Tuesday, 26 July 2011

DCC pans Linders's Smithfield plan

Dublin City Council gave both barrels to developer Joe Linders when they rejected his plan for the redevelopment of the former Irish Distillers’ headquarters in Smithfield. They told him that his plan for four shops and nearly 16,600sq m (178,680sq ft) of offices would represent significant overdevelopment and would be seriously detrimental to the amenities of the area.

They also felt that the total demolition of the existing buildings, which were formerly used as a stone warehouse, would be contrary to the development plan because the building is of historic interest. They pointed out that there is an existing public sewer on Bow Street, adjacent to the proposed building, and that building adjacent to such a sewer is not permitted, and followed that up by saying that the proposed layout would compromise Luas operations and standards and that the scheme would overshadow the upper levels of apartments nearby.

Back to the drawing board, Joe.

Irish Times


Wexford motorway route unveiled

AFTER two years of uncertainty for residents and landowners, the preferred route for a controversial motorway from Oylegate to Rosslare Harbour was finally unveiled by Wexford County Council at the Ferrycarrig Hotel this week.

TDs and councillors got a sneak preview of the map on Monday morning before the exhibition was thrown open to the public for several hours on Monday afternoon and also on Tuesday.

On the map, the preferred route is shown as a 300-metre-wide corridor within which the road will be located – the additional width is to allow for flexibility during the final design of the scheme.

The initial reaction of the Joint Committee of Communities (JCC) against the motorway is one of relief that the proposed route is following the line of the existing road from Oylegate to Rosslare Harbour for much of the way.

'From that point of view, we are pleased common sense prevailed and that there will be a minimum of disruption for many people along the route,' said the JCC chairman Michael Carroll.

'But it should be pointed out that there will be a separate road of dual carriageway or motorway proportions running beside the existing route and this will affect more people and properties than is initially apparent.'

He said the committee is concerned for a number of landmark properties along the proposed route, including the Wexford Youths complex at Ferrycarrig Park, businesses in Oylgate which will be bypassed, the Danby Lodge Hotel, Killinick service station and Roche's service station near the Rosslare roundabout.

'It comes very close to Ferrycarrig Park and goes behind the Danby Lodge. The filling station in Killinick will be cut off, as will Roche's filling station. Businesses in Oylegate that depend on passing trade will also be badly affected. It will have a negative effect on them,' said the chairman.

'Overall we are pleased, but we are disappointed on a number of fronts, particularly in relation to the fact that the county council and the NRA are advancing the project to this stage at all given that they have admitted there will be no money to build it for the foreseeable future.'

The JCC is also worried about the indefinite planning freeze that will be placed on properties along the route.

'If someone wants to sell their house, straight away the property is devalued because it will either be close to a motorway in the future or won't be there at all,' said Michael, adding that the JCC is still assessing the detailed implications of the route for residents, farmers and business-owners.

Members of the public are invited to make comments on the preferred route to Wexford County Council before Friday, September 30. A brochure with detailed drawings is available is available on the county council's website at www.wexford.ie/routeselection.

Wexford People


Probe after local council puts planning applicants' private information online

A MAJOR investigation has been launched after a county council uploaded personal information online, including birth certificates, bank account details and drivers' licences.

The Data Protection Commissioner is investigating the breach by Meath County Council, who only removed the sensitive data when it was notified by a member of the public.

However, last night the council told the Irish Independent they had "no way of knowing" how many people's personal details were uploaded onto the internet -- or whether the personal data had been left in planning files which were available for viewing in their offices.

It was also unable to indicate when the planning applications dated from.

Last night, a spokeswoman said the planning process was public and "every document submitted was part of the public record".

She could not clarify if bank details, birth certs and other sensitive documentation were available for viewing in their office but said staff had been advised to remove this information when giving a file for inspection "until the data protection issues are clarified by Data Protection Commissioner".

Rebecca Meade, whose birth certificate, driver's licence, bank account number, car insurance certificate and vehicle registration certificate were among the items uploaded, said she was "shocked" at the breach.


Ms Meade, of Castletown, Co Meath, sought planning permission in January for a one-off house.

Meath County Council has a Rural Housing Policy that meant applicants must prove they are from the area, or had been living there for some time.

"I had to prove that it was our family's land that I wanted to build on, that's why I had to submit the documentation," said Ms Meade.

"I would have expected that it would all have been kept private. It's just plain stupid to put all that stuff online."

Meanwhile, another planning permission applicant who did not wish to be named, said he was able to view the details of many of his neighbours in Meath before the information was removed.

He also said the publication of the details explained why he had so many builders and tradesmen contacting him last year.

"I got an awful lot of calls from tradesmen after I got the commencement notice," he said.

"I couldn't understand where they got my number from and I asked one of them.

"And he told me 'sure you can get all that stuff in the council office'.

"I had my home address on the application as well and a few builders called to the house and spoke to my mother, asking if I needed work done."

In 2010, 1,203 planning applications were received by Meath County Council, and 1,478 in 2009.

Last night, the council said it received a complaint "regarding a possible breach of data protection on its online planning facility", which went live last Monday.

It said the facility was disabled and a review of data management launched.

However, no internal investigation is taking place.

A spokeswoman said they would contact all those whose personal information had been uploaded.

But she could not confirm whether the sensitive data had been available in paper planning files that anybody could view in their offices. She also said that they were allowed to make mobile phone numbers available as part of the public planning system -- but a spokeswoman for the Data Commissioner's Office said that no contact details could be made public.

In 2006, a new application form was published with a detachable page "to ensure that these personal details could be removed prior to the publishing of planning applications on the planning authority's website".

A spokeswoman for the Data Protection Commissioner confirmed that they had received a data-breach report from the council that they were now investigating, as well a complaint from a member of the public.

Edel Kennedy
Irish Independent


Building ban on rezoned land leaves taxpayer with huge bill

THE taxpayer will be forced to pick up the tab as councils ban housing on massive banks of land -- bought for billions by property speculators at the height of the boom.

The value of development sites has plummeted by more than 90pc, after councils rezoned land which is no longer needed for housing.

The Irish Independent has learned that 12 of the country's 34 local authorities have already dezoned or banned development on lands. The remainder will do so by the end of the year, under a radical shake-up of planning system countrywide.

But the move will have serious implications for taxpayers. Banks lent billions for speculative deals on those lands which have since collapsed -- with the State now forced to pick up the bill. Housing will now no longer be allowed to be built on 8,000 hectares previously earmarked for development in 12 local authorities alone.

At the height of the boom, this land could have sold for more than €1m per hectare. However, after rezoning the average value is likely to be just €25,000 a hectare, informed sources said.

The findings provide the first indications of the extent of the zoning madness rubberstamped by councils over the last decade.

Many of the local authorities were controlled by Fine Gael, the main government party now tasked with cleaning up the mess.

At the height of the boom, around 44,000 hectares of land -- enough to build more than one million homes -- was zoned as suitable for housing.

This was almost 32,000 hectares more than needed.

House prices continued to soar, despite the oversupply, with landbanks swapping for huge sums. In practice, many of these landbanks were swapped from owner to owner, with nothing built. Now local authorities have been ordered to rationalise their planning policy -- identifying where there are needless landbanks, and dealing with them by rezoning.

The massive shake-up does bring some good news for thousands of homeowners living in ghost estates because these developments will have to be completed before planning permission is granted for new units.

But it will also have a negative impact on the taxpayer. Every loan over €20m goes into NAMA, meaning that hundreds of devalued sites are now controlled by the 'bad bank'. About 18pc of the €73bn in NAMA loans are connected to land.

A NAMA spokesman said these loans had been substantially written-down when they were taken over, some by as much as 90pc.

The new figures show:

a total of 12 councils had 14,000 hectares of land available for housing two years ago; l Under the new plans, there are just 5,800 hectares;

Laois now has 273 hectares of land for housing, down from 2,235 hectares two years ago;

Sligo County Council reduced its landbank from 350 hectares to 195;

Other councils to have re-zoned are Fingal, Clare, North Tipperary, South Tipperary, South Dublin, Wicklow, Galway City, Dublin City, Kildare and Cork City.

Paul Melia
Irish Independent


€86,000 planning board costs bill reflects economic reality - judge

A small farmer in Sligo who challenged plans for a dead animal processing plant near his farm has lost his appeal against a ruling that he must pay An Bord Pleanála €86,000 in legal costs. Volkmar Klohn moved from Berlin in 1985 and bought the 14-hectare Crimlin Farm in Tubbercurry where he grows vegetables for sale.

In 2006, he sought a judicial review of a decision by the planning board upholding planning permission for a fallen animal unit at Achonry, Co Sligo. In 2008, the High Court found in favour of An Bord Pleanaála after a four-day hearing.

The taxing master assessed the planning board’s legal costs at €86,000, including solicitors’ fees of €32,580 - reduced from €45,000 - senior counsel’s fee of €20,000 and junior counsel’s fee of €14,250.

Klohn said his own legal fees amounted to €32,550, and the board’s costs should have been even less. The taxing master also failed to take into account his very limited resources as a small farmer and a means-tested medical card holder.

Klohn also claimed that the taxing master should have taken into account Article 10a of the 1985 EIA Directive which guarantees that legal proceedings challenging planning decisions about Environmental Impact Assessments ‘‘shall Not be prohibitively expensive’’.

The Aarhus Convention, signed by Ireland in 1998, also says that the costs of challenges to environmental decisions should not be too dear.

The farmer said that, before he launched the proceedings, he was told there was ‘‘no fear of prohibitively high legal costs’’ because of the directive.

But the board said that the directive related only to applications and decisions made after June 2005. In this case, the planning application was made in 2003, and An Bord Pleanála gave its ruling in April 2004.

Mr Justice John Hedigan said the High Court had no more powers than the taxing master, which were limited to assessing and deciding the value of work done.

He said the High Court had already decided that Article 10a of the directive did not have direct effect as it was ‘‘lacking in clarity and precision’’. The Aarhus Convention was not applicable, as Ireland had not formally ratified it.

The judge said the taxing master’s allowance was not excessive in the context of a four day judicial review hearing in the High Court.

‘‘The costs, as assessed, appear to reflect economic reality for litigants in the state," said Hedigan.

Sunday Business Post


Farm groups point finger over planning confusion

Farm organisations have slammed the Department of Agriculture's failure to give accurate information on proposed new planning rules for on-farm improvements.

Under a new regime, which was outlined to farm bodies recently by officials from the departments of Agriculture and Environment, it was proposed that planning permission would be needed for the drainage of wetlands, while the reclamation of farmland would in some instances require Department of Agriculture approval.

A screening process is to be introduced to assess land reclamation projects. However, the Department of Agriculture has yet to outline the threshold levels at which this process kicks in.

Speaking after a recent presentation given by the Department of the Environment to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Environment, IFA president John Bryan said farmers needed clarity on the issue.

"There is a serious lack of factual information regarding this proposed planning legislation and the impact it would have on the farming community," Mr Bryan said.

He called on Environment Minister Phil Hogan and Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney to "immediately address farmers' concerns".

Mr Bryan said the new planning regime had the potential to "sterilise" productive farmland.


"Under existing cross-compliance and environmental legislation farmers are already compliant and do not need further measures that will duplicate existing measures and add further bureaucracy," Mr Bryan said.

"This will stifle the €4bn growth in exports identified in the Government's strategy for the sector, Food Harvest 2020."

The drive to change the planning regulations has been prompted by a European Court of Justice ruling dating back to November 2008. The ruling found that Ireland's system of environmental impact assessments (EIA) for agriculture and aquaculture-related projects was in breach of EU directives.

Last month, Ireland was threatened with fines of €4,000/day unless it implemented the directives correctly. If Ireland is still non-compliant by July 23, the fines could rise to €33,000/day.

Farm organisations fear that Ireland could now be bounced into a very restrictive planning regime if legislation is rushed through to meet the July 23 deadline.

There are also concerns that the Commission is demanding that threshold levels for the screening of farm reclamation work should be set as close to zero as possible.

A Department spokesman said no decision had been taken on the threshold level for screening.

Declan O'Brien
Irish Independent


Car-pooling website unveiled

A new website that connects people looking to car pool has been launched by the National Transport Authority.

Free to use, carsharing.ie, is part of a 'smarter travel' initiative already being used by several organisations such as Hewlett Packard, Microsoft and NUI Galway, with over 1,000 people already sharing lifts to and from work.

The authority hopes the site will encourage commuters to seek lifts instead of driving alone, thereby taking a number of cars off the roads.

"It is a key part of our smarter travel policy - with petrol going up and more people becoming aware of our environmental challenges, we can use technology to get people together," Minister of State for Transport Alan Kelly said.

"Our pockets and environment will benefit - this will make it easier, cheaper and more sustainable to get people from A to B. it will be especially useful for games, concerts and other events."

Mr Kelly said the site was designed to aid those who do not have immediate access to such services or were not within walking or cycling distance of their destination.

The site includes an interactive map to help people plan their journeys and either get in contact with members of a privately formed group or the wider public group who might be travelling the same route.

Director of public transport at the authority, Anne Graham, described the website as an alternative option to single-usage cars and part of its overall travel planning initiatives.

"The service is open to everyone to use in workplaces, organisations, clubs and individually all over Ireland," she said.

While the 2006 census showed that only six per cent of commuters regularly car pooled on their way to work, a survey carried out last year by the authority found that 44 per cent of car drivers would consider it as a commuting option.

Irish Times


Plans unveiled for €540m eco-park and reservoir to store Shannon water

BORD na Móna has warned that approval for the development of a massive man-made reservoir in the midlands to store water drained from the Shannon is essential to guarantee future water supplies for the greater Dublin area.

The semi-state body yesterday revealed details of its controversial €540 million eco-park, to be located in Co Laois, which would incorporate a 700-acre reservoir on the site of a former bog as well as a range of water leisure facilities.

They are proposing to extract just over 2.2% of the total water flow from the Shannon at high-water levels from a location north of Lough Derg as part of a project, which will need the support of both the Department of the Environment and Dublin City Council.

It plans to store the water in the reservoir to be built on the site of a depleted bog at Garryhinch, located between Portarlington and Mountmellick, about 65km from the Shannon, before being pumped onwards to consumers in the greater Dublin area.

Bord na Móna chief executive Gabriel D’Arcy admitted the issue was of "vital national interest", but could be "emotive and divisive".

However, he stressed that it represented a great opportunity to create jobs and other benefits in the area.

He also pointed out that the Shannon is technically flooded for eight months each year on average.

It is estimated the project could create 1,000 jobs during its construction phase and up to 150 jobs in the longer term.

Bord na Móna director of strategic infrastructure, Colm Ó Gogáin told the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Energy, whose members will visit Garryhinch today, that approval for the project would be required soon if it was to become operational by 2020.

Mr Ó Gogáin said the ability of local authorities to supply water to Dublin was reaching critical point due to increased demand as well as the fact that 28% of water currently supplied was lost through leakage.

He claimed Dublin City Council has already issued water-shortage warnings this year as levels had fallen near record lows.

Mr Ó Gogáin said the use of the reservoir as an interim storage point for 15 million cubic metres of water was essential to ensure the sustainability of water supplies for the greater Dublin area as well as Laois, Offaly and Westmeath.

Responding to concern expressed by some TDs and senators, he explained that the current proposal was to extract four cubic metres of water per second when the river’s average flow rate is 180 cubic metres per second.

Mr Ó Gogáin described the alternative of desalination as "the option of last choice" due to its higher capital and operational costs.

Clare Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley said he was "absolutely opposed" to the project as it would have a negative impact on the existing infrastructure of the Shannon as a leisure amenity. He accused Bord na Móna of engaging in spin by presenting their proposals as a tourist project.

James Bannon, a Longford Fine Gael TD, said his constituents believed any extraction of water from the Shannon represented a "gross violation".

Meanwhile, Bord na Móna also openly declared its interest in taking on the role of a new national water authority proposed in both the Programme for Government and the EU/IMF bailout agreement.

Irish Examiner


Durrow cross request to Minister

Offaly County Council is requesting a meeting with Minister of State for the Office of Public Works Brian Hayes in an attempt to have work completed on the Durrow High Cross project in Co Offaly.

Durrow Abbey was acquired by the OPW five years ago at a cost of €3 million. At the time planning permission was sought to build an interpretative centre, car park and new access route to the abbey.

The site is well known for the Book of Durrow, Durrow Crozier and the High Cross.

Cllr Tommy McKeigue (FG) said the site has the potential to attract large numbers of tourists. He was shocked to discover planning permission for the development was due to expire in three weeks.

Irish Times


Hogan confirms major planning changes to come

ENVIRONMENT Minister Phil Hogan has confirmed that planning and development regulations which he is putting through the Oireachtas will reduce the exempted development threshold for drainage of wetlands, from 20 hectares to one tenth of a hectare (about quarter of an acre), and reduce the threshold for a mandatory environmental impact assessment (EIA) of drainage of wetlands from 20 to two hectares.

He said planning applications will be required for drainage works less than 0.1 ha, in cases where the drainage would have a significant effect on the environment.

An environmental impact statement will be required with planning applications for drainage of wetlands under 2 ha, where it is determined that the drainage would have a significant effect on the environment.

Guidance is being prepared by the Agriculture and Environment departments for planning authorities, farmers and other interested parties. "The threshold of 0.1 ha in the case of planning permission will allow for minor access works and maintenance. Any more substantial development will require screening for an environmental impact assessment as part of a planning application."

Farmers have expressed serious concern that land improvement projects will be shelved if the legislation is adopted as proposed.

Mr Hogan said a European Court of Justice judgment necessitates a major reduction in the acreage thresholds.

He said the European Commission has advised of numerous instances where damage to the environment occurred on wetlands, even on a very small scale. "For example, lands drained by a small ditch can severely impact on the local environment."

This matter was raised in the Dáil by Longford-Westmeath Fine Gael TD Nicky McFadden.

Mr Hogan responded: "I understand the concerns of the farming community as articulated by the deputy, and the need to ensure an overly bureaucratic regime is not established. The State, however, must respond quickly and comprehensively to the judgment of the European Court of Justice. Otherwise, Ireland will be the subject of serious fines imposed by the Commission."

He said removal of field boundaries, and converting semi-natural areas to intensive agriculture and ordinary field drainage, will be regulated through a new process operated by the Department of Agriculture. "The drainage of wetlands will be retained to be dealt with in the planning system."

Ms McFadden called for the issue to be raised at this week’s EU Council of Agriculture Ministers meeting, so that a solution can be agreed. She said farmers need clarification, including how much they will have to pay for planning applications and EIAs.

Irish Examiner


Midlands bog 'ideal location' for Dublin water supply reservoir

A BOG on the Laois-Offaly border is “an ideal location” for a proposed eco-park and reservoir, a member of the Oireachtas Committee on the Environment said yesterday.

Labour TD Kevin Humphreys was speaking after visiting the proposed site of the €560 million project with other committee members.

The committee was briefed by Bord na Móna on plans to build a reservoir in Co Offaly to supply drinking water from Lough Derg, on the river Shannon, to Dublin.

Committee members asked questions about the viability and environmental sustainability of the project.

The TDs visited the site of the proposed water storage reservoir at Garryhinch on the Laois-Offaly border, and toured amenity lakes and parkland already developed by Bord na Móna at Lough Boora Parklands, Co Offaly. The delegation was led by committee chairman and Labour TD Ciaran Lynch, along with committee deputies James Bannon (Fine Gael), Marcella Corcoran Kennedy (Fine Gael), Kevin Humphreys (Labour) and Brian Stanley (Sinn Féin).

“I believe it is an ideal location for a reservoir to provide water to Dublin for the next 70 years. Bord na Móna clearly has a well-researched plan that should be brought into the planning process as soon as possible to address the lack of a strategic reserve of water for the Dublin region,” Mr Humphreys said.

The project is opposed by some members of the committee, including Fianna Fáil TD for Clare Timmy Dooley, who has described it as “daft and entirely uneconomical”.

Irish Times


Imposition of planning laws on land drainage ‘bureaucracy gone mad’

FARMERS say the imposition of planning laws on the draining of land is "bureaucracy gone mad" and an assault on property rights.

Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) president Gabriel Gilmartin said farmers will have to shelve their land improvement projects due to the new draconian measures.

Following a court ruling by the European Court of Justice, any drainage works will now have to conform to statutory instruments requiring either planning permission from a local authority or a consent from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and with the potential for an Environmental Impact Assessment.

Environment Minister Phil Hogan said that the Oireachtas has no choice but to adopt planning regulations which will reduce the exemption threshold for the drainage of wetlands from the old 20-hectare limit down to one-tenth of a hectare.

Furthermore, the threshold for a mandatory environmental impact assessment (EIA) of drainage of wetlands will be reduced from 20 to two hectares. This will impact most upon farmers with wetlands including Shannon Callows, turloughs, swamps and marshes, floodplains and cliffs.

Mr Gilmartin said: "For some time now, farmers have had to put up with Big Brother watching them, but it’s now got to the stage that Big Brother wants more, including the right to interfere and frustrate progressive farming.

"Many farmers will be asking where does it all stop? There seems to be no end to the ever-increasing bureaucratic nonsense and interference, all originating from Brussels but implemented with gusto by our own bureaucrats," he said.

"It also opens up the appalling vista of An Taisce and other assorted serial objectors intervening in normal farming operations on land that they don’t own and in farming decisions for which they have no economic responsibility or liability."

Outside of a list of wetland types, the requirement will be for an official consent from the Department of Agriculture before farmers can undertake all types of land improvement and reclamation.

Included in this list are the removal of field boundaries, the re-contouring of land by infill, the use of uncultivated land or semi-natural areas for intensive agriculture and drainage and irrigation.

There is also the possibility that an EIA will be required in these cases, where the amount of land concerned is above a certain threshold.

The IFA, ICMSA and other farm groups have all criticised this EU directive as a retrograde move which is punishing Irish farming despite its enviable environmental record, including planting 10,000km of new hedgerows, building over 3,000km of stonewalls, planting one million broadleaf native trees and recycling 20,000 tonnes of plastic in 2010 alone.

Irish Examiner


The EPA puts its case over spending

Dear Editor --

I refer to your recent articles about the Environmental Protection Agency. While we appreciate the role of the media in scrutinising public bodies, we believe that your paper has misrepresented the EPA and misled the public in the impression it has created of the agency.

The EPA is an effective, well-run agency which provides significant benefit to Ireland's environment and to our health and well-being. These are not our words: they are the words of an independent government-appointed review group that reported its findings to the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government in May 2011.

The review group also concluded that the EPA was in compliance with its corporate governance obligations. If you have an interest in the facts on how effective the EPA is in delivering on its mission and providing value for money, you will find a copy of the review on either the site of the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, or the EPA website at www.epa.ie

Since it was established in 1993, the EPA has had a profound impact on Ireland's environment. When the agency was founded 18 years ago, Ireland's environment was highly challenged.

Through the work of the EPA there have been very significant improvements in water quality, air quality, drinking water quality and waste management; and people are now more aware of the fragility and importance of our environment to our health and well-being and for the future of our children, than at any point in the past.

Compared to similar agencies in other countries, Ireland's EPA is relatively small, with 321 staff and a wide range of functions. The EPA represents Ireland and the Department of the Environment at EU and international negotiations. Any travel undertaken by officials and scientists is necessary and important. There are rigorous policies on travel (eg: flights are economy and the agency does not pay for travel for spouses or partners). In 2010, for example, of 333 assignments undertaken abroad, 57 per cent cost less than €200 with only three long-haul trips costing over €1,000.

The EPA operates to the highest standards of corporate governance and takes its corporate governance responsibilities extremely seriously. When the revised Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies came into force in 2009, the EPA itself commissioned the Institute of Public Administration to evaluate the EPA's compliance with the new code.

The IPA found as follows: "It is our opinion that corporate governance standards are given a high priority within the agency, that there are high levels of management awareness of corporate governance obligations and that these are kept under regular scrutiny and that, as appropriate, the agency's governance policies and practices are consistent with the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies."

During 2010, the Great Places to Work Institute awarded the EPA the Best Public Sector Company Award; we received accreditation from the National Disability Authority for our commitment to providing accessible services for the public and EPA headquarters achieved environmental certification to ISO 14001. We are rightly proud of these achievements and they help place the EPA in a strong position to deal with the very difficult challenges ahead.

A recent report by the National Economic and Social Council (NESC) cited the EPA as being one of Ireland's best agencies. This we attribute to the hard work, dedication and flexibility of EPA staff. We will continue to embrace change in these uncertain times and play our role in protecting and improving Ireland's environment, planning for a more sustainable future for our children and providing good value for money.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Matt Crowe

Director, Environmental

Protection Agency

Office of Communications and Corporate Services

Irish Independent


National water authority should be owned by the public, says CIF

A new national water authority currently being considered by the government should be publicly owned and have control of the water distribution and wastewater collection systems, according to the Construction Industry Federation (CIF).

The builders’ representative body met with consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers last Thursday, which is conducting a review into the establishment of an authority for the government.

PwC has already met with several other possible stakeholders.

The CIF also believes water supplies should be competitively purchased from the existing water authorities, or from other state or commercial interests. It believes such an approach would encourage the development of a national water grid and provide an element of competition between water producers. Another option it has proposed for the government to consider is for consumers to purchase directly from a water producer, in the same way as gas or electricity is bought from providers.

The group also believes the amalgamation of the water authorities - currently provided by 34 different authorities - will yield substantial cost savings. ‘‘Scope will exist to significantly reduce the numbers employed in management , administration, planning and procurement, and serious consideration should be given to outsourcing maintenance operations," said Don O’Sullivan, director of tendering and contracts with the CIF.

‘‘The CIF believes that ‘Irish Water’ [a proposed national authority] should be run on a commercial basis and apart from the initial investment - in the circumstances of public ownership – to meet the set-up costs, there should be no exchequer subvention. Irish Water should have the capacity to borrow to meet the cost of new infrastructure or to enter long-term contracts with the private sector or public authorities for water supplies," he said.

The federation believes the template of the National Roads Authority (NRA) is one on which a new national water body could be based. It also believes a single national water tariff should be approved annually by a national regulator, but that customers who do not receive quality services and standards should be refunded full or partial levies.

There submission also said that consideration could be given to volume discounts and surcharges for large commercial consumers, or to discourage excessive water usage where appropriate.

‘‘Preferably, consumers would be required to make direct payment for water supplies, and receive compensating payments under the social welfare code where necessary," O’Sullivan said.

Sunday Business Post


Protester hope as experts to examine interconnector plan

ANTI-PYLON protesters have expressed hope that an international commission, which is to examine the controversial North-South electricity interconnector, will recommend that power lines for the project be placed underground.

The Minister for Energy, Pat Rabbitte, yesterday announced the membership of an international expert commission which will examine running part or all of the power lines underground through the route which goes through Meath, Cavan and Monaghan.

The commission’s members are chairman, Bo Normark, chief executive officer of Swedish electricity firm, Power Circle; Norwegian electricity transmission expert, Odd-Håkon Hoelsaeter and Belgian academic, Ronnie Belmans.

Mr Rabbitte said the three-member commission, which is due to report on its findings within six months, fully met the criteria of being expert, independent and international.

The Minister stressed that the commission was entirely independent, although it will receive secretarial support from the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.

Eirgrid argue the project is needed to facilitate the cross-border sharing of electricity and improve the efficiency of the electricity market and supply security.

The State-owned company said the 400kV interconnector would also reduce Ireland’s dependency on fossil fuels and help lower electricity bills.

Plans for the development of the €280 million interconnector collapsed last year when Eirgrid withdrew application for planning permission at a hearing by An Bord Pleanála because it contained incorrect information about the height of pylons, which was supplied by ESB International.

Under its terms of reference, the commission will review international expert literature on underground high voltage power lines.

Last night, anti-pylon group, North East Pylon Pressure welcomed the appointment of the commission.

A spokesperson said that while the commission’s members seemed to have stature, he would refrain from commenting further until they knew more about their background and experience.

He added that the group still had reservations about the commission’s terms of reference.

Irish Examiner


Monday, 25 July 2011

Clashes mark final phase of Corrib pipe construction

SHELL E&P Ireland began construction work on the final phase of the Corrib gas project yesterday, with clashes between a small number of protesters and a cordon of 75 security personnel.

The confrontations occurred when equipment was moved into the construction site for the gas pipeline and tunnel at Aughoose.

One protester who claims he was injured by four I-RMS security personnel has lodged a complaint with the Garda. The firm said it was “not aware of any injuries”.

The human rights observer deployed by Frontline and Amnesty International was not in the area at the time and did not witness the incident. Frontline has confirmed the observer had been present earlier, and had informed various parties she would be away for the day.

The work on the final section of the 8.3km pipeline, approved by An Bord Pleanála with 58 conditions, involved constructing a 4.9km tunnel under Sruwaddacon estuary, a Special Area of Conservation.

The Commercial Court is due to hear judicial reviews sought by An Taisce and several local residents which challenge the planning board’s approval, and separate consents signed by outgoing minister for energy Pat Carey on the day of the last general election.

Shell said in a statement yesterday it had full consents for the work, which was “expected to take in excess of two years to complete and represents an investment of several hundred million euro by the Corrib gas partners”.

The company said it was “committed to ensuring that this final construction phase has the least possible impact on the local community”. It said five full-time community liaison officers were available to deal with queries.

Up to 15 supporters of the Rossport Solidarity Camp and Shell to Sea have been staging demonstrations for the past three days at a Bord na Móna site at Srahmore, near Bangor Erris, where some 75,000 cubic metres of peat unearthed from the pipeline route are due to be deposited.

Early on Thursday, gardaí removed a caravan used by members of the camp, across from the Aughoose works site. A camp spokeswoman said they believed the caravan had been illegally seized and impounded by Mayo County Council. “This caravan was on private property on the edge of a field and we are seeking clarification on why it was removed,” the spokeswoman said.

Mayo County Council said in a statement it “removed a temporary dwelling which was causing a hazard to road traffic users from the roadside at Aughoose, in accordance with section 69 of the Roads Act 1993”.

Irish Times


Children's hospital application lodged with Bord Pleanála

PLAN DETAILS: A PLANNING application for the national children’s hospital on the site of Dublin’s Mater hospital has been submitted to An Bord Pleanála with a public consultation set to run until mid-September.

The application has been made despite the fact the Government will not make a final decision on proceeding with the €650 million project until a review of capital spending projects is finished in September.

Eilish Hardiman, head of the National Children’s Hospital Development Board, said the submission marked a “special day for the project”.

She said if it is given the green light and opens by late 2016 as planned the cost benefits will quickly become apparent. “It is in the programme for government and the business case for the hospital is robust,” she said. “If the investment is not made in the national children’s hospital then it will have to be made in the existing children’s hospitals anyway.”

She said the board was eager to put the project out to tender to take advantage of competitive rates in the construction sector and expressed the hope that costs may fall as a result. She stressed there had been “no change in the overall scale of the building” despite cutbacks.

The board carried out an extensive consultation process in developing plans and engaged health architectural consultants O’Connell Mahon and NBBJ, in the proposed design. The project team also engaged with representatives from each of the three children’s hospitals, particularly on internal layout. They met children and families, patient support groups, locals, conservation and heritage bodies, and members of the wider medical community.

The hospital will be able to accommodate clinical facilities for the provision of tertiary and secondary paediatric care, including 392 beds, 53 daycare beds, 13 operating theatres, overnight beds for parents and a family resource centre. The application also seeks to develop play areas, a school, external gardens and courtyards.

Ms Hardiman accepted access has been an issue “of serious consideration”. A four-lane access road along Eccles Street is proposed with a second access point to the car park on North Circular Road. There are designated traffic routes and signage, and a four-storey underground car park.

Full details are available at: newchildrenshospitalplanningapplication.ie.

Plan details

Total floor space : 108,467sq m

Height : 16 storeys

Beds : 392

Operating theatres : 13

Gardens, courtyards and green play areas : 7,500sq m

Parking : 972 cars, 243 bicycles

Cost : €650 million

Finishing date : Late 2016

Irish Times


Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Temple Bar as place and concept is real success story

TEMPLE BAR in Dublin is 20 years old, based on the passing of the Temple Bar Renewal and Development Act 1991 that got the ball rolling.

The inner south city centre area’s regeneration began when Ireland was in the economic doldrums. Dublin’s designation as European Capital of Culture in 1991 provided the catalyst just as urban regeneration in Glasgow, Bilbao and elsewhere is linked to cultural and artistic ventures.

Temple Bar is a success story, in an Irish and European context, for which successive national and local governments deserve real credit. It is many things to many people: a place and a brand, a cultural quarter, a workplace, a tourism destination and, importantly, somewhere called home.

It can also be used as a metaphor for the positive side of Ireland – its creative people and culture. Similarly, it is a byword for some of the country’s image problems: difficulty in dealing with success, alcohol dependence, failing to resolve problems and lax enforcement.

It is fair to say that many things never happened according to the original plans. However, we should acclaim the many great things in the area today that were never imagined in those plans.

Our company and its predecessor led development here until 2001 through innovative urban renewal, local governance, building design, and arts and cultural development and presentation.

Bringing culture closer to people in Temple Bar has been our focus since 2006. Managing a property portfolio allows us operational independence to organise and support hundreds of events and provide about €1.7 million in subsidises annually to cultural organisations. The exchequer receives €450,000 of our €2 million turnover.

The most recent economic impact assessment, an Amárach Consulting report in 2009, said Temple Bar generates over €680 million annually. If Temple Bar was listed in this year’s Irish Times Top 1,000 Companies List, this figure would rank us 68th. Dairygold, for example, was 66th.

The area is an established, significant residential community of more than 2,500 people. It is also a high-profile tourism destination attracting about 3.5 million visits a year.

Above all, Temple Bar is Dublin’s cultural quarter, home and workplace to hundreds of artists and a myriad of cultural micro-enterprises, nationally important cultural institutions, creative workspaces and countless public opportunities to encounter culture and the arts.

The many stakeholders include our shareholder Dublin City Council, An Garda Síochána, residents, local businesses, tourism promotion bodies and the vintners-led Temple Bar Traders Association.

How this group manages the area still requires much more collaborative work and improvement.

Frank McDonald’s article in The Irish Times Magazine on July 2nd portrays a negative and dated perspective on Temple Bar. However, it does outline the complex, sometimes conflicting yet always-interdependent relationships that foster Temple Bar’s development. He usefully illustrates how poor enforcement in planning, noise pollution, public order, litter management and liquor licensing have created unacceptable conditions for some residents, issues that are problems for Ireland and not just Temple Bar.

We established the Temple Bar Forum, a mechanism for resolving local problems locally, now managed by Dublin City Council, following the publication of our 2004 Urban Framework Plan. Facilitating solutions using face-to-face contact proved to be an important platform for many stakeholders.

However, unlike Temple Bar’s physical regeneration phase, managing the area is a much more complex and dynamic process where public and private interests and responsibilities must be balanced.

Temple Bar Cultural Trust takes its responsibilities seriously. We have a zero tolerance policy to graffiti, have attended the licensing courts to support residents objecting to a liquor licence renewal and contributed to public policy development and consultation.

The trust operates some of Europe’s most imaginative programmes covering the entire age and interest range from the retired to children, families and niche groups.

We continue to invest in the area and will reopen Meeting House Square and its unique Irish-designed retractable rainscreen later this year. A new Temple Bar Square framework plan will form part of a wider plan for improving people’s experience of the area.

The trust is also formulating a major public domain project to increase accessibility throughout Temple Bar with a target completion date of 2016, our 25th birthday.

Temple Bar is vibrant, dynamic, imaginative and different. It has never stood still and its strong dynamic continues to evolve.

Dermot McLaughlin is chief executive of the Temple Bar Cultural Trust.

Irish Times


Coach ban for Mountjoy Square

Conservation of north Dublin's Georgian core has been given a boost by the decision of Dublin City Council to relocate all coach parking away from Mountjoy Square.

The move, which follows lobbying by a number of different heritage bodies, means coach parking will now be relocated to the north quays near the Point Village, while the council also progresses plans to designate the square as an architectural heritage area.

The council and the National Transport Authority will also consider provision of a new central coach station to serve the capital. Dublin is one of only a handful of European capital cities not to have a designated coach station.

The decision to ban coaches from parking in the Square has already been welcomed by a number of bodies, including the Dublin City Business Association, the Irish Georgian Society, An Taisce, and both the Mountjoy Square Society and the Mountjoy Square Community Group.

Mountjoy Square was described by members of the Mountjoy Society as one of the capital's finest Georgian squares. It claimed the square has suffered neglect by city authorities over past decades. The society said businesses and residents in the area had done much to improve the area in recent years.

But commuter coach parking has been permitted in the Square since 1993 and, while legally confined to the south side of the square, has usually spilled over to the other sides and on to adjoining streets.

There was further good news for the area recently with lifting of threats to close Fitzgibbon Street Garda Station and the local swimming pool on Seán MacDermott Street.

Separately, Dublin Bus which had withdrawn services to the square last October, is to extend the number seven route there, in a move which will create a new cross city service via Merrion Square and Ballsbridge to Loughlinstown.

Following the council's decision, chairman of the Mountjoy Society Garrett Fennell said commuter coaches brought nothing to Mountjoy Square other than pollution, noise and congestion and they detracted from the area as one of Dublin's main Georgian Squares.

"Mountjoy Square is a mainly residential square with over 1,000 people living directly on it. It is also a key part of Dublin's Georgian heritage and has seen huge improvements over the last number of years. This decision to relocate the coach parking from the Square will be welcomed by the residents, businesses and visitors. We are delighted that the City Council has taken this measure for the protection, preservation and improvement of the Square as a special part of Dublin," he said.

A 40-page report prepared by the Mountjoy Square Community Group, which audited all coach parking in the city centre, identified ten different vacant sites around the city that potentially could be used as a coach park.

Backed by the Dublin City Business Association, the group proposed that the council could generate more than €100,000 per annum for city coffers by using a derelict site while also cleaning up the city by removing coach parking from places such as Mountjoy Square, Marlborough Street, and Merrion Square.

Irish Times


Wednesday, 13 July 2011

An Taisce blames urban sprawl on 'delinquent' planning laws

THE GROWING urban sprawl revealed by the latest census figures is a result of "negligent and delinquent" planning regulation, the national heritage trust An Taisce has said.

Spokesman Ian Lumley said the shift in population growth towards the commuter belt counties of the midland and the Border regions was the expected result of bad planning decisions and rezonings made in recent years.

The census found that Laois had the fastest growing population of any county (up 20 per cent), followed by Cavan, Fingal ( both 14 per cent), Longford and Meath (both 13 per cent).

Mr Lumley said spatial planning and transport strategies for the Greater Dublin Area had been " abrogated" by some local authority planners and councillors, creating a "legacy of carbased sprawl".

He said Ireland had invested in one of the largest motorwaybuilding programmes per capita in Europe to improve inter-regional transport for business and encourage economic investment. Instead these had become "commuter arteries".

"The whole objective of the road scheme has been defeated and has created a car-based population, with consequent social, economic and environmental damage - for example, increased carbon emissions, exposure to future oil costs and obesity."

County councils and their councillors had "deliberately ignored" planning guidelines, he said, and had "flung the population about the place".

However, he said they were not motivated by personal gain but by the development levies which could be earned for their counties.

County managers had been completely ineffective in preventing bad planning, and the planners had been "spineless" in their approval of planning applications that were based on bad zoning.

"The planning profession emerges with no credibility here," he said.
New planning legislation, introduced last year was being ignored by county councillors, and was also in danger of being watered down by Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan, who had recently decided to abandon an independent investigation into the planning activities of a number of local authorities, Mr Lumley said.

"The level of development that has taken place during the boom is like what happened in other European countries after the second World War.

"We have to ensure that we implement strict enforcement of the planning regulations so that things are not made worse."

The president of the Irish Planning Institute, Brendan Allen, said planners were not responsible for the shift from urban to outer suburban and rural growth as they had no option but to grant permission if land had been zoned for development.

He said an adherence by councillors to the guidelines set down for zoning which require them only to zone as much land as is required for sustainable population growth, and proper resourcing of the planning system would help consolidate future development in existing urban areas and gateway towns.

"The statistics underline the importance of forward planning so that development can be ‘planning-led' rather than ‘market-led'," said Mr Allen.

The Irish Times


Council votes against Poolbeg site loans

AN ATTEMPT by Dublin City Council to borrow more than € 50 million to complete the purchase of the site of the controversial Poolbeg incinerator has been blocked by councillors.

City manager John Tierney last night sought approval to borrow €50.3 million for site costs and an additional €10.8 million to develop a district heating system using power from the incinerator. Councillors voted by 26 votes to 12 not to allow the council management to seek a loan for the project.

The council had previously estimated the cost of buying the site for the plant at €120 million. The contract with the US developers of the incinerator, Covanta, is under review until next November, but the council has said it is confident the project will be back up and running by the end of this year.

Deputy Lord Mayor Maria Parodi (Lab) said she was "completely against" the approval of any further borrowing for the incinerator and that the request from the council management was premature, when the decision date on the future of the incinerator had been extended to November.

"I am shocked and appalled we are being asked to approve borrowing when we have in front of us such an undetailed report," she added.

Fianna Fáil councillor Jim O'Callaghan said great confusion had been caused in relation to the funding for the plant.

Mr Tierney said that the €50.3 million had already been committed but would be "converted into borrowing" instead of being taken from current funds to prevent the council going into overdraft. The loan would only be drawn down as funds were needed.
The council and the other Dublin local authorities are responsible for providing Covanta with a site for the facility. A report commissioned by former minister for the environment John Gormley from John Hennessy SC found the council would face "very substantial" penalties if it failed to provide Covanta with sufficient municipal waste to fuel it over 25 years.

The Irish Times


Minister drops plans for levy on incineration

Move welcomed by firm behind Poolbeg project.

A LEVY on incineration proposed by former minister for the environment John Gormley has been scrapped.

The move by Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan reverses the previous government's opposition to incineration and will be seen as a major boost for the economic viability of Dublin's proposed Poolbeg incinerator.

The move has already been welcomed by Covanta, the company behind the Poolbeg facility.

In a statement last night Covanta said Mr Hogan's action was "consistent with policies that have been adopted by numerous EU countries that have achieved significant success in diverting waste from landfill".

Dublin City Council, which was contracted to supply waste to the incinerator, said it was "pleased" with Mr Hogan's decision.

The council said the decision "makes sense, will enable maximum resource efficiency from waste management", and is in line with Irish and EU policy.
The council, which operates the region's waste management policy on behalf of the four Dublin local authorities, currently transports waste to landfill sites outside the region.

PJ Rudden who devised most of the State's regional waste management plans, including Dublin's, said the move indicated "Ireland is open for business".

He said the removal of plans for the levy should be seen "as part of Ireland's economic revival".

"When the Poolbeg incinerator opens Dublin will not send one tonne of waste to landfill," he said.

The move was, however, criticised by Green Party leader Eamon Ryan who said it was a "remarkable reversal" of policy and one which "gives the green light to a project that could cost the Irish people dearly".

"It will scupper the development of recycling," he said.

The Irish Waste Management Association, which has been critical of incineration, said the move could see the State's environment fund run out.

Environmental levies such as the plastic bag tax and landfill levies are directed to the environment fund to be used on environmental projects, including the cleaning up of illegal dumps.

But Mr Hogan said: "Ireland's immediate challenge is to move away from its overdependence on landfill.

"Almost two-thirds of waste still goes to landfill and Ireland must comply with strict limits under the landfill directive."

He said the State needed an alternative to landfill and incineration was the only alternative.

A spokeswoman for Mr Hogan added that the move was also in line with a review by the National Competitive Council which said a levy was inappropriate until the industry was established here.

Mr Hogan has not ruled out an incineration levy at a later date.

The Irish Times


Farmers may need planning to drain wetlands

THERE HAS been angry farmer reaction to proposed new environmental regulations which could mean farmers having to get planning permission to reclaim swampy scrubland or wetlands.

Unless the measures are implemented, EU authorities will levy fines on Ireland of between €4,000 and €33,000 per day.

The European Court of Justice ruled Ireland's environmental impact assessment ( EIA) screening for certain agricultural developments was in breach of EU directives.
To avoid daily fines, which could rise as high as €33,000 per day after July 23rd, regulations are being prepared by the Departments of the Environment and Agriculture.
Details of what is required by the EU were given to the farm organisations last Friday, and they include provisions which will see farmers having to apply for planning permission to drain or reclaim wetlands.

The permission will be needed if the area exceeds a quarter of an acre and a full-scale EIA will be required for drainage work on about five acres of wetlands.
The organisations were told the new restrictions would apply to the Shannon Callows, turloughs, swamps, marshlands or river flood plains.
Regulations are also being drawn up on the removal of field boundaries, semi-natural areas and drainage and irrigation projects.
The president of the Irish Cattle and Sheepfarmers Association, Gabriel Gilmartin, described the new regulations as "an outrageous assault on property rights and the concept of freedom to farm".

He said it would result in many land-improvement projects being shelved.
It was bureaucracy gone mad, he said, restricting a farmer's right to improve his land without getting official consent.

"For some time now farmers have had to put up with Big Brother watching them, but it's now got to the stage that Big Brother wants more, including the right to interfere and frustrate progressive farming," said Mr Gilmartin.

"It also opens up the appalling vista of An Taisce and other assorted serial objectors intervening in normal farming operations on land that they don't own and in farming decisions for which they have no economic responsibility or liability. "The reality is that many worthwhile reclamation projects will be made impossible due to the high cost of an EIA, and many more will be discouraged by the whole process of having to ask permission," he said.

The Irish Farmers' Association said it wanted the Ministers for Agriculture and the Environment to raise the issue at the next EU Council of Ministers meeting so practical political solutions could be reached.

SEÁN Mac CONNELL Agriculture Correspondent
The Irish Times


Experts to review power line

THE MINISTER for Energy Pat Rabbitte is to establish an expert international commission to look at the controversial North South electricity interconnector

Pat Rabbitte said the commission which would look at “the case for, and cost of, undergrounding all or part of the Meath-Tyrone 400KV power lines”. He will finalise the composition of the three-person commission over the next few days.

The Minister said the group would be required to complete its work by October and report back within six months.

Proponents of the interconnector say it is needed to improve electricity competition by reducing constraints to the all-island electricity market and also to improve security of supply.

The establishment of the commission follows the collapse last June of the planning process for the interconnector which was estimated to cost € 280 million.

An error in the original application for the line through Meath, Cavan and Monaghan forced the States electricity network operator, Eirgrid, to withdraw the application during a Bord Pleanála hearing into the issue. A review found incorrect information was supplied by ESB International.

Irish Times


Men within their rights to have church building demolished

THE OWNERS of a landmark former church building near Croke Park had the law on their side when they began demolition work on it three years ago, the High Court has ruled.

Mr Justice John MacMenamin said the consequence of his decision, that partial demolition work on the former Methodist Church on Jones’s Road did not require planning permission, would be its entire demolition. He has adjourned making specific orders for two weeks.

He was giving his reserved judgment upholding a challenge by Co Mayo businessman John Healy to decisions by Dublin City Council and An Bord Pleanála that the demolition work on the building was not exempted development.

Mr Healy, with Adrian McNally, Liam Healy and Sham Rudden Abehim, bought the building in January 2007. It had been used for commercial purposes for a number of years and the purchasers planned to redevelop it.

While conscious the church was a local landmark, a familiar point of reference for Croke Park patrons, and that his decision may annoy and frustrate local residents, it was the duty of the court to uphold the law, he said.

Mr Justice MacMenamin noted the building had no architectural, archaeological, environmental or scientific designation and was not identified as a protected structure in the city development plan 2005-2011. Before they bought it, the partners examined the legal status of the property and were satisfied there were no restrictions on its demolition, the judge said.

Regulations introduced in 2008 around the same time as the demolition work was carried out did not come into force in time to save this building. This was a single integrated development which started before the regulations came in, he ruled. Therefore it must be treated as what it was at the outset, an exempted development.

Irish Times


Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Planning rethink needed to address suburban future

ANALYSIS: Population trends show we are heading towards an unsustainable future of dependency on cars

DESPITE PLANNING policies to consolidate our cities and official commitments to “sustainable development”, preliminary results from this year’s census show Ireland heading inexorably towards a suburban future and locking itself into long-term car dependency.

Commuterland is king, enthroned by the motorways that cost €20 billion-plus; these new arteries have made it possible for so many people to live in the midlands or Border areas and work in Dublin. Long-distance commuting is also the pattern elsewhere in Ireland.

At a regional level, the mideast (Meath, Kildare and Wicklow) no longer has the highest rate of net inward migration, and has fallen behind the midland and Border regions. “This represents the expansion of Dublin’s commuter belt into these regions,” the report says.

It would also seem that the State may reach a population of 5 million by 2020 – unless emigration grows substantially – and this would have huge implications on public services, particularly health and education.

“It is therefore imperative that Government looks to the future and moves forward the planning and design of strategic projects to ensure there is a pipeline of ‘shovel-ready’ schemes,” according to Paul Keogh, president of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland.

There is evidence, however, that emigration is gathering pace. While there was “strong net inward migration” in 2006 and 2007, “this was followed by a switch to net outward migration in more recent years”, the census reveals – and it is likely that this trend will grow.

The saddest statistic in the figures released yesterday is the 5 per cent decline in Limerick city’s population since 2006. It also recorded the greatest net outflow of people, at 17.2 per thousand, indicating that something is seriously wrong with its city life.

The population of Cork city also fell, by a marginal 0.4 per cent. And like Limerick, population growth was picked up in its hinterland, with an increase of 10.3 per cent since 2006. In Limerick’s case, the census recorded an increase of 8.3 per cent in the county area.

Limerick city’s district electoral division of Galvone B lost nearly 44 per cent of its population – a staggering fall in just five years. The city’s Ballynanty district electoral division also recorded a decline of nearly 16 per cent while Limerick North went down by 11 per cent.

Almost everywhere, the same pattern of suburbanisation is repeated. In Co Laois, which scored the highest population increase nationally at 20 per cent, the biggest single jump was in the district electoral division of Portlaoise Rural, where it went up by 32 per cent, even as the town’s population fell.

Sprawl is now evident all over the State. In Kerry, for example, Tralee and Killarney recorded losses, of 11.1 per cent and 5.1 per cent respectively, while a census map of population density per sq km shows large pink areas extending far outside their boundaries.

Some of the decline is due to the “empty nest syndrome”, with grown-up children moving elsewhere. This would account for Ballymun, in Dublin city, falling by 17 per cent; Mionlach, in Galway city (down 13 per cent) and Kilnamanagh, in South Dublin (down nearly 10 per cent).

With the single exception of Dublin’s north Docklands, which racked up a spectacular 85.4 per cent rise in population over the past five years, the highest levels of growth were in suburban or formerly rural areas – led by The Ward in rural Fingal, with its 57.9 per cent increase.

Balbriggan Rural was up by 57.5 per cent; Kilcoole, Co Wicklow (44 per cent); Glencullen, in rural Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown (28.3 per cent), Jobstown in Tallaght (22.9 per cent), Lucan-Esker (15.5 per cent), Navan Rural (12.6 per cent) and Blakestown, Fingal (11.4 per cent).

Inevitably, the census has also confirmed Ireland’s over-production of new homes. The number of houses or apartments in the State increased more rapidly than the population – by 13.3 per cent, to more than 2 million, compared to 8.1 per cent for the population.

More significant is where this happened. The largest rise (21.2 per cent) was recorded in Co Laois, followed by Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim and Longford (all above 19 per cent), while the lowest increases were in Co Limerick and the five cities. So much for urban “consolidation”.

There has also been an increase of 10.5 per cent in the number of vacant houses or apartments, compared to 2006. With just over 30 per cent of its homes vacant, Co Leitrim again leads the field, followed by Donegal (28.5 per cent), Kerry (26.5 per cent) and Mayo (24.8 per cent).

This would suggest that many of the vacant units were holiday homes, although the Central Statistics Office said enumerators were told to look for signs such as “no furniture, no cars outside, junk mail accumulating, overgrown garden, etc” before classifying them as vacant.

More surprisingly, one in 10 houses or apartments in Dublin city was classified as vacant at the time of the census last April. This is emphatically not a holiday home phenomenon, but rather more evidence of the fragility of the housing market.

Fingal County Council will take comfort from the population growth in its administrative area of 13.8 per cent, and is likely to use this to bolster the case for Metro North. The growth rate in Cavan was marginally higher, at 13.9 per cent.

What the preliminary results of the census show is that there is now a pressing need to review the National Spatial Strategy, originally drawn up in 2002, and to focus on a smaller number of “gateways” and “hubs” if we are to have any chance of achieving sustainability.

Irish Times


Temple Bar uncovered

INNER-CITY LIFE: After 20 years of regeneration, the legacy of Dublin’s “cultural quarter” is street drinking and noise pollution, writes long-term resident FRANK MCDONALD , but tourists and others living and working in Temple Bar tell KITTY HOLLAND the area’s reputational difficulties are far outweighed by its vibrancy and creativity

TEMPLE BAR TODAY is nothing at all like the run-down, laid-back, “left bank” bohemian area it once was. Nor does it, by any yardstick, measure up to the official aspirations of 20 years ago to create a “bustling cultural, residential and small- business precinct that will attract visitors in significant numbers”.

It’s a sham. There’s a branch of Tesco installed in the former ESB showrooms on Fleet Street, the Bad Ass Cafe on Crown Alley – an authentic Temple Bar pit-stop since 1983 – is in danger of being turned into a “traditional Irish bar” and the big burger chains are eyeing Frankie’s in Temple Bar Square. The sell-out is nearly complete.

The huge hole in the middle of Meeting House Square is not just archaeological, it’s a symbol of the hollowness at the heart of Temple Bar. Everything that was said about it when Charles J Haughey inaugurated this grand projet in 1991 has turned out to be untrue. And they are still lying, or deluding themselves, to this day.

During the St Patrick’s Day festivities this year, every alcove, alley and doorway in the area was used as a pissoir. The scenes were disgusting beyond belief. On every street, men with far too many pints on board were urinating in public, and some were also vomiting – although that’s usually done by the vodka spritzer-laden girls.

Throughout the year, and particularly in summer, Temple Bar is trashed on a nightly basis by drunken louts, drug addicts, graffiti vandals and indifferent bands of buskers with portable amplifiers. The primary culture of Dublin’s designated “cultural quarter” is a street-drinking culture, catered for by many of its 30 bars or nightclubs.

Turning the area into the “Temple of Bars”, as former An Taisce chairman Michael Smith once dubbed it, was never part of the official agenda; indeed, the word “pubs” was barely mentioned back in 1991. Neither did the city planners have any hesitation in granting permission for new pubs and extensions to existing licensed premises.

Nearly an acre of extra licensed space was shovelled into the area in the first five years of the Temple Bar project. Small neighbourhood bars were turned into mega-pubs and “hotels” materialised out of nowhere, purely as vehicles to get licences for large public bars at ground-floor level and a “function room” (nightclub) in their basements.

When Group 91 Architects won the 1991 competition for the Temple Bar Architectural Framework Plan, they gathered in Flannery’s pub to celebrate. At that time, it consisted of a single room. Now, as the much-photographed Temple Bar pub, it extends to 929sq m (10,000sq ft) and teems with tourists.

Its massive expansion was facilitated by Temple Bar Properties (TBP), the State agency set up to oversee the development of the area, and approved to benefit from highly-lucrative tax incentives by Temple Bar Renewal (TBR), a separate agency that was supposed to ensure there would be a balanced mix of uses in redeveloping the area.

But the senior Department of the Environment official on TBR’s board, Finian Matthews, insisted that it had no power to control the extent of any use, including pubs – so it became a rubber stamp. It was not until 1998 that the High Court ruled that it was “mandatory” for TBR to refuse approval for uses that would be “detrimental” to the area.

Delusion has been at the core of the Temple Bar project since its inception, when Paddy Teahon – then assistant secretary of the Taoiseach’s Department – was TBP’s first managing director. But hype reached new heights after his hand-picked successor, Laura Magahy, took over in 1992, ably assisted by Patricia Quinn as cultural director.

Dubbed “the linen and lipstick sisters”, this pushy pair were “driven by a vision; we know what we want and we are going to get it”, as Quinn said in 1993. “We make no apologies.” They also played their cards close to the chest. “That’s the dark side of our good qualities. We give the necessary information to the right people at the right time.”

Three years later, before moving on to become director of the Arts Council, Quinn edited a lavishly-illustrated book to celebrate TBP’s achievements – already garlanded by a raft of architectural, planning and urban design awards. Titled Temple Bar: The Power of an Idea, some said it should have been sub-titled The Idea of the Power.

TBP’s role, as Magahy said, was to “make interventions” in the area to secure its objectives. These included developing Fitzsimons Hotel in partnership with its operators, two builder brothers from Cavan. It now bills itself as a “party venue with roof terrace . . . live on five floors . . . seven nights a week . . . live acts/bands and DJs . . . late-night bar and club”.

TBP was directly involved in the creation of three other large new pubs – the Porterhouse, the Front Lounge and the Czech Inn – and in facilitating the extension of three more. So even as wonderful cultural facilities such as The Ark were being planned, TBP was collaborating with the licensed trade in giving it “critical mass”.

A culture of entitlement is pervasive. Pubs, nightclubs and venues feel entitled to blast the neighbourhood with noise from heavily-amplified music or live bands. Only after time-consuming and expensive legal actions by residents – including me – have some had to put limits on this “entertainment noise breakout”; others carry on regardless.

Venues take no responsibility for the behaviour of their patrons after they leave the premises, even for a smoke. As a result, and particularly at weekends, raucous crowds gather outside pubs and nightclubs or maraud around the streets, roaring and shouting until they finally drift off. A couple of hours later, noisy cleansing vehicles pick up after them.

Policing is of the “light touch” variety, like the lack of regulation of the financial sector during the boom. Gardaí on the beat regard it as “normal” that intolerable levels of noise emanate from licensed premises, or from buskers in the streets. “It’s an entertainment zone – what do you expect?” they would say.

Temple Bar has also become the graffiti capital of Dublin. Where I live, we have to paint our front door several times a year and clean it even more often because of persistent “tagging” by teenage vandals. TBP’s successor, Temple Bar Cultural Trust (TBCT), doesn’t bother cleaning the buildings it owns any more, because the problem is so endemic.

Contrast this with the nearly graffiti-free status of both the northside and southside retail cores, which are covered by the Dublin City Business Improvement District (BID). Established in 2008, the BID is funded by a levy on commercial ratepayers in the area that raises €3 million a year to deliver a “cleaner, green and safer city”.

A year later, after employing specialised contractors with power-hoses, BID chief executive Richard Guiney was able to say that graffiti had almost entirely vanished. “We’ve removed more than 5,000sq m to date. It really has been a great success and it’s when you walk outside of the BID area that you really become of aware of it,” he said in 2009.

Most of the publicans in Temple Bar are paid-up members of Traders in the Area Supporting the Cultural Quarter, known as TASCQ. It has an annual budget of €300,000 – chickenfeed in the context of their aggregate profits – which is spent on marketing, extra street cleaning, environmental initiatives, cultural events and business services.

TBCT campaigned against the BID when it was first mooted in 2007 and then ensured that Temple Bar was excluded from its remit. The trust argued that, by working with its pals in TASCQ, it was already doing the same thing. Sure hadn’t Temple Bar won the Dublin City Neighbourhood of the Year award?

But several of its “flagship” cultural projects didn’t survive. Arthouse, a “multimedia centre for the arts”, was the first to go, followed by the Viking Adventure in the former church of SS Michael and John, which TBP had gutted, and Designyard, a gallery featuring the best of Irish design – it is now TBCT’s headquarters.

The shop windows of the Green Building have been boarded up since Haus moved out some two years ago, while its wind turbines rust away on the roof. There have been rows over rent with high-profile TBCT tenants such as Eden and the Button Factory, and neither it nor FilmBase (formerly Arthouse) have been re-painted since 1996.

TBCT has a policy of “sweating the assets” it owns or controls; that’s why nearly half of the groundplane of Temple Bar Square has been privatised, carved up between the restaurants and cafes around it. Now it’s in the process of installing a rainscreen in Meeting House Square, supported by four pylons, to make more use of this space.

Last August, TBCT staged Funky Seomra in the square. Billed as “an alcohol and drug-free festival nightclub”, it ran over a whole weekend and was one of the noisiest gigs ever in Temple Bar. The company itself estimates that 20 to 30 “commercial hires” per year would be needed to make the €2 million rainscreen project viable.

A public singing and dancing licence (the one that covers nightclubs) has already been obtained for the square, which would allow events to be run there until 2.30am. And even TBCT’s own acoustic consultant admits – not in these words, of course – that heavy bass noise will leak out all over the place, up to a level of 96 decibels.

To put this in context and bearing in mind that the decibel scale is logarithmic, the ambient sound level in Temple Bar (without amplified buskers) has been put at 60db – below the level of other city centre streets, due to the absence of traffic. And the city council’s noise control unit says any increase above 5db constitutes noise pollution.

But TBCT may not be long for this world. The city council, which is now its “parent”, has commissioned an independent review of the organisation focusing on issues such as corporate governance, board representation, the economic model underpinning its activities, and whether the trust is fulfilling its brief as a cultural promoter and enabler.

Laura Magahy – “Ms Temple Bar”, as she was called – has long since re-established herself in the private sector, with a consultancy company (MCO) specialising in sustainable design and project management. She remains a “mover and shaker” as chair of the Crafts Council and past president of the Institute of Directors in Ireland.

After leaving Temple Bar in 2000, she won a lucrative contract to provide executive services for the ill-fated “Bertie Bowl” and Sports Campus Ireland at Abbotstown, then headed by her old friend Paddy Teahon, and a similar contract for the equally ill-fated Digital Hub development in Dublin’s Liberties, which was also overseen by Teahon.

Given that there is so little to show for the sports campus and even less physical evidence of the Digital Hub, the Jekyll and Hyde character of Temple Bar must be regarded as Magahy and Teahon’s lasting legacy to Dublin. Yes, it was saved from being blitzed for a bus station and transportation centre. But at what price?

Owen Hickey, who looked after CIÉ’s low-rent portfolio before becoming TBP’s property director, says: “The ‘mini-bohemia’ everyone recognised as worth saving – colourful, edgy, rough-grained and utterly benign – was destroyed by the initiative because grittiness wasn’t part of the agenda.” As a result, it was a “total failure”.

“We made mistakes with the bars and hotels, but what happened was an accident. A great Dublin version of the English Market in Cork could have been done in Fleet Street, where a multi-storey carpark is today, but the Department of Finance’s insistence on a minimum 5 per cent return on commercial projects was the real killer,” Hickey says.

That’s what turned Temple Bar into the boisterous changeling it is today. Apart from its loss-leader cultural centres, he believes TBP’s ambitious residential programme – which raised the bar for city centre living – was one of the “good things” that happened. “Out of the ashes of our dreams came some sort of redemption,” he says wistfully.

Willie White ddirector of the Project Arts Centre

“I remember Temple Bar back in 1990, when it was pretty run-down and shabby, with a lot of derelict buildings. It was kind of exciting too. Clearly now a lot has changed and for the better mostly.

“There are proper venues and spaces now for artists and performers and that cultural aspect has been the durable, lasting piece of Temple Bar.

“The perception that it is all tourists here is easy and wrong. At least 50 per cent of the people coming into Temple Bar are Dubliners or Irish. People forget there are a lot of venues, like ourselves, the IFI, gigs which bring people into the area. It’s not just full of stag parties. Like anywhere there are nice bars and not nice bars.

“I think there are further opportunities to do interesting, enlightened things in the area, like the Exchange on Essex Street, which is a collective arts centre run by 16 to 23-year-olds. There are opportunities to do interesting things that may not work in other areas and that is down to the cultural infrastructure we have here.” KH

Leo Enright broadcaster and Temple Bar resident

“There have always been people living in Temple Bar of course, but we were among the new colonisers. We’ve been here about 20 years. I never had any misgivings and have always loved it here.

“The thing is if you want peace and quiet you should move to the suburbs or the country.

“The artistic side of Temple Bar has been very successful and there are aspects which are often overlooked – like the Ark children’s theatre which is a wonderful resource, and the other theatres, the IFI, the live music venues, the gallery of photography and other galleries. The markets are wonderful.

“Yes, some of the pubs are ghastly, but there are the lovely Palace and the Ha’penny Bridge Inn. There are also a lot of little treasures, little shops which I think a lot of Dublin people don’t actually realise are there.

“The noise at night is a real issue for residents. That does lead to tensions. You learn more about the physics of noise production living here than you would care to.

“There are other negatives – the constant road works, the fact people wandering through the area tend to walk very slowly, which is maddening if you are in a hurry behind a gang of them.

“And people give out about the drug addicts and the homeless in the area, but I am desperately conscious that these are human beings too and the vast majority of them are harmless souls living desperate lives.”

Michael and Joyce Seabrook from Derbyshire, UK

“We just arrived last night and we wandered down here quite late and well, it’s fantastic. We had a lot of fun in one of the bars. They were playing traditional music. The drinks were a bit expensive though. We’re talking €8 for a couple of drinks.

The shops are lovely and there is a nice Irish feel about the place. We’d definitely tell people from home to come here to Temple Bar.

We’ll probably be back here ourselves tonight.”

Allain Guilherme from Brazil

“I am studying English here and I pass through Temple Bar every day. I haven’t been in Dublin long, about five weeks, but I like Temple Bar yes. It has a good atmosphere.

“I like some of the pubs – the Temple Bar and the Garage – it plays good music and the beer is not too expensive. I like it. I would tell friends to come and spend time here.”

Frank Jacoby from Philadelphia, US. Living in Dublin since 1986

“What do I think of Temple Bar? Not much. Maybe it’s the age bracket I am in that I am not attracted to this area.

“It is nice to see businesses doing well and the cultural and artistic side seems to be doing well, but the common reputation is that it is an area full of hen and stag nights and excessive drinking.

“I think it is probably a nice place for young people to meet up, but it’s not much of a culinary venue. I wouldn’t rate the restaurants. I would bring visitors here but I’d also bring them to lots of other places in Dublin. Places I do like are the more quiet spots – the Palace bar or the Porterhouse.”

Steven Collins from Dun Laoghaire

“I think of it primarily as a tourist destination but I think it has been tarnished a bit by the stag and hen party label. It is making progress on the cultural front and the Saturday market is very good in Meeting House Square – though I think that has been moved to Cow’s Lane for a while.

“I work in a software company in Temple Bar so I walk through every day. I like the vibe of the place and there are great restaurants and coffee shops for lunch.

“I would bring visitors here though I’d probably also tell them to go to other parts of Dublin. It’s good here, not as bad as Disneyland.”

Mary Harkin owner of Rory's Fishing Tackle the area's oldest shop

“Well we have been open for 52 years so I worked here as a child and have been working day-to-day here for four years.

“It was my grandfather who opened it. He used to work in the ESB on Fleet Street and he was mad about fishing. He had worked in every fishing shop in town. He spotted a vacant shop and decided to open one of his own.

“Business is going well, all things considered. It’s an advantage being in an area with a lot of tourists, you’d be surprised. A lot see the shop and come in and want to buy presents for people that are a bit different. We have trout and salmon flies that are different to those used in the States.

“There’s a great community atmosphere among the business owners here too, which I don’t think you’d get as much in other parts of the city. We look out for each other.”

Zvjezdana Drasner from Croatia

“It’s nice here. I came because I read in a book it is a nice place to come and visit, like a place where there are artists and people doing performances.

I like how it looks. I like the architecture and the old buildings. The only thing I don’t like is the pigeons. I don’t like pigeons.”

Joseph Raymond and Tabatha Lynch from Boston, US

“We’ve been in Dublin two days. I just heard from my clients – I’m a hairdresser – that Temple Bar would be an area we would find interesting,” says Lynch. “They said I would be interested in the artists and the atmosphere and the things going on here.”

“It is great here. It’s so quaint and such a change from the Boston area,” adds Raymond

High hopes: what they said then

“The redevelopment of the Temple Bar area will make history in the life of this city. It is a distinctive part of Dublin frequented by young people, attracted by the unique ambience of the area, where art and cultural activities have begun to flourish spontaneously . . . This old and well-loved part of Dublin will be restored to prime condition, which it deserves.”

Charles J Haughey then taoiseach, introducing the Temple Bar Renewal and Development Bill on July 2nd, 1991

“The Taoiseach seems to want to leave some sort of monument to himself when he moves off stage, like Ceausescu in Romania, to leave some kind of city landmarks with the words ‘Charles J Haughey was the man who thought of this, ran this or organised that’.”

Tomás MacGiolla then leader of the Workers’ Party, speaking in the Dáil debate

“The mission we have set ourselves in Temple Bar Properties Ltd is to create Dublin’s Cultural Quarter in Temple Bar, building on what has already taken place spontaneously in the area . . . The result will be a bustling cultural, residential and small business precinct of charm and distinction that will attract visitors in significant numbers.”

Paddy Teahon TBP’s first managing director and then assistant secretary in the Taoiseach’s Department, on October 4th, 1991

“I have personally great hopes for the Temple Bar area. I want it to be a hustling-bustling quarter teeming with bistros and bars, cafes and counters, art and artefacts of every sort. Dublin needs an ambience where young people can identify as their own, whether in terms of music, fashion, art, dancing, food or fun.”

Bertie Ahern then finance minister

“Temple Bar is Dublin’s cultural quarter. One of Europe’s most innovative and successful urban renewal projects, it is a vibrant, living community in which residents, artists, visitors, cultural organisations and small businesses co-exist . . .

“Temple Bar encapsulates all the reasons why people are moving back into the city centre . . . an interesting and congenial environment with shops, restaurants and entertainment close at hand . . . a model for city-living principles.”

TBP’s development programme review, 1996

“Temple Bar is a working model of sustainable development in an urban context . . . a tremendous success ... [and] a key contributor to making Dublin what it is today: one of the most exciting cities in Europe.”

Brendan Howlin then minister for the environment, on July 5th, 1996.

Irish Times


Seven-level car park in Cavan town 'millstone round the council's neck'

BUILDING A seven-level car park behind Cavan’s Main Street was an idea that the late county manager Brian Johnson ran with. But the way in which it was procured was complex, involving a local construction company and investors availing of tax incentives.

According to Pacelli Lynch, of Cavan chamber, there was “absolutely no demand from retailers in the town for such an extravagant car park”.

Even at the height of the boom it was rarely used, and now it had become “a millstone round the [town] council’s neck”.

Town manager Ger Finn said the proposal “came in from developers” and a report by Dublin-based economic consultants had forecast it would be viable. However, demand had remained low and the council was “still paying towards the cost”, using revenue from surface parking.

The car park – long seen as a “white elephant” – was built by Cavan builders P Elliott and Co (now in receivership, with debts of €120 million) and sold to the Virginia Consortium, which then leased it to the town council and its wholly-owned operating company Glassell Ltd.

Glassell, which is effectively a subsidiary of Cavan Town Council, recorded a loss of €504,637 in 2009, according to its annual report for the year. Its outgoings in operating the car park amounted to €549,280, while revenue was only €45,775.

Under an agreement dated December 14th, 2001, Glassell and the town council agreed to pay a yearly rent of IR£315,000 (€399,967) for the facility until 2014 “and thereafter to pay such increased rent as may be determined” under a review every five years.

Having already paid the Virginia Consortium €3.6 million in rent over the past nine years, the council has now agreed to purchase it in 2014 for €6.5 million. The nine members of the consortium have also received the benefit of lucrative tax incentives.

Under a 1998 scheme to encourage the development of multi-storey car parks – one of the fiscal measures that inflated the property bubble – they would have been entitled to write off 50 per cent of the capital cost of its construction against their tax liabilities.

The members of the Virginia Consortium are: John Brennan, Ashlawn, Ballinteer, Dublin; David Simpson, Fortfield Park, Terenure, Dublin; Brendan Horan, Castledillon, Straffan, Co Kildare; Alan Dillon, Deerpark, Castleknock, Dublin; Gerard Dillon, Avoca Park, Blackrock, Co Dublin; Anthony Gallagher, Herbert Park, Ballsbridge, Dublin; Richard McHale, Castilla Park, Clontarf, Dublin; Eileen Monaghan, Ballincar, Co Sligo; John Lynch, Bellevue Park, Blackrock, Co Dublin; Owen Owens, The Burnaby, Greystones, Co Wicklow, and Gerard Ryan, Pallas Green, Co Limerick.

At their June meeting members of Cavan Town Council were told by town clerk Brian Hora that the electricity bill for lighting the car park was more than €25,000 per year – over half of the annual revenue – and there were plans to cut this by changing the lighting system.

A report by a project team set up to examine what could be done to make the car park more attractive before the council purchases it in 2014 proposed increasing the width of parking spaces (thereby reducing the number) as well as improving access and signage.

The renovation costs, which have yet to be quantified, would have to be met by Glassell rather than the owners.

The cost of building the car park is unknown, but it would have been considerably less than the €10 million earned by the Virginia Consortium for its investment.

Irish Times


Tesco to seek planning permission for 5,000sq m superstore in Cavan

TESCO IRELAND is to seek planning permission within weeks from Cavan Town Council for a much larger store than its existing Main Street outlet. And it would be on an elevated site to the rear – acquired from the council itself.

Along with Cavan County Council, which owned part of it, the cash-strapped town council agreed to sell the nine-acre site, much of which would be used to provide some 400 free surface car parking spaces, to Tesco for €4.5 million.

The supermarket group, which is now the world’s third-largest retail chain (after Walmart and Carrefour), is also contributing €1.5 million towards the construction of a new inner relief road that would serve the proposed development on Cock Hill.

The town council needs the money. Since 2002, it has been paying rent of €400,000 per year for a multi-storey car park that is seriously under-patronised by shoppers; the peak occupancy rate for its 400 spaces is 30 per cent.

But this car park does not form part of Tesco’s plans. It is physically separated by a bowling alley from the site acquired by the company. Instead, Tesco will lay out free surface parking with direct access for shoppers to its new 5,000sq m superstore.

Given that there is a 15m difference in levels between Cock Hill and the town centre, an external staircase and liftshaft would link the new car park to the sloping car park that currently serves Tesco’s outlet on Main Street and other shops.

The company intends to put its existing store on the market. “We’ve spoken to people in the market and had a very positive response from quite large retailers wanting to get into Cavan,” said Michael Sullivan, customer liaison manager with Tesco Ireland.

Penneys, Next and A-Wear are believed to be interested, as there is a shortage of large retail units in the town, according to town manager Ger Finn. Tesco would not, of course, contemplate a sale of the existing 3,000sq m store to any of its rivals.

But Pacelli Lynch, former president of Cavan chamber, said 20 per cent of commercial units in the town centre were empty and 35 per cent were in arrears on their rental payments. “If Tesco puts them under pressure, I could see half of them going under.”

He was astonished when both town and county councillors voted to approve the sale of land to Tesco. “To position a superstore on top of a hill with its back to the town core and its own private customer car park is flawed because it will kill the town centre.”

Having sold Tesco the site, Mr Lynch said the town council would now find itself “acting as judge and jury in its own court” in dealing with the imminent planning application.

“It should have carried out its own retail impact assessment before agreeing to the sale.

“We know from other towns that have experienced ‘Tescopoly’, the final result is devastation for the original town core and for peripheral towns,” he said.

“Statistics show that for every job created by a superstore, 1.5 to two jobs are lost in the locality.”

In Cavan’s case, he said this would be compounded if the company also got approval for an adjoining petrol filling station.

Mr Sullivan insisted that this was not part of the plans and said Tesco would seek to “integrate” the new store with the town centre.

“We’re fully confident that, by working with the chamber of commerce, we can have strong linkages that will draw people to and from Main Street. This benefits us as well as the town centre and we’ll continue to work with the chamber and the council on that.”

Mr Sullivan said Tesco saw the new store as a “great opportunity” to hold Cavan customers in the town, rather than having them go to Enniskillen or “get on the M3 and drive to Blanchardstown”. This would also have a “spin-off” for other retailers in Cavan.

Tesco previously considered relocating its Cavan store to Lakelands Retail Park on the Dublin road, 1.5km from the town centre, but it was told by the town council that this was not a runner. This eventually led to the site on Cock Hill being selected for the scheme.

“We were between a rock and a hard place”, Mr Finn said. “Cavan is also a town of humps and hollows, and where Tesco is planning to build its new store is a big drumlin really. But at least it’s close to the main street rather than on the outside of town.”

Irish Times