”. It is expected to take two years to construct the pipeline route.

Shell to Sea spokesman Terence Conway appealed for support for the “days of action”.

Irish Times

Alteration to Celbridge plan sought

KILDARE COUNTY manager Michael Malone is seeking to set aside key measures in the county council’s draft development plan – designed to protect historic landscapes around Celbridge — following a submission by a development company.

The move follows a decision by An Bord Pleanála on February 16th to refuse permission to Devondale Ltd for a scheme to facilitate the development of Donaghcumper Demesne as an extension of Celbridge town centre.

Overturning a decision by the county manager, the appeals board said the scheme – which included a new bridge over the river Liffey – would constitute a “major intrusion” into the setting of Castletown House and its historic grounds.

Amendments to the Kildare Draft Development Plan, to strengthen the protection for Castletown and Donaghcumper, were agreed by councillors last December, on foot of some 4,000 submissions.

A further submission was made in late January by planning consultants RPS on behalf of Devondale – a company controlled by developer Brian Durkan – seeking to overturn these amendments so that Donaghcumper could be developed.

Mr Malone is now seeking to set aside the amendment and has recommended in a report that a specific reference to “the Donaghcumper lands” for the development of an extension of Celbridge town centre – dropped by councillors last December – should be reinstated.

Mr Malone’s report also recommends omitting references to protecting “views across the river and to the demesnes of Donaghcumper and St Wolstan’s” and to the “sensitive designed landscapes” of the two demesnes, as well as Castletown. Asked to explain the justification for these changes, a spokeswoman for Kildare County Council said the county manager had issued his report and his recommendations would be considered by councillors at meetings on April 4th and 7th.

Planning consultant Jeanne Meldon, who is also a director of the Castletown Foundation, said it was clear that “the threat to Donaghcumper and Castletown arising from the unfortunate and ill-conceived zoning of 2002” still existed.

She said Mr Malone’s report “takes no account” of the most recent ruling by An Bord Pleanála. “All of the groups and individuals who made submissions and appealed the applications are horrified that one vested interest appears to hold sway.” Ms Meldon also noted that the appeals board “did not accept the evidence put forward by RPS” relating to the designed landscapes of Castletown, Donaghcumper and St Wolstan’s. Instead, it had “validated the arguments” put forward by objectors.

The Castletown Foundation pointed out that local authorities were required by planning guidelines on protecting Ireland’s architectural heritage – issued in 2004 – to safeguard the wider setting of protected structures such as Castletown House.

“It is vital for Castletown that the key views from the house and demesne are fully protected,” it added.

“Millions of euro have been invested and are being invested in Castletown, most recently for restoration of the paths and walks in the demesne, for the benefit of all.”

Irish Times

Hogan grants Shell foreshore licence

ONE OF the last outstanding consent applications for the Corrib gas project was completed yesterday when Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan granted a foreshore licence to Shell EP Ireland.

The foreshore licence, which is subject to conditions, allows the lead developer to construct the final 8km section of pipeline linking the gas field to the terminal built inland at Ballinaboy.

An Taisce, which has sought a judicial review of the recent An Bord Pleanála decision to approve the pipeline route through a special area of conservation, said it was “unhappy” that Mr Hogan had made his decision while legal proceedings were still in train.

A month ago, consents for the onshore pipeline issued by acting Fianna Fáil minister for energy Pat Carey on the day of the general election aroused criticism from a number of opposition TDs and from former Labour Party president Michael D Higgins.

Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte has rejected a call made by up to 20 Opposition TDs and Dublin Shell to Sea outside the Dáil last Tuesday to reverse Mr Carey’s decision.

Former minister for the environment John Gormley had earlier pointed out he did not anticipate a foreshore licence recommendation for some time, due to the volume of up to 700 foreshore applications before his department.

However, last week, the Department of the Environment told The Irish Times that a decision on the Shell EP Ireland application, lodged in June 2010, would be made “as soon as possible”. It denied yesterday there had been any “fast-tracking”.

Mr Hogan’s approval with conditions permits the lead developer to construct a pipeline system from Glengad through Sruwaddacon estuary, a special area of conservation.

Mr Hogan said the decision was made “pursuant to the provisions of the Foreshore Acts 1933 to 2009”, and “having regard to” submissions from prescribed bodies, submissions during public consultation, the advice of his department and the conclusions and recommendations of the Marine Licence Vetting Committee.

An Taisce chairman Charles Stanley Smith said yesterday that he was “unhappy that such a decision has been made before the judicial review process has been completed”, but it “does not affect the case”.

Pobal Chill Chomáin community group spokesman John Monaghan said his group was disappointed “a Minister barely in office approves work that is currently being challenged in the courts”.

Mr Monaghan said hundreds of residents in Kilcommon parish in Erris had called for an oral hearing, which foreshore legislation allows for, but had been “denied meaningful input into significant decision-making by the State”.

The pipeline route is expected to take two years to complete, and gas will not flow before a safety permit is issued by the Commission for Energy Regulation, and before a revised emissions licence application is issued by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The additional €100 million cost of this third route option will be written off against tax by the developer, with cited costs of the project now running at between €2.5 billion and €3 billion.

Earlier this week, ESB chief executive Pádraig McManus told RTÉ’s Today with Pat Kenny that the Irish consumer would not “get Corrib gas cheaper than gas from anywhere else” as it was an “international commodity”.

Irish Times

Corrib foreshore licence approved

Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan has granted a foreshore licence to Shell E&P Ireland as one of its last outstanding consents for the Corrib gas project.

The licence, which is subject to conditions, allows the lead developer to construct the final 8km section of high pressure gas pipeline linking the Corrib field off the Mayo coastline to the terminal built inland at Ballinaboy.

Planning approval has already been granted for the pipeline by An Bord Pleanála, and consents under the Gas and Petroleum Acts were issued by former acting energy minister Pat Carey on the day of the general election.

An Taisce has sought a judicial review of the Bord Pleanála decision, which is before the High Court next Tuesday.

An Taisce’s chairman, Charles Stanley-Smith, has said that the organisation is “unhappy that such a decision has been made before the judicial review process is completed” but that Mr Hogan’s approval “does not affect the case”.

Shell E&P Ireland applied for the foreshore licence in June 2010 to construct a pipeline system from Glengad through Sruwaddacon estuary, a special area of conservation (SAC), involving a 4.6km-long concrete tunnel.

The department received 465 submissions, identified 103 separate issues arising from these and sought further information from the developer last autumn.

Mr Hogan said that the decision was made “pursuant to the provisions of the Foreshore Acts 1933 to 2009”, and “having regard to” submissions from prescribed bodies, submissions during public consultation, the advice of

his department and the conclusions and recommendations of the Marine Licence Vetting Committee (MLVC)

The MLVC was established by former marine minister Frank Fahey to provide advice on initial consents for the project in 2001/2002.

The tunnel and associated works will add €100 million to the cost of the project, according to the developer, with costs now running at between €2.5 billion to €3 billion which can be offset against tax. The pipeline route is expected to take two years to construct, with gas projected to flow in 2013.

The developer still requires a revised emissions licence from the Environmental Protection Agency and a safety permit from the Commission for Energy Regulation under the new Petroleum (Exploration and Extraction) Safety Act 2010.

Irish Times

Withdrawn objection fails to save data centre

PROPOSALS FOR what was billed as one of the world’s largest data centres to be located at Kilpedder, Co Wicklow, have been rejected by An Bord Pleanála.

In an unusual move, the board rejected as too late an attempt by the last of four objectors to withdraw the appeal.

It is not known if the promoters of the 82-acre “digital services campus” which was to have been a centre for the latest cloud-computing technology will launch a new planning application.

In its decision, the board said the site was “a greenfield, unserviced rural area”, between Kilpedder and Newtownmountkennedy, and “not in an area identified for urban growth in the Regional Planning Guidelines for the Greater Dublin Area, 2010-2022”.

It said the site had “an attractive landscape character” being part of the demesne lands of Mount Kennedy House, a protected structure; and that the site was prominent in views from the N11 road.

The board also said the proposed campus was poorly served by public transport and would lead to a reliance on private cars.

It said it was “not satisfied” that the site requirements for a data centre, including high-quality connections to power and communications networks, “cannot be provided on more appropriately located serviced lands in other parts of the greater Dublin area, including Co Wicklow, where a data centre would be more sustainable in terms of environmental impacts and accessibility”.

It cited issues relating to waste water and a nearby private supply, and drainage to sensitive habitats along the coast.

After the proposal was approved by Wicklow County Council, it was referred to the board by four objectors. Three of these, including one from the National Roads Authority, were successfully withdrawn.

However, the board ruled the withdrawal of the fourth appeal from Claus, Iris and Marc Michel based at a nearby organic farm, could not be withdrawn as the withdrawal notification arrived one day after the board had made its decision in the case.

Attempts to get a comment from promoter Brian McDonagh of Ecologic Datacentres were not successful yesterday.

Irish Times

Councillors back Doolin pier plan

CONTENTIOUS PLANS to construct a €6 million pier at Doolin yesterday received the unanimous approval of Clare’s councillors in spite of concerns expressed by surfers.

At the council’s March meeting yesterday, councillors gave the plan their endorsement after Cllr Richard Nagle (FF) said: “The new pier is imperative for the economic life of north Clare, and it should proceed without delay.”

County manager Tom Coughlan recommended that conditional permission be granted for the proposal, which acts at the Clare gateway to the Aran Islands.

However, the Irish Surfing Association told the council that the proposal would destroy the Crab Island and Doolin Point waves “which have been surfed for decades and are world renowned”.

Fáilte Ireland supported the concerns of surfers, requesting the council to re-examine the existing proposal to ensure that the plan could proceed without compromising the area for surfers.

The stance of Fáilte Ireland placed it at odds with local tourism interests who lodged a submission with 200 signatures in support of the pier plan.

The Doolin-based supporters of the pier took up most of the available seating in the public gallery at yesterday’s meeting, with some holding up signs saying “Support Doolin Pier”.

Cllr Martin Conway (FG) said the new pier would be “a major cog in Clare tourism”.

The council official charged with leading the project, Tom Tiernan, said construction work could begin within four to six months.

There is no recourse to An Bord Pleanála for third parties.

Irish Times

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Planning levies for Luas parking to be cut

PLANNING LEVIES for landowners and developers who want to build park-and-ride facilities along the route of the Cherrywood Luas line in Dublin are to be cut in half in a bid to provide facilities for commuters.

Councillors in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council voted to cut the “Section 48” levies earlier this week.

As a result, one will have a levy he was due to pay the council dropped from almost €139,000 to just over €69,000.

Fianna Fáil councillor Tom Murphy already has planning permission for a car park with 78 spaces on his lands at Murphystown Road, close to the Luas line. It was granted on a temporary basis for five years last October.

Two other park-and-ride facilities have also been given permission by the council at Carrickmines and Ballyogan Road.

These will provide more than 700 spaces between them and are being developed by the Railway Procurement Agency and Dublin company Viscount Securities respectively.

A fourth application for park-and-ride facilities has yet to be decided by the council. Dunloe Management Services wants to provide 197 spaces at Cherrywood Science and Technology Park, near the Luas terminus.

The planning levy was introduced in 2009 to raise funds for the development of the extension line. Other developments, including business expansion and domestic extensions, will not be affected by the cut.

Since the Cherrywood line opened last October, commuters have been struggling to find parking along its route.

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown county manager Owen Keegan had recommended the levy be abolished to encourage the provision of parking facilities.

He said the levy was “penal” and he had spoken to a number of developers on the matter. In at least one case, the cost of the levy was significantly higher than the cost of building the car park.

He told councillors the cut would apply to existing planning permissions. But councillors instead voted for what amounted to a halving of the levy.

A council source said while Mr Murphy was not present in the chamber when the vote was taken, he did not declare to the chamber that he had an interest in the decision. Despite numerous efforts, Mr Murphy was not contactable yesterday for comment.

Fine Gael deputy Olivia Mitchell welcomed the reduction in the levy for car parks, but said the scheme should be overhauled.

“Levies amounting to thousands of euro on new businesses are simply no longer realistic.

“No local authority can afford to risk losing jobs by making itself so expensive that businesses can neither set up nor expand their enterprises,” she said.

Irish Times

Need for protective orders to overcome 'chilling effect' of costs

THis article appears relevant to planning given the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2010's changes.

There needs to be protection against excessive costs orders for those taking public interest cases in good faith, writes JO KENNY

IT IS a fact that not everyone can afford the high-risk game of litigation. But where a case provides an opportunity to clarify legal issues for a wider public benefit, the courts may relax the usual costs rules to enable a public interest matter to be heard.

Last year, the UK introduced a policy by which unsuccessful asylum seekers could be deported with little or no notice. Medical Justice, the non-governmental organisation which helps asylum seekers in immigration centres, legally challenged this policy. The English courts found part of the scheme unlawful on the grounds that it infringed access to justice.

One feature of the case that may have gone unnoticed is that, at the beginning, Medical Justice was granted what is known as a protective costs order, capping their liability for costs at £5,000, whatever the outcome. This meant they could proceed with litigation without fear of an adverse costs order they would be unable to pay.

In granting a protective costs order, the courts play their role in overcoming the so-called “chilling effect” of costs for public interest litigation. As Judge Toohey commented in Australia: “. . . there is little point opening the doors of the courts if litigants cannot afford to come in . . .”

In a case involving Cornerhouse, an organisation working against corruption, the English courts set out the relevant criteria to be satisfied for a protective costs order as: the issues raised are of general public importance; the public interest requires that those issues should be resolved; the applicant has no private interest in the outcome of the case; having regard to the financial resources of the applicant and the respondent(s) and to the amount of costs that are likely to be involved, it is fair and just to make the order; if the order is not made the applicant will probably discontinue the proceedings and will be acting reasonably in so doing.

The “no private interest” requirement has been subject to much criticism. Any applicant for judicial review is required to demonstrate “sufficient interest” to bring the claim.

This sits uneasily to say the least with the requirement to show lack of private interest.

Another potential difficulty relates to legal representation. In Cornerhouse, the court commented that recipients of a protective costs order that permits them to recover costs should incur only “modest costs”. They added that pro bono representation would enhance the merits of the application.

Yet this may cause difficulties for the legal representation that the applicant will be able to afford.

It also poses something of a quandary. If an issue is of public importance, it may well require senior as well as junior counsel – yet “modest costs” would seem to preclude this possibility.

To date, the Irish courts have considered the making of a protective costs order in two reported cases. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they declined to grant an order in both instances.

In Village Residents the court considered that the case was no different from many other planning judicial reviews, while in Friends of the Curragh the court found the matter involved applying familiar principles to new facts.

More developed case-law on protective costs orders has made clear the threshold for such an order is higher than this, requiring issues of legal complexity which go beyond the individual.

The Irish courts have, however, varied the usual costs rule after the event where they considered the public interest of the case to justify it. Curtin involved novel and crucial constitutional questions and raised serious issues around the separation of powers. The Supreme Court awarded the unsuccessful applicant half his costs.

Roche v Roche concerned frozen embryos and the right to life. The Supreme Court awarded the unsuccessful parties part of their costs on the grounds that the case raised a unique and exceptional issue of public importance, which “ . . . surpassed, to an exceptional degree, the private interests of the two parties . . .”

The Irish courts tend to deviate from the customary costs rules only in exceptional cases. Nowhere is this clearer than in Dunne, which concerned building a motorway through an area of archaeological note.

The Supreme Court overturned a High Court costs order on the basis that the case did not raise legal issues of special and general public importance. Needless to say, the after-the-event approach provides plaintiffs with no certainty as to costs, unlike the protective costs order.

Other common law jurisdictions have developed various means of overcoming the “chilling effect”.

In South Africa, where a constitutional case is taken in good faith, an unsuccessful plaintiff will not be ordered to pay costs.

Canadian courts can order the state to fund the costs of a public interest case. Australian courts enjoy the power to make a special order that caps costs recoverable by the respondent state in a public interest case.

The approaches may differ but what is interesting is that all these common law jurisdictions recognise the justification for modifying costs rules where a public interest issue is at stake.

This much is clear: there are options available to courts to facilitate hearing a matter which may benefit the wider public. If Medical Justice had not obtained a protective costs order, an important issue of access to justice may have gone unheard. A more nuanced approach is called for in public interest cases.

This is an abridged version of an article published in the January/February edition of the Law Society Gazette. It contains excerpts from the report “The costs barrier and protective costs orders”, which can be found at

Jo Kenny qualified at the English Bar. She worked in the British civil service and then Arthur Cox before joining the Free Legal Advice Centres (Flac) as legal officer at the Public Interest Law Alliance.

Irish Times

Access to walks and beaches impeded by fences, says group

THOUSANDS OF acres of uplands in Co Donegal, Co Kerry and Co Wicklow have been fenced by farmers in compliance with area aid requirements imposed by the Department of Agriculture.

That is according to campaign group Friends of the Irish Environment, which claims the fences block walking trails, and impede access to beaches, hills, lakes and rivers.

The group has written to Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney expressing “urgent and specific concern” at the fencing requirements.

According to the group, department officials have been advising farmers that under the Single Area Payments Scheme and the Rural Environmental Protection schemes 3 and 4, they must erect permanent fencing of their lands to qualify.

The group told Mr Coveney the fencing included lands habitually open to the public for “recreational purposes or as a means of access to seashore, mountain, lake shore, riverbank or other place of natural beauty or recreational utility”.

The group told The Irish Times such fencing also required planning permission. It noted that local authorities in Mayo, Galway and south Dublin had written the requirement for planning permission for such fencing into their development plans. The group said a verbal check with Donegal County Council had revealed “no such planning applications have been received in the last five years”, despite the fact that hundreds of acres there had been fenced off.

The group also said it understood the situation had been exacerbated by the need for farmers to spread additional slurry, which was now being collected through new facilities provided under the Farm Improvement Scheme, 2007-2010.

It was necessary to spread this slurry in a wide area to avoid exceeding limits under the nitrates regulations for nutrient levels on land. Slatted houses, slurry storage tanks, and mobile or specialised slurry spreading equipment were all projects that ranked in the top 10 farm investment structures by grant payments under that scheme.

“Remote parcels of lands are being leased for these purposes from, for example, the State forestry board Coillte Teoranta,” said a spokesman.

Irish Times

Ruling due on Corrib pipeline objections

A JUDGE will rule today in a case in which An Taisce and two local residents have initiated High Court challenges aimed at quashing An Bord Pleanála’s decision to grant planning permission for the construction of a section of pipeline between the Corrib gas field and a gas terminal in Co Mayo.

The judge said he would read the legal documents tonight and would give his decision today.

If leave to bring the actions is granted, the applicants are seeking an order preventing commencement of works on the pipeline pending the outcome of the cases. Mr Justice Michael Peart will rule on the leave application today.

An Taisce has brought its own set of judicial review proceedings while the second action is by Monica Muller and Peter Sweetman, Rossport South, Ballina, Co Mayo, who own land 500 metres south of the proposed pipeline.

In both cases, it is contended that the board’s approval of permission breached EU directives relating to the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora. It is claimed the pipeline traverses several areas of special conservation interest in Co Mayo governed by the EU habitats directives.

In judicial review proceedings against the board, Ireland, the Attorney General and the Minister for the Environment, the applicants want to overturn the board’s decision of January 11th to grant planning permission to Shell EP Ireland to construct 8.3km of pipeline between the Corrib gas field and the gas terminal at Bellanaboy, Co Mayo.

Shell EP Ireland is a notice party to the proposed actions.

The applications for leave to bring the proceedings was made yesterday at the High Court to Mr Justice Michael Peart on an ex parte – one side only – basis.

Irish Times

High Court broadens judicial review of Corrib decision

THE HIGH Court is to hear arguments from the State and An Bord Pleanála before deciding whether to grant leave to An Taisce and two local residents to bring separate judicial review actions aimed at quashing permission for a gas pipeline linked to the Corrib gas field in Co Mayo.

If leave is granted for the proceedings, an order restraining works on the pipeline until the cases are decided will be sought.

An Taisce, the heritage protection agency, and Monica Muller and Peter Sweetman, Rossport South, Ballina, Co Mayo – who own land 500 metres south of the proposed pipeline – both claim the permission breaches EU directives relating to the conservation of natural habitats. It is also alleged the pipeline crosses several areas of special conservation interest in Co Mayo.

The applicants have brought separate judicial review proceedings against An Bord Pleanála, the Minister for the Environment and the State aimed at overturning the board’s decision of January 11th last, granting planning permission to Shell EP Ireland to construct 8.3km of pipeline between the Corrib gas field and the gas terminal at Ballinaboy, Co Mayo.

Shell EP is a notice party to the proposed actions.

Mr Justice Michael Peart said the applications for leave to seek judicial review should be made on notice to the defendants and notice party.

The decision means the board, State parties and Shell will be heard by the court before its ruling on whether to grant leave for judicial review. The proceedings will come before the court again later this month.

Irish Times

Treasury Holdings planning €300m Dublin supercasino

PROPOSALS FOR a €300 million supercasino on the banks of the river Liffey have been submitted by Treasury Holdings to the Department of Justice.

Treasury says its Spencer Dock site near Dublin port is an “ideal location” for the construction of a large-scale casino as part of a regeneration of the area.

It claims the development could attract three million visitors a year and create 2,200 new jobs in the Dublin region. The venture could boost spending in the local economy by €75 million a year and generate more than €40 million a year in gaming taxes.

Details of Treasury’s plans are contained in a submission to the department, which The Irish Times has obtained under freedom of information legislation. Treasury, whose loans are in Nama, filed the submission together with an international casino operator.

The name of this company has been withheld on the documents released on grounds of commercial sensitivity.

According to the submission, a large-scale casino, including hotel, convention and spa facilities, along with restaurants, pubs, nightclubs and a bowling alley, would be 50,000-75,000sq m in size and would cost between €250 million and €300 million.

Last December, former minister for justice Dermot Ahern, published proposals that would allow a single “resort” casino with multiple gaming tables and up to 1,500 slot machines. The new Government has yet to pronounce on the issue, but an application for a large-scale casino resort in Co Tipperary is the subject of a Bord Pleanála hearing.

Treasury’s submission is one of almost 70 made to the minister last year as part of a consultation process. Up to now, Mr Ahern’s department had refused to sanction the release of these submissions. It was drawn up before Treasury opened the national convention centre on the Spencer Dock site last September.

It says that for a large-scale casino to be financially viable, there must be sufficient demand. “This generally means locating the casino resort in or near population centres where it is easily accessible by local customers and tourists.”

The failure of the UK to legislate for larger regional casino resorts makes it likely any Irish venture would attract visitors from the UK and mainland Europe, Treasury argues. It says its international partners would give priority to local people in recruitment and would “seek out the economically inactive, minorities and young people, to the extent permissible under law”.

The submission claims the development would employ 1,750 people as well as creating 450 jobs in tourism. About 2,000 jobs in construction would be created over a 2½-year period.

The submission includes a section on “myths”, in which the promoters claim much research on gambling is biased. It rejects the contention that problem gambling will rise with the introduction of large-scale casinos.

Irish Times

Councillors back Doolin pier plan

CONTENTIOUS PLANS to construct a €6 million pier at Doolin yesterday received the unanimous approval of Clare’s councillors in spite of concerns expressed by surfers.

At the council’s March meeting yesterday, councillors gave the plan their endorsement after Cllr Richard Nagle (FF) said: “The new pier is imperative for the economic life of north Clare, and it should proceed without delay.”

County manager Tom Coughlan recommended that conditional permission be granted for the proposal, which acts at the Clare gateway to the Aran Islands.

However, the Irish Surfing Association told the council that the proposal would destroy the Crab Island and Doolin Point waves “which have been surfed for decades and are world renowned”.

Fáilte Ireland supported the concerns of surfers, requesting the council to re-examine the existing proposal to ensure that the plan could proceed without compromising the area for surfers.

The stance of Fáilte Ireland placed it at odds with local tourism interests who lodged a submission with 200 signatures in support of the pier plan.

The Doolin-based supporters of the pier took up most of the available seating in the public gallery at yesterday’s meeting, with some holding up signs saying “Support Doolin Pier”.

Cllr Martin Conway (FG) said the new pier would be “a major cog in Clare tourism”.

The council official charged with leading the project, Tom Tiernan, said construction work could begin within four to six months.

There is no recourse to An Bord Pleanála for third parties.

Irish Times

Families clinch victory over noisy port cranes

Dublin 4 residents are celebrating a "huge victory" after Dublin Port Company was found in breach of planning regulations.

The Pigeon House Road neighbours have been fighting for years about constant deafening late-night noise from cranes outside their homes. They claim one elderly woman was forced to leave her home, another's hearing deteriorated significantly, children endured sleepless nights and some were racking up medical bills with stress.

However, now Dublin City Council has decided on a 'Section 5' against Dublin Port Company. This means the council has decided that the erection of the cranes was not exempt from planning permission.

The terminal, controlled by Marine Terminals Ltd (MTL), has three gantry cranes which handle container vessels. The company had previously claimed that the site qualified for an exemption from planning permission.

Residents' spokesperson Adrienne O'Sullivan said that they were relieved that they were making some progress after first objecting in 2002. Their requests are that the work stops at a reasonable hour or they are moved to a more peaceful location.

"It's a huge victory," Adrienne said. "Now we have to go for the next step, but we're tired." She said that during the previous weekend they had a "really bad night" where they had to endure the noise at 11.50pm. "We can't sleep, we can't continue to live like this," she said. "Our stress levels are off the map.

"I think the only option now is that we will have to leave our homes. We need a home we can sleep in, that is not shaking, that we are not afraid will come down on us."

Adrienne said that documenting the ongoing struggle had turned into a full-time job for her. "Why do we have to spend so much time and money?" she said. "We put forward a very detailed report to Dublin City Council, which led to this ruling. "But, if they think we are just the little people, we are not going away."

Monday, 14 March 2011

Further delays to Metro North 'not an option'

FURTHER DELAYS to Metro North in Dublin are “not an option” and could undermine the State’s ability to seek investors for other major infrastructure projects, according to unpublished Government briefing material.

Officials at the Department of Transport say the options facing the Government are to either scrap the proposed 18km rail link from St Stephen’s Green to Swords or proceed quickly with enabling works.

They say the two bidders involved in the procurement process for the planned Metro have invested significant sums of money in keeping their teams mobilised.

“If the project does not proceed based on this competition it is highly unlikely that bidders with the requisite skills would invest the substantial sums required to put another bid together,” the briefing material states.

“This could also have a serious impact on the credibility of the Government as a counter-party for PPP [public-private partnership] deals for other major infrastructure investment projects.”

Fine Gael and Labour’s programme for government does give a firm commitment to funding Metro North, but it pledges to support high-capacity commuter services subject to cost-benefit analysis.

The full extent of the exchequer budget for the project has not been disclosed as officials say the figures are commercially sensitive. Well-placed sources, however, say it would be in the region of €3 billion.

The latest estimates on the business case for the Metro, prepared by the Railway Procurement Agency, estimate it would yield €2 in economic benefits for every €1 spent on its construction.

Officials also estimate that it could create about 4,000 construction jobs, as well as 2,000 other posts linked to the project during the construction period.

Records indicate the State has already spent about €135 million on planning, diverting utilities and works on heritage for Metro North.

A further €45 million is expected to be spent on similar works this year, according to records released under the Freedom of Information Act.

This brings the total spend on Metro North to almost €175 million before the project has received formal Government approval.

While the Fianna Fáil-Green Party coalition agreed an undisclosed budget for the project in January 2008, it will fall to the new Government to confirm whether it intends to proceed with the project.

Last Mayr the board of the European Investment Bank approved a loan of up to €500 million for Metro North.

Two consortiums have been short-listed to build the Metro.

Some commentators have advocated scrapping Metro North and focusing on the proposed Dart Underground scheme on the basis that it would be cheaper, benefit more passengers and yield a greater economic return.

This project involves a tunnel linking the Docklands and Inchicore which would provide underground stations in the city and link existing rail systems such as the Luas and Inter-city trains.

In unpublished records, department officials say a straight comparison between Metro and the Dart Underground are difficult as they have different objectives.

They state, however, that the Metro plans are at a much more advanced stage, while the Dart Underground could take another 12 months for planning approval.

Given the pressure on the public finances, the previous government announced last year that it would not be possible to fund the Dart project in the near future.

Irish Times

Hotel dependent on casino, says promoter

THE HOTEL element of a €460 million sports and leisure complex planned for a rural site in Co Tipperary will not go ahead if a proposed casino is not allowed, promoters have said.

A “resort casino hotel” with up to 500 bedrooms is part of the “Tipperary Venue” earmarked for an 800-acre site at Two-Mile-Borris near Thurles.

While gambling legislation is currently being reviewed by the Department of Justice, the venue’s architect said yesterday the hotel and the casino “are effectively one” and dependent on each other.

The Tipperary Venue also includes turf and all-weather horse racing tracks, a greyhound track, a 15,000-capacity indoor entertainment venue, a golf course and an equestrian centre.

Businessman Richard Quirke is behind the venture, while Independent TD Michael Lowry has been a keen supporter. They say about 1,000 jobs will be created during construction of the venue, while 1,350 full-time jobs would be in place when complete.

Architect Brian O’Connell told the third day of a Bord Pleanála hearing into the project the hotel/casino “is predicated on the licensing regime” and would depend on the Government’s decision regarding casino laws.

“There’s a new economic opportunity within the market for providing conference facilities within a casino hotel,” he said.

“The one wouldn’t proceed without the other.”

However, he said this would not affect the rest of the proposed complex.

The horse-racing aspect of the project is supported by Horse Racing Ireland, which invited expressions of interest for the development of an all-weather track in the Munster region some years ago.

Existing tracks in Thurles and Tipperary (Limerick Junction) are expected to close if the Tipperary Venue gets the green light.

During questioning by sustainable planning expert and barrister James Nix for An Taisce, Mr O’Connell said the urban locations of venues such as the O2 in Dublin and the Odyssey Arena in Belfast were “inappropriate”. This was because of the influx of large numbers of people into an urban setting in a short period of time.

There was a “strong argument” for building such venues outside city locations.

North Tipperary County Council granted planning permission for the project last year but the case was appealed to the board by some local residents and An Taisce.

Concerns include the level of traffic which would be generated by the venue, along with noise, carbon emissions, helicopter use, its distance from public transport and the sustainability of such a large-scale development.

The hearing concluded yesterday, and a decision is due at the end of this month.

Irish Times

Planners travel to Knowth for balloon test

THE PLANNING inspectors who are holding a hearing by An Bord Pleanála into a proposed N2 bypass of Slane, Co Meath, were among a group of people who stood on top of the Knowth megalithic monument yesterday.

They were looking westwards towards Slane and at two balloons or blimps which Meath County Council had raised up to the height of a bridge to be built over the Boyne 1km east of Slane as part of the bypass.

The balloon test was suggested by heritage expert Dr Douglas Comer, who told the hearing it would help to illustrate the possible visual impact of the bridge on the nearby Brú na Boinne, the UNESCO World Heritage Site that is home to Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth.

There are concerns that the visual impact of the bridge could have implications for the status of the site with Unesco.

The balloons were inflated and then allowed rise first to 18m above the valley floor and then they were dropped to 12m.

These are the height options being proposed for the new bridge.

Irish Times

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Slane bypass balloon test details revealed

DETAILS OF the balloon tests to be carried out as part of the public hearing into the proposed new Slane bypass and bridge were given yesterday before the proceedings were adjourned.

The oral hearing has adjourned until March 29th to allow Meath County Council to carry out a balloon test at the site of the proposed new bridge to evaluate the visual impact of the structure on the surrounding area, including Brú na Bóinne.

The council hopes to conduct the test next Friday and Saturday, weather permitting.

Two blimp-type balloons will be positioned on each bank of the Boyne at Fennor, the site of the proposed bridge, about one mile east of the existing Slane bridge.

The balloons will be set at two possible bridge heights – the preferred 18m above ground level and a lower 12m option.

The test for the preferred 18m option will take place between 10am and 1.30pm each day when the balloons will have red banners attached, while the test for the 12m option will take place between 2pm and 5pm each day when the balloons will support blue banners. Each balloon is approximately 6.1m long and 3.7m high while the banners are 3.7m long and 1.2m high.

When the oral hearing resumes at the end of the month supporters and critics of the proposed bridge will have an opportunity to give their reaction to the tests.

The proposed N2 Slane bypass and bridge will see traffic divert from the existing bridge and road because the new dual carriageway will allow vehicles travel faster and safer, design engineer Séamus MacGearailt told An Bord Pleanála’s oral hearing yesterday.

Mr MacGearailt was responding to questions from barrister Colm MacEochaidh, senior counsel for former attorney general John Rogers who is opposed to the new dual carriageway, which includes provision for a new Boyne bridge.

Irish Times

Europe ruling on planning directive welcomed

ENVIRONMENTAL CAMPAIGNERS have welcomed a ruling by the European Court of Justice reversing an Irish Supreme Court judgment which they say has serious implications for how Irish planning authorities assess major projects.

The European Court of Justice has issued a ruling in the case of the European Commission vs Ireland in which the court found that Ireland had failed to properly implement the EU’s environmental impact assessment directive in the case of major projects.

Solicitor Joe Noonan, acting for the Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment (Chase), had argued that Ireland had breached the EU directive in the way it had split the statutory approval functions for major projects between the EPA and An Bord Pleanála.

Mr Noonan had also argued that Ireland had breached the directive by failing to require either the EPA or An Bord Pleanála to perform an assessment of environmental impacts as required.

Under article 2 of the council’s 1985 EIA directive, planning permission can only be given after an assessment is carried out on all significant projects which, because of their nature, size or location, could have significant effects on the environment.

Article 3 of the 1985 EIA directive says any assessment must look at the impact of a project on human beings, fauna, flora, soil, water, air, climate, landscape, material assets and the cultural heritage as well as the interaction between any of these subjects.

The European Court of Justice found that Ireland had failed to properly transpose article 3 and had failed to properly implement the requirements of article 2 in cases where the Irish planning authorities and the EPA both have decision-making powers concerning a project.

The court also ruled that Ireland was in breach of the directive by excluding demolition works from the scope of its legislation, not transposing the EU EIA directive into Irish law and ordered Ireland to pay costs in the case.

Mr Noonan said it was a significant decision and would come into effect immediately. It would apply to any major projects in the pipeline while the consequences of the ruling with regard to any retrospective application would also have to be considered.

The ruling would require consideration by both the Department of the Environment and the Attorney General as it marked a reversal of a 2007 Supreme Court decision which found the State could split the statutory approval functions between the EPA and planning authorities, he said.

The Department of the Environment said the part of the judgment relating to demolition works had been clarified by a 2008 amendment to the 2001 planning and development regulations regarding which aspects of demolition were exempt from planning permission requirements.

A second part of the judgment relating to the transposing article 3 of the 1985 directive had been remedied through the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2010, said the department in its statement.

“A response to the final substantive element of the judgment regarding split decision-making will require further consideration by the State,” it said.

Irish Times

Casino venue could attract Breeders' Cup, says O'Brien

THE MULTIMILLION dollar Breeders’ Cup horse racing fixture could leave the United States and come to Ireland if a planned sporting and leisure complex goes ahead, said racehorse trainer Aidan O’Brien.

Mr O’Brien and his wife Anne-Marie yesterday expressed support for the €460 million “Tipperary Venue”, which would include a hotel and casino, racetrack and 15,000-person capacity indoor entertainment venue.

The couple made a submission to the second day of an oral hearing by An Bord Pleanála into plans by businessman Richard Quirke to develop the multifaceted project on an 800-acre site at Two-Mile Borris near Thurles. Mr O’Brien trains horses at Ballydoyle stables near Cashel in Co Tipperary.

The O’Briens said the organisers of the Breeders’ Cup – the self-styled world championship of flat racing, which has been held each November since 1984 – had expressed interest in staging the two-day fixture in Europe.

No European venue currently has the necessary grass and artificial surfaces to stage what is the world’s most valuable race meeting but, said Ms O’Brien, “The Tipperary Venue will be the first European track capable of hosting a Breeders’ Cup meeting.”

She said the development would be a sustainable and environmentally friendly addition to Irish horse racing.

“The proposed development is not dependent on grants. This is a wonderful opportunity for racing to create something unique and unrivalled and serve as a flagship racecourse for the industry,” she said.

Coolmore Stud in Fethard, Co Tipperary, has also thrown its weight behind the proposed development, as has the Irish Greyhound Board. Horse Sport Ireland chief executive Damian McDonald told the hearing the venue could also host the World Equestrian Games.

Mr Quirke, a former garda whose business interests include Dr Quirkey’s Good Time Emporium amusement arcade in Dublin, wants to build a 500-bed hotel and casino, golf course, greyhound racing circuit and equestrian centre as well as turf and all-weather horse racing tracks on the site.

The project, which includes a replica of the White House in memory of its Kilkenny-born designer, James Hoban, secured planning permission from North Tipperary County Council last October. However, following appeals by local residents and An Taisce, An Bord Pleanála announced a public hearing.

Concerns include the volume of traffic that would be generated by the venue, as well as helicopter activity, noise and other emissions. An Taisce questioned the viability of elements of the scheme and said under current legislation a casino would not be permitted.

Local resident Pat Blake told the hearing he was opposed to the project because of the casino element. “My concern would be the gambling one. I think there would be untold damage done,” he said.

The hearing continues today.

Irish Times

Friday, 4 March 2011

Criticism of approval for 13 wind turbines in Donegal

CONSERVATIONISTS IN Co Donegal have criticised An Bord Pleanála for approving plans by businessman PJ Molloy for 13 “industrial” wind turbines in a scenic Gaeltacht area near Glenties.

Mr Molloy had originally sought permission for 35 Vesta-90 turbines, each with a hub height of 80m and a blade diameter of 90m, but Donegal County Council reduced the number to 19 after seeking further information from the developer.

The Department of the Environment had expressed concern that the proposed wind farm “could significantly damage or destroy” the habitats of freshwater pearl mussel, Atlantic salmon and otters – all protected species under the EU habitats directive.

In its decision, which was subject to 22 conditions, the board required the omission of six of the 19 turbines “to reduce the risk of habitat degradation and environmental pollution associated with development in these locations”.

The board decided, by five votes to two, to grant permission having regard to the National Renewable Energy Action Plan to deliver 40 per cent of electricity from renewable resources by 2020 and the department’s planning guidelines on wind energy.

It also took into account the “general suitability” of the site for a wind farm due to the wind resource available there, and the fact that it lay outside the areas excluded for wind farm development under Donegal County Council’s current development plan.

Other reasons given were that the scale and extent of the proposed development had been reduced relative to the topography of the area, and that permission had already been granted to the ESB for a 110-kilovolt transmission line in the vicinity.

However the locally based Gweebarra Conservation Group said: “No one would sanction felling trees in the rain forest to erect wind turbines yet this is precisely what the Government is doing by giving tax incentives to private investors to destroy our hills and bogs. The boglands in these Gaeltacht townlands . . . are just as important as the rain forests in absorbing CO2.

“These are precious habitats that support a large variety of protected species as well as Irish-speaking families who have lived in this beautiful valley for generations.”

It also expressed concern about health dangers associated with the high-voltage power lines needed to transmit the electricity generated by wind farms. “These power lines are proven to increase cancer rates if located within 2km of people’s homes.”

However another objector, Gerry McKenna, said he believed “we did pretty well reducing the number of turbines from 35 to 13”.

These would also be “well out of sight of the beautiful landscape in the area”, he added.

Irish Times

Carey defends signing pipe consents

CORRIB GAS: MINISTER FOR Energy Pat Carey has staunchly defended his decision to sign, on the day of the general election, key consents for the last section of the Corrib gas pipeline.

He said the decision was part of an eight-month process and taken after very comprehensive assessment and legal advice, including from the Attorney General.

He said this was not the end of the process and the media and other critics should read the letter of consent and the conditions attached before casting judgment. He said the conditions are very comprehensive and very strict.

The decision has been condemned by representatives of the Labour Party, Sinn Féin, the Socialist Party and United Left Alliance. Residents opposed to the pipeline in north Mayo have also criticised the decision. Asked about the signing on the day of the election, the Minister said it was “the only day I was reasonably free”.

He insisted this was “absolutely not done on a whim. At a political cost to myself, I took a lot of time to read over four very large folders” about the issue. “I read every single submission,” he said.

Mr Carey said the signing was just one more stage in a process and a judicial review was expected and that would deal with all the issues.

He said the fact that it was not politically popular to make such a decision did not make it wrong.

The Green Party confirmed that a recommendation on the consent application by Shell EP Ireland to construct the pipeline under the Gas and Petroleum Acts had not arrived on the desk of then minister for energy Eamon Ryan before he left office.

Last week Éamon Ó Cuív, who took over the environment portfolio from John Gormley, also said the foreshore licence had not come before him.

Mr Carey said the issue had been ongoing for eight months. His department said the applications were received on May 31st, 2010 from Shell EP Ireland Limited, acting on behalf of the Corrib gas partners. The assessment included two periods of public consultation and expert assessment.

Fine Gael energy spokesman Leo Varadkar said Mr Carey had contacted the party on Monday to inform it of his decision.

Mr Varadkar said the signing “is largely a formality. It shouldn’t come as surprise and obviously there’s going to be a judicial review”.

He added that “the State stands to gain at least 25 per cent of profits from Corrib and the sooner the gas is brought ashore, the sooner that money can be used to fund essential services”.

An Taisce has described as “very disappointing” the decision by the outgoing Minister to sign the consents.

An Taisce chairman Charles Stanley-Smith said it was public knowledge that the environmental organisation was seeking a judicial review of the recent An Bord Pleanála decision to approve the new pipeline route, as it ran through a special area of conservation.

“This legal challenge relates to An Bord Pleanála specifically, as we believe it breaches several EU directives. However, it is very disappointing that the Department of Energy would sign off on this consent at this point,” Mr Stanley-Smith said.

Labour Party president Michael D Higgins, who has condemned Mr Carey’s action, said there should be full transparency on any communication between the department and any interested parties both before and since the general election was called.

Shell has confirmed it received the consents and, within hours of the department confirming the signing, the international energy press welcomed it as a “final approval”. However, a foreshore licence is still required from the Minister for the Environment, currently Éamon Ó Cuív, before work can start on the €100 million tunnel for the pipe through Sruwaddacon estuary linking the landfall at Glengad to the terminal built at Ballinaboy.

Pobal Chill Chomáin spokesman John Monaghan, representing community interests in Erris opposed to the pipeline, described the signing as a “cowardly act by Mr Carey”.

The letter of consent and attached conditions can be read on the Department of Energy’s website

Irish Times

Plans for 40m hospital attacked

Clare County Council has come under fire at an oral hearing for giving the go-ahead to contentious plans for a €40 million hospital in Ennis.

In his closing submission to a hearing by An Bord Pleanála into the 100-bed hospital proposal, planning consultant Brendan McGrath said the council’s interpretation of its development plan “amounts to a judgment that a 100-bed hospital could be located on any land zoned for development within the settlement boundary of the town”.

Mr McGrath added: “Such an approach does not accord with broader principles of urban design and sustainable settlement planning.”

A decision is due on the plan later this year.

Irish Times

Permission refused for Kildare Liffey bridge

AN BORD Pleanála has refused planning permission for a bridge over the river Liffey together with roads and other infrastructure to serve a proposed town centre scheme at Donaghcumper Demesne, Celbridge, Co Kildare.

The planning board said Donaghcumper House was a protected structure near the historic main street of Celbridge and in the vicinity of Castletown House and its historic grounds. It said the proposed development would constitute a “major intrusion”.

The board ruled against the creation of a heavily trafficked junction at the entrance gates to Castletown – as proposed by developers Devondale Ltd – and said it would also result in an “excessive degree of encroachment” into the high-amenity Liffey Valley.

An Bord Pleanála overturned a decision last July by Kildare County Council to approve Devondale’s plan for 108 detached houses at Donaghcumper on similar grounds, saying it would “seriously injure the amenities of the area and of property in the vicinity”.

Devondale has been seeking to develop lands to the west of Donaghcumper House for a mixed-use scheme comprising an urban expansion of Celbridge, including 648 residential units and commercial/retail floor-space of circa 47,300sq m.

Planning consultant Jeanne Meldon, who had acted for objectors in both cases, said the board’s latest refusal would have the effect of “copper-fastening the conservation of these lands adjacent to Castletown”, which is maintained by the Office of Public Works.

The appeal was brought by 16 objectors, including the Castletown Foundation, An Taisce, the Liffey Valley Park Alliance, the Irish Landmark Trust, the Irish Georgian Society, local groups and Independent councillor Catherine Murphy, who has been elected as a TD for Kildare.

Ms Murphy said: “I strongly opposed the rezoning of the Donaghcumper land for development, which was pushed through by the great majority of Kildare County Council, on the proposal of Emmet Stagg of the Labour Party, in 2002.”

She would be seeking an “immediate revision” of the Kildare County Development Plan and the Celbridge Local Area plan, arguing that the plans for Donaghcumper had “inhibited positive development in Celbridge”, including proposals to widen the existing bridge.

“It has taken a massive effort over several years, by those of us who have opposed the development, to undo the damage done by the decision to rezone the land. Those efforts were strongly supported by residents of Celbridge, who made more than 4,000 submissions to the recent review of the county plan.”

Irish Times

Property group must decide on Lucan site

A PROPERTY group that posted huge losses last year is now faced with a decision on whether to go ahead with the development of land near Lucan that it agreed to acquire from South Dublin County Council at the height of the boom in November 2006.

Shelbourne Development Ltd, controlled by Garret Kelleher and chiefly known for its abortive Chicago Spire project, swapped land at Cooldrinagh, near Leixlip, for a 41.5-acre site at Kishogue, in the Balgaddy/Clonburris strategic development zone.

Under the contract, Shelbourne would pay €40 million for the site and a further €38,500 for each residential unit it gets permission for over and above 650 units. But Mr Kelleher said this would be offset by the council paying an equivalent sum for 200 social housing units.

Speaking from New York last night, he said the deal was done “prior to the world changing”, and its contract with the council specified Shelbourne now had a period of time to consider what it would do with a project on which it had been working for nearly five years.

Under the contract, 10 per cent of the purchase price would have to be paid within one month of securing planning permission. With the site-related loans now in Nama, it is expected that the State’s “bad bank” will have a role in deciding whether it goes ahead.

Shelbourne had originally sought permission for 973 apartments and houses on the site, but council planners reduced the number of residential units to 898, and granted permission for shops and other community facilities.

After an appeal by the ESB, the Combined Griffeen Planning Action Group representing local residents and Cllr William Lavelle (FG), An Bord Pleanála has approved an amended version of the scheme, with 32 conditions.

The board made its decision having regard to the Department of the Environment’s sustainable residential development guidelines, the South Dublin County Development Plan and the designation of the area as a strategic development zone.

It also took into account the site’s location close to the Dublin-Cork railway line, the pattern of development in the area, Shelbourne’s plan to locate six-storey apartment blocks away from existing two-storey housing, and its phased approach.

Subject to a reduction in the number of residential units to about 850, the board considered the scheme would have an “acceptable density and housing mix” and would not be “excessively high” or seriously injure local amenities.

Mr Lavelle said he was “appalled and gutted” by the ruling: “It beggars belief that An Bord Pleanála could rule that locating six-storey buildings next to two-storey housing would not be visually obtrusive or would not have any impact on traffic.”

He said neither the county council nor the appeals board should have even considered “this massive development” while work on developing the nearby “model town” at Adamstown had stalled. Indeed, he felt Clonburris would “undermine” Adamstown. “Ultimately, the community of Lucan South is now paying a heavy price for very bad decisions taken by the 2004-2009 county council,” he said, adding the council had ignored submissions from many people in the area in adopting the Clonburris local area plan.

The decision was a direct consequence of the land swap, he said, noting An Bord Pleanála had refused permission for the park-and-ride site, citing environmental sensitivities as to the Liffey Valley. So it was “unlikely that the council will ever get to build on the land it received as part of the land-swap”.

“Now that the planning process had been concluded, I will be seeking a full inquiry into this disastrous land-swap,” he said, adding the “only hope now is that market conditions may mean that this over-ambitious proposal will never see the light of the day.”

In February 2010, a company in the Shelbourne Property Group reported a pretax loss of nearly €150 million, largely due to the soaring Chicago Spire project – stalled for at least two years – that was being part-funded by Anglo Irish Bank and is now the subject of litigation.

Irish Times

1916 relatives tell Nama of fears for Moore Street sites

RELATIVES OF the signatories of the 1916 Proclamation have met the board of the National Asset Management Agency (Nama) to express their opposition to developer Joe O’Reilly’s plans for the redevelopment of the Carlton site.

The 2.7ha site stretches from the former Carlton Cinema on Upper O’Connell Street to Moore Street and surrounds the national monument houses on Moore Street that were occupied by the leaders of the 1916 Rising.

Mr O’Reilly was last year granted permission for a large-scale development to include retail and residential units, restaurants and car spaces. He is one of the first 10 developers who went into Nama. He was also named as one of 10 Anglo Irish Bank customers who borrowed from the lender to buy a 10 per cent stake in the bank.

Members of the Connolly, Clarke, Ceannt, MacDonagh and Plunkett families yesterday met Nama chairman Frank Daly and chief executive Brendan MacDonagh. The relatives’ group sought the meeting with Nama to ask that Mr O’Reilly not be “in any way” facilitated by the agency to proceed with the development.

They were particularly concerned that demolition had begun last Christmas on buildings on Moore Lane, backing on to Moore Street, that they believe were also occupied by leaders of the Easter Rising.

The 19th-century buildings at 17 and 18 Moore Lane had been judged unsafe by Dublin City Council, which ordered they be lowered in height to make them safe.

Patrick Cooney, spokesman for the Save 16 Moore Street Committee, said the group had been “very well received” by the Nama representatives. He said he realised the representatives could give no commitments as to the future of the site, but said it was an opportunity for the group to outline their alternative plans, which include a museum, but would also allow residential and commercial development on an appropriate scale.

Due to their historic role, four houses on Moore Street were designated national monuments by then minister for the environment Dick Roche in 2007.

Irish Times

Judge rules on liability for clean-up of landfill

EUROPEAN REGULATIONS aimed at making company directors personally liable for the costs of environmental clean-ups have not been correctly transposed into Irish law, a High Court judge has ruled.

Mr Justice John Edwards gave his ruling yesterday in a case by the Environmental Protection Agency against Nephin Trading and others involved in a licensed landfill at Kerdiffstown, near Naas, Co Kildare.

The environmental agency and the Department of Environment spent €3 million fighting a major fire at the landfill which burnt for about four weeks earlier this year. The full clean-up of the site is expected to cost in excess of €30 million.

Nephin Trading and associated companies Dean Waste and Jenzsoph Ltd had been operating at the landfill and recycling facility for some 14 years until the agency secured court orders stopping them from accepting any further waste last year.

Nephin Trading and its associated companies subsequently went into liquidation, and the agency sought a “fall-back order” to make the directors of the companies involved personally liable.

However, in the High Court yesterday Justice Edwards said he had reservations about the legislation underpinning such a move. He questioned the transposition of the European Waste Framework Directive into Irish law.

Mr Justice Edwards said the provisions of Section 57/58 of the Waste Management Acts “do not in fact effectively transpose the enforcement obligation of the Waste Framework Directive”.

Justice Edwards noted that in the past the High Court had not had a difficulty in relation to making directors liable under this Act. He also noted courts of the same level “should be extremely slow” to disagree with each other.

On this point he said he had received submissions from the Attorney General, who was represented in court yesterday.

However Mr Justice Edwards said he “didn’t find the submissions particularly helpful as they were telling me what I already knew, that the courts should be extremely slow to disagree”.

Justice Edwards said he had been presented with “no real argument to the problems the court was dealing with” in relation to the issue of the transposition of the EU directive.

The judge’s full ruling is expected to become available to the public within days.

The court was adjourned until March 18th, at which the issue of the costs of the case will be addressed.

After the short hearing yesterday the agency said it would be making no comment until it had studied the judgment.

However, the directors of the companies involved said they welcomed the decision.

They said they would be calling on the incoming government to investigate the “full circumstances surrounding the loss of 200 jobs and the loss of an investment of €80 million”.

The agency has begun preliminary work to remove stockpiles of fire-risk waste and landfill leachate, providing 24-hour security, setting up an on-site office, increasing monitoring and inspection and dealing with “immediate health and safety issues”.

Funding for the short-term emergency works had been provided by the department and further funding for remediation works would be “released on a phased basis”, the agency said. Altogether, it will involve dealing with two million tonnes of waste.

Senior agency officials recently met the Clean Air Naas lobby group, which had been critical of the agency’s handling of the case. It has agreed to co-operate on the basis that “all matters will be fully disclosed” and no information would be “suppressed”.

Irish Times

Gas drilling permits for Lough Allen area given

Two companies have been granted licences to explore an area in Lough Allen, where it is thought there may be large reserves of natural gas.

The Lough Allen Natural Gas Company (Langco) and Australian-based Tamboran Resources have been given onshore petroleum licences to explore the area which takes in parts of Leitrim, Sligo, Roscommon, Cavan and Fermanagh. The area is known to geologists as the northwest carboniferous basin.

The licence will allow the companies to undertake shallow drilling to a depth of 200m (650ft) and carry out technical studies to ascertain whether the gas is commercially viable. If initial studies prove successful, the companies will have first option on a more expensive exploration licence which would be a step closer to extracting gas.

Langco believes there are 9.4 trillion cubic sq ft of gas or the energy equivalent of 1.5 billion barrels of oil in the area. This has a notional value of €94 billion at existing prices and could be considerably more by the time gas could be extracted from the ground.

The company’s managing director, Dr Martin Keeley, cautioned against premature expectations. He said the only thing certain was that there was gas present as successive studies had shown. However, they were a long way off from knowing whether it was worth extracting.

He distinguished between the resource number - which is the amount of gas in the ground - and the reserve number, the amount that is extractable. The two are often widely different.

“Only a small percentage of it might ever be extracted. We are still at too early a stage to get overexcited,” he said. “We will be taking a big risk trying to find out - but we know it’s there, which helps.

"Natural gas has already been found. The issue is one of economics and into that must be factored all necessary precautions to preserve and protect the environment and community,” he added.

Previous attempts were found to have been economically unviable, but the company believes that the rising price of gas and new technology could now make it a potentially viable proposition.

If the initial explorations are successful, the companies intend to return to the Petroleum Affairs Division of the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources and seek an exploration licence. However, this is a process that is at least over two years away.

Dr Keeley said there would be no question of deep drilling a beauty spot. “It would never be considered, nor would it be allowed to - and rightly so.”

Recently, the department also granted London-based oil exploration company Enegi Oil an onshore petroleum licensing option for the Clare Basin, an area which covers all of Clare and part of Kerry and Limerick.

The company believes there is shale gas similar to that found in Newfoundland, Canada. Both areas were joined together hundreds of millions of years ago.

Chief executive Alan Minty said they were investing up to €650,000 in the initial exploration of the area. He said they would apply for exploration licences should the work programme identify prospective targets.

The Irish Times

Call to scrap Poolbeg plant

Waste companies will create more than 750 jobs if the Poolbeg incinerator project is scrapped by the next government, the Irish Waste Management Association (IWMA) has said.

An investment of €173 million would be made in the creation of 210 long-term jobs and 550 construction jobs before the incinerator was due to operate in 2014, the IWMA said - but only if the plant did not go ahead.

Not only would association members not create jobs if the plant was constructed, but up to 1,000 existing jobs in the waste industry would be lost because waste would be diverted to Poolbeg.

“This facility will be so dominant in the market that it will kill competition in the sector and investment in waste alternatives,” association spokesman Brendan Keane said.

The Irish Times

Roads body withdraws objections to Wicklow data centre

The National Roads Authority (NRA) has withdrawn objections to plans for one of the world’s largest data centres at Newtownmountkennedy in Co Wicklow.

The NRA’s decision to drop objections to the proposed €1 billion development came after a strong local campaign that included assurances from Wicklow County Council on improvements to a junction on the N11.

Ecologic Datacentres of Newtownmountkennedy has proposed an 82-acre 'digital services campus' based on the latest cloud computing technology and associated industries on a site it owns at Mountkennedy Demesne.

While the centre would employ some 200 people when fully operational, the developers envisage a multiple of that number employed during construction.

The developers intend the campus to be carbon-negative, using electricity from renewable sources. Heat generated by the facility will be used in a district heating system. They also plan to build a tourist 'biodome park' similar to the Eden Project in England.

The NRA based its objections to the project on access to the N11 - consultants’ reports said the present interchange would be unable to handle additional traffic.

However, the authority last week confirmed it had received assurances from the council that road improvements would be made without use of NRA funds.

Brian McDonagh of Ecologic Datacentres said the campus would include a new road parallel to the N11, serving the site from its Kilpedder end to the Ballyroan roundabout. He said this would allow for a cycle track linking the Newtownmountkennedy road with Kilpedder.

Mr McDonagh rejected criticism that, as a property developer, he was not in a position to deliver the cloud computing business. He said his company was in talks with some of the industry’s best-known names. He said the talks, in San Francisco, were going well.

Council chairman Tom Fortune welcomed the announcement, saying the project had tremendous spin-off potential for the area.

The Irish Times