Thursday 12 November 2009

Houses would ruin Castletown House setting, hearing told

PLANS TO build 101 houses opposite Castletown House, Co Kildare, would destroy the setting of Ireland’s finest Palladian stately home, An Bord Pleanála has heard.

Devondale Ltd was last May granted permission by Kildare County Council for the estate of mainly four- and five-bed detached houses at the Donaghcumper Demesne, a kilometre from Celbridge town.

A Bord Pleanála hearing of an appeal by nine parties, including the Irish Georgian Society, against the council’s decision to approve the scheme began yesterday.

The development site is on the opposite side of the river Liffey to Castletown House, which was built in the 1720s by William Conolly, speaker of the House of Commons. It is adjacent to Donaghcumper House, also believed to date from the early 18th century.

Jeanne Meldon, representing several parties including the Celbridge Action Alliance, the Castletown Foundation and An Taisce, said the proposed development would irrevocably damage the setting and landscape of these houses and the neighbouring St Wolstan’s Demesne.

“A landscape that has taken centuries to mature would be destroyed virtually overnight if the proposed development is permitted.”

The three demesnes were part of an 18th-century landscape of parkland which would be “suburbanised” by the development, she said. “It would be a travesty to allow such a landscape to become a suburban housing estate.”

Ms Meldon, who has a background in planning, acknowledged the site had been zoned for housing by the local authority, but said the zoning had been an error and contravened several local and regional planning policies, principally on heritage protection.

Kildare county councillor Catherine Murphy (Ind) told the hearing that since the land had been rezoned in 2002, Donaghcumper House and its demesne, within which the site lies, had been added to the Record of Protected Structures. This happened last March before the council approved the planning application.

The zoning of the land for housing had been a “mistake” but she said “because no development has taken place on the land, there is an opportunity not to copper-fasten that mistake” – the proposed development “gnaws away at the historical character of the town”.

Richard Hamilton of RPA consultants, representing the developer, said the scheme would provide “high-quality, executive houses in a high-quality environment”.

Irish Times

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