Sunday 2 January 2011

Board approval of village complex criticised

AN BORD Pleanála’s decision to approve a new housing, hotel and leisure development close to the south Galway coastal village of Oranmore has been criticised by environmentalists.

Dr Emer Colleran, a former chairwoman of An Taisce and also an Oranmore resident, said she failed to understand why the appeals board “went against local authority refusal and its own inspector’s report” in granting permission for a development which was “clearly unnecessary”.

The complex of 133 houses, a hotel and leisure centre at Oran-hill on the Maree Road, Oranmore, is on a site “liable to flooding”, Dr Colleran says. It will also cause traffic hazards and will have a negative impact on the nearby marsh, which is a special area of conservation (SAC), she said.

The application was originally for 161 residential units, and the board’s inspector’s report notes an application for this site was refused previously by the local authority because it was “in a general area which is at risk of flooding”.

The inspector said the development would not have a significant environmental impact. However, she recommended refusal due to concerns about public open space provision, and the risks to children living in the northern part of the site who would have to cross a main road to reach a park.

Proximity of houses to national primary routes was also a factor in the inspector’s refusal, as she said this separation distance did not comply with standards set in the Galway County Development Plan.However, the board subsequently approved the proposal on the basis that a number of houses would be omitted to make way for extra parkland and open space.

The Oranmore Development Association did not appeal the Oranhill application, but the association’s former planning officer Ray Lavery is concerned about another application before the board relating to a development at Moneyduff.

Overall, there has been “no joined-up thinking” in relation to Oranmore, according to himself and Dr Colleran. The village is close to protected habitats and is exposed to coastal flooding.

However, its local area plan allowed for a new Tesco development which was to have included a new town square and boardwalk. The development changes the configuration of the shoreline and obliterates views of Oranmore’s historic castle, which was refurbished by second World War submarine commander Bill King and his wife Anita Leslie.

South of Oranmore in the village of Ardrahan, resident Tom Flatley is one of a group of families taking a case to the European Parliament’s petitions committee concerning planning advice.

The group of families say they were never made aware of a report by the OPW that said their residential lands could be prone to flooding. Mr Flatley had received planning approval from Galway County Council to extend and refurbish property that he purchased in 2006, and which subsequently had to be evacuated on November 21st, 2009.

After flooding in the south Galway area in 1995, the State funded a relocation scheme for families who purchased houses in good faith which had been constructed on vulnerable land near Gort. Flatley claims one such house, which was demolished in 2001, was just 50 metres from his property.

“No one informed us of this at the time of purchase, and yet this information was with Galway County Council,” he said.

Galway County Council told Mr Flatley it would refer his case to the OPW in relation to an assistance package for house-owners where there was “no apparent solution to the flooding issue”.

However, the OPW said it could not provide compensation for houses affected by flooding, and the role of its working group was to identify “interim” flood mitigation measures. Its humanitarian assistance scheme was designed to provide financial support, but “not compensation”, it said.

Irish Times

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