Planning story of the year from Frank McDonald!
A decision by An Bord Pleanála to refuse planning permission for three new windows in a Co Wicklow house on the basis that cattle in an adjoining field might run into them has been greeted with incredulity by planners.
The board's ruling, which was being circulated by e-mail among planners last week, is being seen by some as further evidence of a "bizarre trend" in its decisions, according to one planning consultant who did not wish to be identified.
"Since the 10-member board split up into 'boardlets' of three each to speed up decision-making on appeals, there has been a marked lack of consistency in its rulings.
"But this case in Co Wicklow marks a new low that's almost laughable," he said.
The applicant, Prof Harry Harrison, had been refused permission by Wicklow County Council to retain three new windows in his house near Killiskey, Ashford, after the owner of an adjoining field objected primarily because of the possible risk to livestock.
Prof Harrison's architect, Vincent Delaney, appealed to An Bord Pleanála, saying the existing windows of the diningroom and laundry of the house did not give adequate natural light or ventilation, as required under the building regulations.
He also claimed that there was a right of way between the house and the adjoining field and said any risk to animals would be unlikely because the toughened glass windows were 1.2 metres above ground level, which equated to the height of a field gate.
"Even dangerous zoo animals are housed behind toughened glass," he submitted.
"Opening up of the windows will cause no loss of amenity as no neighbours' residences are within sight [ and] no issues of overlooking have been raised by any party."
Alan Yarwood, the planning inspector who dealt with the appeal, recommended that permission be granted.
"I can see little basis for the suggestion that the windows would cause a danger to livestock," Mr Yarwood said in his report to the appeals board.
"Animals being pursued could be inclined to jump through a window in the mistaken belief that it provided an escape route.
"But, given that the sill level of the windows would be similar to a field gate, this seems a highly unlikely event," Mr Yarwood concluded.
"It is my view that the council's original objective . . . could equally be achieved by conditions requiring obscure glazing using toughened glass for the windows, a requirement that the windows should not open outwards, and the provision of external window bars.
"Whilst I have some sympathy with the neighbouring landowner's position . . . I find it difficult to envisage any real prejudicial effect on the legitimate use of the field which would arise through the reinstatement of the windows as suggested above."
An Bord Pleanála - or rather, the three members of the board who dealt with the case - disagreed with the planning inspector.
Refusing permission in the case, the board said the three windows would "negatively impact on the amenity and agricultural use of the adjoining field" now and in the future.
© 2007 The Irish Times