Monday 13 November 2006

Newspaper stories relevant to Irish planning (7-13 November)

Newspaper stories relevant to Irish planning (7-13 November)

1. Ireland’s planning fees receive Court backing:

The European Court of Justice yesterday backed Ireland's stance of asking for up to €45 in fees from people who want to object to new buildings on environmental grounds.

The court's decision represents a blow to environmental campaigners who had lobbied the European Commission to take
Ireland to court over the fees, arguing they discouraged people from raising planning objections.

The planning fees are €20 for planning observations and €45 for appeals, but the Luxembourg court said the fees "cannot be regarded as constituting [an] obstacle" to third parties wanting to lodge a complaint.

The case against the fees was taken by the European Commission following a complaint by Friends of the Irish Environment on behalf of 68 community and environmental groups in 2000.

It concerns an EU law that says consent for public and private projects likely to have "significant effects on the environment" should be granted only after prior assessment of the impact has been carried out.

These assessments can be supplemented by "people who may be concerned by the project in question".

The commission argued that EU law does not expressly authorise levying fees, and they could create an obstacle "particularly for persons of low income".

However, the court argued that it was within member states' discretion to impose such a fee so long as it was not too high.

2. Planning permission for hotel complex on Haughey estate

An Bord Pleanála yesterday gave the go-ahead for the development of a hotel complex and tourism facilities on the estate of the late taoiseach Charles Haughey at Kinsealy, Co Dublin.

The board gave approval to Manor Park Homes for a 70-bedroom hotel, a spa leisure centre, an 18-hole golf course and "tourist residential units" and houses on the 200-acre Abbeville estate.

However, it laid down 35 conditions to the development, including provision to protect Abbeville house and demesne in which Mr Haughey's widow, Maureen Haughey, still lives.

The board said Abbeville shall remain "an integral element" of the demesne, and that the house shall not be separated from the demesne with boundaries. It also laid down conditions to protect the natural environment.

While there was no official comment from the Haughey family or from Manor Park Homes, it is understood that Mrs Haughey has made no decision about leaving Kinsealy, and has no immediate plans to do so.

The board ruled that some of the proposed 14 "residential tourist units" be relocated, and that the number of houses that can be built reduced.

Fingal County Council's initial decision to give planning permission to the plan was appealed by An Taisce, which said the scheme was "ill-conceived" because it would compromise an architectural conservation area and failed to make any provision for the future use of, and public access to, Abbeville house.

An Taisce had argued there was "huge public interest" in the treatment of Abbeville because of its recent political history and the circumstances of its acquisition by Haughey and its sale in 2003.

It had argued that the first preference in any development affecting a country house with a walled garden was to protect that garden as a planted area.

It said the environmental impact study was inadequate in considering the significance of the walled garden.

In a statement last night, An Taisce said it "noted with interest" the board's decision not to accept its inspector's recommendation to refuse permission on traffic grounds.

It said it also noted that significant conditions to protect the natural environment have been included in the ruling, and conditions to protect the architectural significance of Abbeville house and demesne.

It welcomed the decision that the Trim trail and pedestrian pathway should open to the public, but added it was disappointed that the significant issue of project splitting has not been addressed.

In its decision yesterday, the board said the proposed development would "not seriously injure" the architectural, residential and environmental amenities of the area. It said the development would be acceptable in terms of traffic safety and convenience, and would be in accordance with proper planning and sustainable development of the area.

It said it had not accepted the inspector's recommendation to refuse permission, arguing that revised drawings and documentation submitted in August overcame the inspector's concerns over access to the
Malahide Road.

Haughey, who died last June, sold his estate in 2003 to Manor Park Homes for a reported €45 million. Last February planning officials approved plans by his daughter, Eimear Mulhern, to build a house in the grounds.

3. €20m Croagh Patrick development given go-ahead

Planning permission has been granted by An Bord Pleanála for a €20 million four-star hotel, health spa and apartment complex, near the base of Croagh Patrick in Co Mayo.

An Taisce, the National Trust, had objected to the development at Murrisk for heritage and archaeological reasons.

But Murrisk Development Association argued that a hotel was badly needed to cater for the estimated 100,000 pilgrims who climb Croagh Patrick every year.

Following lengthy deliberations on the issue, An Bord Pleanála has ruled in favour of the developer, Thomas S Joyce, c/o John Halligan,
Barrack Street, Charlestown.

Planning permission, however, is subject to 18 conditions, one of which stipulates that the number of bedrooms must be reduced from 80 to 52, and the number of apartments from 32 to 26.

Mr Joyce, a builder who is a native of Castlebar but now resident in
Westport, has welcomed the board's decision. He said work on the project would get underway shortly. Murrisk Development Association, who had described An Taisce's objections as "regrettable" and "extremely disappointing," has also welcomed the decision.

Mayo County Council had granted planning permission for the development last year.

Having considered submissions on the matter, An Bord Pleanála ruled that the proposed development would not seriously injure the amenities of the area or of property in the vicinity; would not be prejudicial to public health; would be acceptable in terms of views from Croagh Patrick and surrounding scenic routes and would be acceptable in terms of traffic safety and convenience.

4. Angry residents block entrance to landfill

ENTRY to the landfill site at Kyletalisha, Portlaoise was blocked by local residents on Tuesday as they intensified their campaign to force Laois County Council do something about the smells emanating from the site.

Negotiations between the protestors, members of the Kyletalisha Monitoring Committee and officials from Laois County Council resulted in protestors calling off their protest when assurances were given that senior county council officials will meet with residents early next week.

Sheilagh Coyle, the spokesperson for the Derryguile/Kyletalisha Residents’ Association said: “We feel we have been reasonable people so far but we have had enough.”

Residents in the area have been objecting to the smell coming from the dump and despite complaining to Laois County Council say the local authority has done little to alleviate their concerns.

The residents were joined at the protest by the three county councillors on the Kyletalisha Monitoring Committee, Marty Phelan, Brian Stanley and Paddy Bracken.

“We had little opinion but to resort to this protest,” said Ms Coyle. “The residents of Derryguile/Kyletalisha have lived with this dump all their lives and have never complained.”

Ms Coyle went on to say that the residents are calling on the county council to ensure that the Kyletalisha Monitoring Committee meet on a more regular basis. “This committee last met on October 26 and the previous meeting was back in February. This is not good enough. We want the committee to have monthly meetings,” she said.

Fine Gael general election candidate Charlie Flanagan, who addressed the protestors said: “No community should put up with such smells. I’m calling on the council to put a cap on and reduce the intake to the landfill in line with the increase in recycling.”

Mr Flanagan also read from a letter from Dr Michael Henry, Senior Inspector in the Office of E n v i r o n m e n t a l Enforcement. In his letter Dr Henry said the “inade-quate management of landfill gas” at this facility “is of serious concern to the OEE”.

The OEE visited the site on Monday and said that a “gas flare” was to be commissioned on Tuesday and this would improve the management of gas odours from the facility.

Labour candidate Jim O’Brien was also on site and said it was appalling that people had to leave their homes because of the smells. “It is especially appalling that they feel forced to protest at the gate to draw attention to their concerns,” said Mr O’Brien. “The council now has a real job to rebuild people’s trust and confidence on the safe operation of this site.”

Chairman of the Monitoring Committee Cllr Marty Phelan said that as a result of the on-site meeting on Tuesday morning, the residents agreed to disperse, under protest, on the condition that the public meeting with senior council officials took place at the earliest possible date.

“If we don’t get the assurances we want I can assure you that this will be the first of many protests,” said Ms Coyle.

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