Sunday 17 August 2008

Planners' jig over Flatley cottage

ORIGINALLY he wanted to build a gigantic Palladian mansion on his Kerry island, but now it looks like planners won't allow dancer Michael Flatley to build his scaled-back "cottage" with gym and staff quarters.

A flat refusal is on the cards for the multi-millionaire dancer calls a "modest" cottage on his island home on the Kenmare Bay in Co Kerry. The news will be delivered tomorrow morning -- but the dancer can appeal the decision to An Bord Pleanala.

Already the 50-year-old Lord of the Dance had been persuaded to scale down original plans for a gigantic Palladian mansion, with a total floor space of 70,000sq ft on the eastern end of Rossmore, an island just off Sneem and connected to the mainland by bridge.

He has contracted to buy practically the whole north eastern tip of the island. Originally, the plan was for a permanent home, but the new smaller house application is for a second home.

At a pre-planning meeting earlier this year, it is understood Kerry planners danced a jig at the size of what was being proposed for a site alongside an area of special conservation. They told his agents to submit a less ambitious drawing.

In a letter on the planning files in Tralee, Flatley's agents, Cork based McCutcheon Mulcahy said: "While the planning officials were very keen to accommodate Mr Flatley's housing needs in Co Kerry, it was generally felt that a Palladian house of around 70,000 sq feet would be excessive in this location."

The decision was taken to submit a plan for a smaller house. This would be for a second home for Mr Flatley who has already restored the remarkable Castle Hyde near Fermoy, Co Cork. When finally submitted, the Swiss architect-designed "cottage" on 56 acres was just 13 per cent of what Flatley wanted originally -- but was still over 9,100sq ft, several times the size of the average house in most parts of Kerry.

His planning consultants told the council the cottage would be a second home and because it involved the demolition of an existing farmhouse would meet the county development plan guidelines.

"There is a history in Kerry of large houses being permitted in the area," the planning consultants state in their submission. In any case they considered the proposal "modest in size", given the size of the site, they told the council.

Several castles as well as manor houses from the 19th century line this side of Kenmare Bay. Clashnacree House, (the first house in the country seized by the Criminal Assets Burea) Derryquin manor, and Parknasilla -- the hotel favoured by former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern when he was in office -- are just a few.

The Flatleys could count as neighbours ex-Kerry Group boss Denis Brosnan along with Eimear Mulhearn (daughter of Charles J Haughey) and her businessman husband, John.

Labelled on the design sheet: "Construction of a cottage" and designed by Geneva-based architects Andreas Durr and Associates, the immaculately drawn plans show an L-Shaped one-and-a-half-storey development which would have guest suites in a guest wing , family and facilities as well as staff quarters.

The family living room alone was to measure 1,302sq ft (121sq m).

There was to be a central courtyard and fountain along with a garage and playroom, laundry and a powder room.

Located on the eastern end of the island where there is little development, it would be entered by a private laneway and would only be visible from the water, according to one of its most ardent supporters, Michael Healy-Rae. He has written to the council planners supporting the application. The former mayor of Kerry said he remained convinced the Flatleys would be moving from Castlehyde in Fermoy to a permanent residence in Rossmore. Michael Flatley's wife, Niamh, had fallen in love with the area.

"This would be like a small factory to the area and the county will be sending out all the wrong messages if it does not get the go-ahead," according to Mr Healy-Rae who is noted for his pro-development stance and attacks on conservation bodies like An Taisce.

He said people would travel to the area and take boat trips just to see the house and there would be spin-off in maintenance and in the actual construction.

Anne Lucey
Sunday Independent

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