Wednesday 29 November 2006

Planning: Development plan for Cork green belt

A new roundabout and proposed developments in the green belt alongside the Cork-Bandon road will not undermine the area's special zoning, the manager of Cork County Council, Maurice Moloney, has told The Irish Times.

The new roundabout at Garranedarragh, Bishopstown, is to be paid for by Castlelands Construction, a Cork-based development company owned by John Barry.

The company will gain access to nine hectares (22 acres) of land zoned for housing which it owns and which adjoins the green belt.

Permission granted in 2005 by the council for this roundabout, following an application from the housing land's then owners, Rosbridge Properties, was overturned by An Bord Pleanála in December 2005.

Senior planner at the council Nicholas Mansergh had objected to permission for the roundabout, as he felt its main function would be to open up green belt land for development.

Christopher Gethin, an inspector from An Bord Pleanála, having reviewed the issue, reported that the principal issue was "the harm which would arise from the proposed development in terms of its effect on the green belt".

A new private hospital, an Enable Ireland facility and a park- and-ride facility, which are to be built in the green belt, are to be serviced by the new roundabout. However the inspector was of the view that the private hospital and park-and-ride developments should be located elsewhere.

Mr Gethin quoted Mr Mansergh's view that "building roads and sewers deep into previously inaccessible lands close to the edge of the city would be the most effective way of subverting" the green belt.

"It is my opinion that the appearance and the function of the green belt in this area is of outstanding importance, and the need to resist the enabling role of the roundabout in facilitating these damaging developments, is correspondingly important," Mr Gethin reported. An Bord Pleanála agreed and refused permission.

Mr Moloney told The Irish Times that Castlelands Construction contacted the council in early 2006. He and the county engineer met executives of Castlelands. The executives explained that Castlelands now controlled all the land that would be affected by the roundabout.

"They said 'we control the land and can we, in partnership with the council, look at it as a public and private project, a mix?'."

The council then proceeded by way of a part 8 procedure. This mechanism can be used when a proposed development "is by a local authority or on behalf of a local authority", Mr Moloney said. An aspect of the procedure is that once the permission is granted by the elected members of the authority, it cannot be appealed to An Bord Pleanála.

Castlelands's proposal to the council involved it paying for the roundabout and donating for the park-and-ride facility. The offer made it possible for the council to use the part 8 procedure because control of the land to be affected is needed if the procedure is to be used. The new roundabout will be built on public and privately held land.

Mr Moloney said the proposed project was publicised and then voted on and approved by the elected members in July. "The reality here is that a number of public and private concerns were going to merge and benefit."

He said it was not the case that nothing could be developed on green belt land. The Cork development plan allows for hotels and care institutions to be built on green belt land, as long as the character of the green belt was maintained, he said.

Mr Moloney said the "corporate view" within the council on the roundabout proposal was different to that of Mr Mansergh.

"The layout and development of these projects will mitigate against further development of the green belt."

He said the council has successfully resisted development of green belt land.

The hospital proposal comes from SMCMC Ltd, a company associated with James and Philip Sheehan, who are also involved in private hospital projects in Dublin and Galway.

No comments: