Thursday 17 April 2008

Planning board overturns council decision on private hospital

AN BÓRD PLEANÁLA overturned a county council decision yesterday and refused planning permission for a €110 million private medical clinic in Cork’s green belt.

Sheehan Medical, which operates the Blackrock Clinic in Dublin, was granted permission by Cork County Council last May to build its Cork Medical Clinic on a 5.2 hectare site at Garranedarragh, off the Bandon Road in Bishopstown.

The 80-bed hospital, which included an Enable Ireland training facility on its campus, was to employ 400 people.

But the board shot it down on four grounds yesterday. It said the project would be in an area zoned A1 Green Belt, which is awarded the “highest degree of protection” in the 2003 County Development Plan.

“It is the policy of the planning authority to resist the loss of these green belt lands to development which could otherwise be located within zoned lands except in rare and unforeseen circumstances,” the ruling said.

It said the proposed development, by reason of its proposed use and its excessive scale, would not qualify as an exceptional circumstance, would result in extensive development on a prominent, elevated ridge which forms an important part of the visual setting for Cork city, would fail to maintain the function of the greenbelt and would represent a visually obtrusive feature on the landscape.

The board highlighted the lack of public transport to the site and said the hospital would be almost entirely car-dependent.

It said it was not satisfied that adequate provision had been made to secure a proper water supply and sewerage facilities.

It said also it was not satisfied that proposed road upgrades were advanced enough to prevent traffic congestion.

James Sheehan, a director of Sheehan Medical, said he was shocked by the decision.

“We worked closely with the county council on this project. We thought we had all our i’s dotted and t’s crossed,” he said.

“We examined and analysed about a dozen sites and thought we had the right one. But now the green belt issue has come into play. I don’t understand the discrepancy between the two planning authorities.”

The project was in an advanced state with contractors appointed and ready to start work. Mr Sheehan said he was waiting for details of the board’s decision before making a decision on the next move.

Meanwhile, five appeals, including a joint appeal from Green Party Senator Dan Boyle and Green Councillor Chris O’Leary, have been lodged with the board against a decision to grant planning permission to a private co-located hospital on the grounds of Cork University Hospital.

Irish Examiner

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