Wednesday 18 July 2007

Council probes planning of ‘hangar-like’ building

CORK County Council has issued a warning letter to a wealthy businessman who travels from his home by helicopter about an alleged unauthorised hangar-like building on his land.

The council confirmed yesterday that its planning enforcement section issued Michael O’Regan with the letter on June 13 on foot of complaints about the large structure which has been erected on his land close to his family home just outside Blarney in Co Cork.

The council confirmed that the structure, which measures about 60 foot long, 30 foot wide, by about 30 foot high, does not have planning permission.

Mr O’Regan transformed Masterlink Logistics — a small family-run transport and distribution operation set up in 1983 focusing on Munster — into one of the country’s leading logistics and distribution companies with offices in Cork, Galway and Dublin.

Its customers include Waterford Crystal, Philips, Clarkes Shoes, Tesco, Blarney Woollen Mills and Smyths Toys.

Mr O’Regan was also involved in the development of Blarney Business Park.

He travels regularly by executive helicopter which lands on a helipad pad close to his home.

It is understood the complaints to the council raised concerns that the structure could be used as a hangar for a helicopter.

In its warning letter, the council said the alleged unauthorised development was brought to its attention.

It said the matter could be subject to further investigation and gave Mr O’Regan four weeks to respond.

A council spokesman confirmed that a planning consultant hired by Mr O’Regan responded in great detail within the statutory four-week period setting out his position on the matter.

In that response, Mr O’Regan accepts that he does not have planning permission for a hangar, the spokesman said.

Mr O’Regan claims that the structure is an agricultural storage shed, he added.

Such structures could be exempt from planning depending on floor space and proximity to other buildings.

“We are now examining the issues raised. A site visit by a senior planner is planned for the coming days,” the spokesman said.

Despite several attempts, Mr O’Regan was not available for comment yesterday.

Planning officials will consider Mr O’Regan’s planning consultant’s report before deciding on whether to issue enforcement proceedings.

Work started on the steel-framed structure some time in April.

Three large concrete delivery trucks were on site yesterday pouring concrete around the outside of the building, close to a vast floodlit paddock which was built last year.

Figures from the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) show that helicopter ownership in Ireland has rocketed in the last decade.

There were just 34 helicopters registered in Ireland in 1995. The figure had grown to 120 within 10 years, and at the end of 2006 had risen to 129.

By June of this year, the number of registered helicopters stood at 146.

Last month, An Bórd Pleanála upheld a Limerick city council decision to refuse planning permission for Limerick businessman Noel Kearney for helicopter-landing facilities on his land.

He had argued that the competent body to adjudicate on the matter was the IAA which had previously ruled that a “rotocraft” not being used for public transport may take off or land where there was no undue hazard, dependent on permission from the landowner.

Irish Examiner

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