NEVER MIND the credit crunch and the job losses. The hottest issue in Blackrock , Co Dublin, this week was not the economic woes but rather a tree house for children built in the rear garden of 2 Sydney Avenue. No sooner had the owners erected the wooden tree house on a tall apple tree when two neighbouring families objected. A planning officer from Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council was immediately dispatched to the site but was unable to determine the legality of the play house. He then called in an expert from An Bord Pleanála to determine whether it "is or is not development, or is or is not exempted development".
The two objecting families were "most distressed with the structure", according to the board. Their case was that while it may be a tree house, it had a head room of 2.2 metres, and "could be many other things beside, such as an observatory platform or converted to a pigeon loft". Once the objections were raised, the owners lowered the roof, bringing the tree house down to 12ft wide by 7ft deep. They explained that it was not habitable, had no windows and would be taken down when the children had outgrown it.
The planning inspector carried out a thorough investigation of all the issues involved and wrote an excellent 4,000-word thesis on the subject. The board ratified his findings and in due course ruled that the tree house was an exempted development.
With relatively few new building projects in the pipeline and ever more builders going bust, it is encouraging that An Bord Pleanála is still finding worthwhile work for its highly skilled staff.