Thursday, 1 November 2007

Campaign to save green stepped up as housing plan emerges

THE campaign to save a city green was stepped up last night after details emerged of a housing plan which could result in the loss of almost half the site.

Businessman Ken Mahon confirmed he plans to seek outline planning permission within days to build four two-storey houses on Bishopscourt Green in the Cork suburb of Bishopstown. He said his application would include a public green space of about 60% of the current 1.6 acre site.

However, if cleared by city planners, residents would lose up to 40% of the green they have maintained and enjoyed as a public amenity for the past 40 years.

The development comes almost four months after the housing estate green was put up for sale along with a house, Number 1 Park Gate Villas, which stands on a corner of the site.

Residents were shocked to learn that title to the green, which they maintained for decades, was included in the title to the house.

They raised concerns at the time that developers could snap up the entire site and apply for permission to build on it.

They mounted a major campaign, including the setting up of a website and the staging of a community fun day on the green, to highlight the issue.

Their worst fears were realised at the weekend when details of Mr Mahon’s planning application emerged.

He issued a statement to the residents’ Keep Bishopscourt Green website confirming he is the new owner of the house and green.

“I was invited to a private auction for the lands. I am a businessman, but I also feel an affinity for the area.

“The lands became available at a price where I felt that a reasonable development could be carried out which would allow for a fair return for my endeavour, and to allow for a considerable public open space.

“In the coming week, I propose to make an outline application for four houses on the lands, which will incorporate a public green area of circa 60% of the area.

“I am aware of and expect opposition from people around the area and fully acknowledge the right of those who wish to object.

“However, I want to repeat that I only purchased the lands at a level that I felt comfortable with in relation to a reasonable development, and that if ultimately if I am not successful in the planning process, then I will offer the lands up for sale again.”

He defended developers and property speculators.

“A developer is only one link in a chain in the property industry,” he said.

“To assume that greed is always attributable only to the developer is unfair.

“All houses are sited upon lands that were at one stage green areas, so nobody can expect that lands outside of their ownership should always remain green.”

A residents’ spokesman said he expects a flood of submissions and objections.

“Some people think this green is the only area under threat in this manner,” he said. “There are greens all over the country facing a similar threat.”

Irish Examiner

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