Wednesday 15 December 2010

Oral hearing on Corrib gas pipeline could be reopened

AN BORD Pleanála has said it is considering a request from a north Mayo community group to reopen the oral hearing into the Corrib gas pipeline.

The request was sent to the board late this week by community group Pobal Chill Chomáin, which is opposed to the new pipeline route on health, safety and environmental grounds.

The group’s spokesman John Monaghan said the request had been made because of what he claims to be serious irregularities in further information supplied by the lead developer, Shell EP Ireland (SEPIL), to the Department of the Environment for a foreshore licence application on October 26th.

The information for the foreshore application for a new pipeline route up Sruwaddacon estuary was submitted more than three weeks after the closure of An Bord Pleanála’s resumed oral hearing into the pipeline application – but differs significantly in some important details, Mr Monaghan said.

“This indicates that SEPIL have identified weaknesses in their own application that – worryingly – did not give rise to concerns from the authorities, including An Bord Pleanála,” his community group said.

“Much of the information provided recently was withheld from the planning hearings by both the Department of Energy and SEPIL, but is being presented as forming part of the planning process,” the group said.

“Clear references are made to the Health and Safety Authority (whose input was absent from the planning hearings) and to fundamental issues such as public safety, housing proximity and land-use planning,” the group said in its letter to the board.

“We are also drawing the board’s attention to the great disparity between SEPIL’s assertions in the new information given to the Department of the Environment, and their evidence on the very same issues given at the planning hearings in 2009 and 2010,” the group said.

It said it believed there was a real danger the board’s deliberations would “result in a project that has escaped full and proper scrutiny” unless the oral hearing was reopened.

An Bord Pleanála said it would consider the matter but could make no further comment at present.

It had been due to make a final ruling on the pipeline by the end of this year, along with a decision on compulsory acquisition orders for land.

Shell EP Ireland has confirmed that the further information was forwarded to the Department of the Environment’s foreshore section.

Irish Times

Planning application dropped for radio mast at Bray Garda station

CO WICKLOW residents have claimed a breakthrough after the Office of Public Works confirmed it would no longer seek planning permission for commercial telecommunications equipment on a radio mast at Bray Garda station.

The OPW built a 32-metre mast at the Garda station early in 2007 claiming a planning exemption for such equipment. Under a deal with the State’s mobile operators 02, Vodafone and 3, the OPW then allowed mobile phone antennae, cabinets and cables to be installed there.

The mast, located in the southwest corner of the Garda station grounds, replaced a smaller version at the northern end of the property, which had carried only Garda equipment.

However, local residents expressed outrage that the new, higher mast was within metres of their homes and asked Bray Town Council to determine whether the structure was exempt from planning permission.

“We were told by the council that in fact it was exempt,” said Michael Murray who, along with others, decided to challenge that view. They sought a determination from Bord Pleanála which decided the structure was not, after all, exempt development.

The board found that while the State did agree a planning exemption for Garda masts, and mobile phone companies were allowed to benefit from this exemption, the exemption had limitations.

It ruled that under Telecommunications Antennae and Support Guidelines for local authorities published in 1996, telecommunications infrastructure should be located where possible in industrial estates or on industrially zoned land. The guidelines said that “only as a last resort and if the alternatives are either unavailable or unsuitable, should free-standing masts be located in a residential area or beside schools”.

Following the determination by the board, the telecom companies applied to Bray Town Council for planning permission, but this was refused on the grounds the structure would be visually obtrusive and intrusive.

The telecoms companies appealed the decision to Bord Pleanála but the planning inspector found that while sharing was generally acceptable, it was not acceptable to “load” one mast “if there is potential to adversely impact the amenities of the properties in the vicinity”.

Irish Times

Metro North manager says project has broad support

THERE WAS a broad public and political consensus behind Metro North and a new government was unlikely to halt it, the project manager claimed yesterday.

Answering questions at an Engineers Ireland seminar on tunnelmaking, Rob Leech said he did not believe Metro North would become “like Lima” in Peru.

In Lima, he explained, the government had spent heavily on enabling works for new railways but the project had been suspended, with the result that people had made houses out of the viaducts.

Mr Leech also dismissed what a speaker referred to as the “Edinburgh situation”, a reference taken to mean the delivery and display of trams for a new light-rail system for that city some years before the completion of the tram line.

About €135 million has already been spent on enabling works and planning for Metro North and the Railway Procurement Agency said yesterday that €45 million had been provided for it in the Budget. This brings the total spend on Metro North to almost €200 million before the project has received Government approval.

Both Fine Gael and Labour refused to give an absolute commitment to the project yesterday, claiming such a move would be “irresponsible” before assuming office and seeing the full costs.

Simon Coveney of Fine Gael said the party would like to see the project completed, but had reservations about money being spent before a final decision.

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore also refused to commit the party to the project in advance of the financial cost. A party spokesman said, however, that any money spent on “enabling works” would not be wasted as it would “still be there in five of six years time”.

Asked if uncertainty surrounding final approval and compulsory purchase orders could result in “an economic corridor from St Stephen’s Green to Swords being sterilised” for the best part of 10 years, Mr Leech said he did not think so.

Contracts for significant enabling works would be awarded early next year. “Until we sign the public-private partnership we can’t say the project will go the full way . . . but it is a note of confidence that the Government said it will support enabling works over the next year or so.”

He said the agency had met Opposition transport spokesmen and “Labour and Fine Gael were broadly supportive” of the project.

A note of caution was sounded by Tim Brick, executive director of the Irish Academy of Engineering. He warned that public consultation by way of An Bord Pleanála and environmental assessments had failed to win public support in a wide range of projects from the Shell to Sea campaign to the Dublin Port Tunnel.

As a former deputy city engineer responsible for the Dublin Port Tunnel, he said valuable experience of tunnelling and the physical work had been gained, but formalised public consultation through environmental impact statements and planning was not achieving consensus.

“Anyone who thinks building civic consensus, public relations and direct and media contact with the public are a project add-on is mistaken.”

Mr Brick said experience with the Dublin tunnel had thought him “the media obsession with controversy must be suborned and contested. If you are in the headlines, the news is usually bad and the media appetite insatiable.”

Irish Times

Metro North still on track, says director

THE Metro to Dublin Airport can be bankrolled by private cash and is still on track, the project's director claimed yesterday.

Despite the restraints on finances, the Metro is still economically viable, he said.

Rob Leech, Metro North project manager, told an Engineers Ireland seminar that high-quality integrated public transport was a key feature of the most successful cities worldwide. He said there had been "some extraordinary claims that it would cost €5bn to build Metro North".

"Even at the height of the boom it would have cost far less than that," he added.

At a time of falling construction costs they expected to get unprecedented value.

Metro North was being developed under a public private partnership arrangement. This means the private sector initially funds the majority of the costs.

The State contributes in two ways -- a part contribution to the construction cost and later annual payments, spread over a long period of time, payable only when the metro is running.

John Power, Engineers Ireland director general, predicted Metro North had the potential to create 4,000 direct jobs and a further 2,000 indirect jobs.

Treacy Hogan
Irish Independent

Thursday 9 December 2010

Council backs extra homes for Greystones

CHANGES TO a €300 million Greystones harbour redevelopment in Co Wicklow have been referred to An Bord Pleanála.

The changes proposed by Wicklow County Council and its private sector partner, Sispar consortium, would see the number of new homes in the scheme increase to 375, while the commercial space in the development would rise to 6,245sq m.

The original permission by An Bord Pleanála in August 2007 provided for 341 apartments and 5,500sq m of commercial space.

Sispar has said the additional apartments and commercial space are necessary given changed market conditions.

Sispar has invested more than €80 million in the project so far, principally in a new harbour which includes space for a 230-berth marina.

Other public facilities include new clubhouses for existing harbour users, a new town square, a public park and a beach.

Sispar, which has confirmed loans associated with the project have been transferred to Nama, said it planned to complete the project if the changes were approved.

Work on the next phase is scheduled to get under way early next year. Hoardings which have been in place for almost three years could start to come down late next year.

Earlier this year, the council approved a change in the scheme under which a block of apartments was altered to include a medical centre.

The change was made under part eight of the Planning and Development Act which provides for public consultation but does not provide for an appeal.

Yesterday councillors approved by 13 votes to four a second change in the scheme under which the additional houses and alterations to the commercial space would be made.

The latest changes were also made under part eight of the planning Act which provides for public consultation but does not provide for an appeal process.

Part eight is a section frequently used by local authorities when they are seeking planning permission for developments that do not require an environmental impact assessment.

However, council spokesman Seán Quirke said the use of the part eight process on this occasion had already been referred to An Bord Pleanála by “two individuals” who made submissions during the public consultation process.

Mr Quirke said An Bord Pleanála would now have to adjudicate on whether the use of part eight by the council was appropriate.

Fine Gael councillor Derek Mitchell, who has been closely associated with the project, said yesterday he believed the use of part eight was justified.

Mr Mitchell, who signed the original contracts on behalf of the council, said the important thing now was that the scheme would not stop.

He said the change from apartments to medical centre would have support from Nama and would assist in ongoing financing of the project.

Irish Times

Local government budget cut by 27%

The overall Environment and Local Government budget is taking a hit of 27 per cent from almost €2.2 billion in 2010 to just under €1.6 billion. The largest cuts are to investment in infrastructure with the capital budget cut by more than half a billion to just over €1 billion.

The largest element of capital funding, the capital housing fund, will bare the brunt of these cuts. Used for the provision of social housing, local authority regeneration programmes and grants for elderly or disable people to adapt their homes, it has been cut by more than one third from €880 million in 2010 to €520 million.

The cuts weight heaviest in capital funding for the provision of new social housing which will more than halve next year from €550,500 in 2010 to just €247,000, reflecting the policy shift away from building to leasing houses for council tenants.

In an attempt to encourage more council tenants to buy their houses, the discount available under the tenant purchase scheme has been increased from a maximum of 30 per cent to 45 per cent for next year only.

Local authorities will see direct exchequer funding fall by 28 per cent from more than €226 million to €164. Revenue for motor tax will mean that local authorities will face a total Local Government Fund cut of 10 to 12 per cent. While city and county councils are benefiting from the second homes tax, the new funding streams such as the primary residence property tax and domestic water rates will not kick in next year.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is having its funding cut by 27 per cent to just under €20 million, while funding for heritage organisations such as the National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Heritage Trust and the Heritage Council is down a total of 60 per cent to €22.5 million.

Funding for the planning and development sector is, predictably down by 37 per cent. However An Bord Pleanála is taking one of the smallest cuts of any agency, down just 2 per cent to €12,829 million.

Irish Times

Cut to funds for home energy efficiency

GRANTS FOR householders to make their homes more energy efficient will be scrapped from next year and replaced with a tax credit system.

The maximum value of the credit is set at €2,000. Householders previously could avail of grants in excess of €5,000.

The Environment and Local Government budget is taking a hit of 27 per cent from almost €2.2 billion in 2010 to just under €1.6 billion. The largest cuts are to investment in infrastructure, with the capital budget down by more than half a billion to just over €1 billion.

The largest element of capital funding, the housing fund, will bare the brunt of these cuts. Used for the provision of social housing, local authority housing regeneration, and grants for elderly or disabled people to adapt their homes, it has been cut by more than one-third from €880 million in 2010 to €520 million.

The cuts weigh heaviest in capital funding for the provision of new social housing, which will more than halve next year from €550 million to just €247 million.

Local authorities will see direct exchequer funding fall by 28 per cent from more than €226 million to €164 million. However, revenue from motor tax will mean councils will face a total Local Government Fund cut of 10 to 12 per cent.

Funding to the Environmental Protection Agency is being cut by 27 per cent to just under €20 million, and funding for heritage organisations such as the National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Heritage Trust and the Heritage Council is down a total of 60 per cent to €22.5m. An Bord Pleanála is down just 2 per cent to €12.8m.

Irish Times

Oh Ambassador, you're spoiling the neighbourhood

In leafy, exclusive Dublin 4, embassies with plans for expansion must keep neighbouring residents’ groups sweet

NEWS that the Belgian Embassy is likely to go ahead with plans to move its operations from Shrewsbury Road to its ambassador’s residence on Ailesbury Road in Dublin 4 will have residents of both roads nervous that their genteel world is about to be disrupted.

The move will leave yet another gaping hole on Shrewsbury Road, where a number of properties lie empty, including Walford, the property bought by Séan Dunne for €56 million at the height of the boom, and a number of others, including 1 and 3 Shrewsbury Road, owned by Derek Quinlan.

Over on Ailesbury Road, residents will be bracing themselves for the upheaval caused by the dust and noise of construction and the increase in embassy personnel coming to and from the Belgian property.

The Belgian embassy, which currently rents Shrewsbury House, at 2 Shrewsbury Road says it is likely to proceed with its plan next year to move its entire operation to 44-46 Ailesbury Road, the Belgian embassy residence.

It got planning permission several years ago for four small buildings to the rear of the house on Ailesbury Road which will be used as chancery offices

The Belgian embassy is only the latest in a series of embassies looking to streamline its operations and build 21st-century office accommodation.

More than half the foreign embassies in Dublin are located in Ballsbridge – 29 out of 52 – because it’s close to the city centre yet the exclusivity of its streets affords a certain amount of security and privacy.

On the downside, however, upgrading or expanding a premises in the area is not an easy process. Wikileaks aren’t the only thing that the world of diplomacy has to contend with. Behind every quiet, leafy, exclusive residential street in the embassy belt of Dublin 4 is a formidable residents group ready to mobilise at the first sign that a foreign government is planning a development that could disturb the status quo

The prospect of possible future battles with residents doesn’t seem to put them off locating there. An estate agent told us that four non-EU embassies are currently looking at property on Shrewsbury Road with a view to buying, taking advantage of the plummet in property prices.

While some of the wealthy property developer denizens of Ballsbridge have left the area (some amid a blaze of publicity), there remains a strong band of long-term residents who are well acquainted with the planning laws and who are tiring of the constant stream of activity in and out of some embassies.

Resident power prevailed in October when an attempt by Pennyvale Property Limited to get planning permission for embassy use for a large detached house at Fintragh, 11 Shrewsbury Road, was refused by Dublin City Council on the grounds that it was an unsuitable development in a conservation area.

Resident Anne Neary, a solicitor, commented in her submission to the council that she believed the real intention was to get commercial office use for the building. “The very word embassy conjures up an image in the mind’s eye of a family home of an ambassador and his or her family with the occasional formal social affair in the evening and a sedate office presence,” says Neary.

“Just because someone sticks the title ‘ambassador’ on the door of a small back office on the upper floor does not turn it into an embassy.”

Ailesbury Road residents’ assocation came across just such a scenario last year when Derek Quinlan attempted to convert a house at 43 Ailesbury Road from embassy use to office use. Quinlan subsequently lost a High Court challenge to An Bord Pleanála’s refusal of permission for the scheme. Counsel for an Bord Pleanála commented in court that the fact that there was already permission for embassy use “was not a springboard” to a different use.

Nuala Johnson, a resident who opposed Quinlan, refused to comment on the Belgian embassy development except to say the residents are on “good terms with the embassy” who have been “very co-operative”. She said however, they are vigilant “if there’s a demand for that” and have been keeping an eye on developments for the past 12 years.

The association wasn’t so reticent last year when the owner of 47 Ailesbury Road – where the Romanian Embassy is located – sought to have the dwelling changed to embassy use. “There are already a number of embassy offices/chancelleries which would be more appropriately situated in a commercial district,” was their observation to An Bord Pleanála.

Next door neighbour Dr John Crowe complained in his appeal that a number of embassies, including the Chinese and Polish, attracted “significant pedestrian and vehicular movements including queuing, protests, polling and tarmacking of gardens to increase parking”. The board subsequently ruled in favour of the embassy development.

Meanwhile, around the corner on Merrion Road, local residents have been scrutinising plans by the Indian Government for a consulate at 69 Merrion Road, which is now at pre-planning stage. It involves building a cultural centre and a 186sq m (2,000sq ft) staff quarters that would usurp the rear garden of the Victorian semi-detached house. The intensification of the site and the addition of a large extension to accomodate a lift shaft and stairs to the back of the house is of major concern to the neighbours who say they intend to contest the scheme fully.

The Indian government bought the two-storey over basement redbrick in 2008 for a figure thought to be around €4.75 million.

While most of the countries opening embassies here still favour residential streets in upmarket south Dublin suburbs, a number have opted for modern office premises in the south city centre, such as the Brazilian Embassy in the Harcourt Centre, Charlotte Way, the Slovenian Embassy on Nassau Street and the Australian and Canadian embassies both on Wilton Terrace. The Japanese run their embassy business out of a modest office above the Merrion Shopping Centre.

John O’Sullivan of Lisney says embassies’ budgets vary and quite a few rent “because they can’t justify buying a property here”.

“The ones opening offices here are mostly emerging or non-EU countries who now have a lot of citizens in the country and require an embassy. Many of the European nations no longer require a presence in each country.”

This is certainly the case for Sweden which closed its office in Dublin earlier this year and moved its ambassador to Ireland back to Stockholm.

In a reversal of the trend in Dublin 4 for residents to object to embassy developments, the Canadian ambassador, whose residence is on Oakley Road in Ranelagh, Dublin 6, is objecting to a planning application by Scoil Bhríde next door to extend its classrooms because of overlooking and an increase in illegal parking by parents collecting children from school.

The ambassador may be wishing that his country hadn’t sold Strathmore, the Killiney estate on nine acres, in 2007. It had been the ambassador’s residence for more than 50 years. It was sold as part of a Canadian initative to downsize its embassies around the world. Another reason given was that it was too far from the city centre. But it was also blissfully removed from the headaches that having neighbours entails.

Irish Times

Judge criticises plan for houses in Galway

A HIGH Court judge has described as very difficult to understand Galway County Council’s decision to grant planning permission for a housing estate outside Kinvara town on a blind corner on a main road to Ballyvaughan and the Burren area.

It had been proposed to build 31 houses on a main road with a 100km/h speed limit and the council’s permission also extended a town in an unplanned manner in an important tourist area, Mr Justice Peter Charleton said.

The development would have resulted in the blind movement, in terms of sight lines for traffic, of many vehicle journeys to and from “this suburban-type estate”.

It was difficult to see why the court should be required to authorise a public danger or to quash a well-reasoned decision of An Bord Pleanála which overturned the council’s grant of permission, he said.

Mr Justice Charleton yesterday dismissed developer Brian McMahon’s challenge to the board’s November 2009 refusal of permission. The judge also rejected arguments that the High Court, if it finds defects in the procedures leading to the making of planning decisions, has then no discretion but to quash those decisions.

The board had very strong reasons for its refusal of permission, including its view that the proposed development would imperil traffic safety, subject the water table to potentially life-threatening contamination or further despoil the countryside with suburban development.

Local authority planning departments were not entitled to ignore the central principle of planning law – the proper planning and sustainable development of an area, he said. The “priceless heritage of generations of work within the countryside, as reflected in our landscape and in the separation of town from rural areas, has been an invaluable economic resource since the foundation of the State,” he said.

Tourism was attracted by the very environment the planning code was designed to foster and protect and the obligation to plan for sustainable development must take into account the nation’s need for revenue from this vital industry, the judge added.

In his judicial review proceedings, Mr McMahon had argued the board was required to inquire whether a statutory acknowledgment by the council of a submission to it against the development by two local objectors, Seán Forde and Jane Joyce, who live beside the proposed development site, was valid on its face.

The couple’s submission was made outside the legal time limits, but the council sent them a formal acknowledgment. When the couple later appealed against the grant of permission to An Bord Pleanála, they enclosed that acknowledgment among their documents as they were required to under planning laws.

Mr McMahon had argued the board should have inquired into the validity of the acknowledgment, but Mr Justice Charleton ruled the board did not have authority under the 2000 Act to make any legal analysis of steps conducted in pursuit of a planning application by a local authority.

Irish Times

Tuesday 30 November 2010

Councillors vote to restrict building heights in city

A DEVELOPMENT plan which will severely restrict the construction of tall buildings in Dublin city until 2017 was last night agreed by Dublin city councillors.

Councillors voted on the final draft of the Dublin City Development Plan 2011-2017, which bans new office buildings of more than seven storeys and apartment blocks of more than six storeys through most of the inner city.

The proposed curbs on height will be more acute in the “outer city” suburbs, where residential and office buildings in most areas would not be permitted above four storeys. Residential and office buildings located at major rail stations or “hubs” would be permitted up to six storeys.

Several councillors had sought maximum office heights of just five to six storeys in the inner city. However, a motion put forward by Labour councillor Kevin Humphreys and agreed by Fine Gael councillors saw the prevailing inner city office height retained at seven storeys.

Specific zones which had been earmarked for taller buildings will remain in the inner city, rail hub, or outer city “low rise” categories, until an additional statutory plan, a Local Area Plan (LAP), which would designate the permissible height for individual sites, was agreed.

Just four areas of the city had been approved for high-rise buildings of more than 50m in height, or above 16 storeys of apartments and 12 storeys of offices. These are the Docklands, George’s Quay and the Connolly and Heuston station areas.

A further nine areas were identified as having potential for mid-rise buildings of up to 50m. These are Phibsborough, Grangegorman, the Digital Hub, the “north fringe”, Clonshaugh, Ballymun, Pelletstown, Cherry Orchard-Park West, and the Naas Road. Buildings within 500m of existing and proposed mainline, Dart Underground and metro stations will also be open for consideration for mid-rise buildings.

Although some of these areas already have tall buildings, no further developments above 28m – about half the height of Liberty Hall – can be built until new LAPs are passed. Currently, only Phibsborough and the Digital Hub are covered by LAPs.

The council has for several years tried to reach a consensus on appropriate heights for different areas of the city. Until now decisions on planning applications for tall buildings have been the sole preserve of the council planners, to the resentment of many local councillors, who have opposed high-rise developments in their localities.

Previous attempts to agree policies on height have failed, including a draft LAP for Ballsbridge which would have governed heights for Sean Dunne’s Jurys-Berkeley Court site. Council officials have said they hope to have agreed LAPs for each area within the next two years.

Irish Times

Ruling may affect plans for quarries

A DECISION by the High Court last week to quash planning permission for a large quarry in Co Monaghan could have major implications for other quarries throughout the State.

Following a judicial review sought by An Taisce, Mr Justice Peter Charleton quashed a decision by An Bord Pleanála to grant permission to John McQuaid for the retention of a quarry at Lemgare, Co Monaghan.

An Taisce originally appealed the decision of Monaghan County Council to allow quarrying on a major scale. This appeal was lost, but following judicial review, Mr Justice Charleton found in favour of the environmental charity.

The issue in the case centred on the legal status of existing quarrying on the site, with An Taisce arguing that any quarrying there had been small-scale before planning legislation required the registration of quarries.

Thus, it claimed, no legal basis had been shown for the “large-scale quarrying” on the site, which also had an area in excess of the five hectare threshold requiring an environmental impact assessment under EU law.

Quashing An Bord Pleanála’s decision, Mr Justice Charleton said that “regrettably, it is apparent on the face of the order that a number of significant errors were made in the decision of the board” and that the reasons given for it were “manifestly absent”.

Welcoming the judge’s ruling, An Taisce’s heritage officer Ian Lumley said it had “important implications for an unquantified number of quarries which obtained registration under 2000 legislation without legal justification and procedure”. An Taisce’s chairman Charles Stanley-Smith said the ruling would also have major implications for the board’s decision-making process and “highlights the need to give more explicit consideration to evidence submitted” to it.

Irish Times

Saturday 27 November 2010

Seaplane base for Lough Derg approved

A NEW base for seaplanes on the River Shannon at Lough Derg was approved yesterday by An Bord Pleanála.

The board rejected appeals against the proposal from An Taisce and Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI).

Local anglers and residents had also appealed Clare County Council’s decision to grant planning permission for the the base at Mountshannon.

The base is to form part of a network of facilities by Harbour Flights Ireland Ltd for a seaplane service around the country.

Yesterday, Harbour Flights chief executive Emelyn Heaps said he was delighted with the decision, and hopes to start flying tourists in next year.

Mr Heaps said the base at Mountshannon is just one location from which the seaplane service will operate, with other locations at Foynes, Limerick city, Galway city, Inishmore, Cobh, Waterford and Dublin.

In its ruling yesterday, the appeals board gave the project planning approval after finding the proposal would not seriously injure the amenities of the area or of property in the vicinity; would not give rise to creation of a traffic hazard; would not be prejudicial to public health, and would not have significant effects on the Natura 2000 site – Lough Derg (Shannon) Special Protection Area. In its appeal, Inland Fisheries Ireland stated a plan to locate an airport on Lough Derg with aircraft coming in at high speed would pose a risk to anglers, fisheries staff and other boat users.

The IFI, incorporating the former Shannon regional fisheries board, argued the construction of an airport on the lake would be an infringement of the fishing rights or property rights on the lake.

The director of the Shannon River Basin District at the IFI, Seán Ryan, told the appeals board: “These property rights have to be defended in a clear and constructive manner . . . Anglers must have unrestricted access to the fisheries so that they are able to enjoy fishing rights throughout the lake. These rights as a consequence need to be protected.”

In its appeal, An Taisce heritage officer Ian Lumley argued: “The proposal would constitute a public safety risk, in particular an accident risk through interface with other boating users of Lough Derg in particular.”

However, Mr Heaps said: “The objectors have achieved nothing and have managed only to hold up the plan for one year, and that means delayed jobs and delayed tourists for the area.”

He added: “We have had a welcome in all of the other areas, but what we got in Mountshannon were signs saying ‘Get off our lake’.”

Irish Times

RTÉ gets green light for campus revamp

RTÉ HAS been granted planning permission by An Bord Pleanála for a phased €350 million redevelopment of the northern half of its Montrose campus in Donnybrook, Dublin, over a period of 10 years.

The board’s decision, which is subject to 23 conditions, was based on its consideration of the Dublin City Development Plan as well as “the established use of the site, the pattern of development in the vicinity and the design and layout” of the scheme.

However, plans to sell the southern part of the 31-acre site have been constrained by a condition that the use of buildings to be retained “shall be restricted to use by RTÉ staff only and shall not be sold or leased separately” unless permission is granted.

Objectors to the proposed development included An Taisce, the German embassy, billionaire financier Dermot Desmond, who has a house on nearby Ailesbury Road, and several other local residents, who claimed that it would be out of scale.

The planning board ruled that it would be “an acceptable form of development at this location, within the setting of the protected structures and the architectural quality of the campus” and that it would not seriously injure the amenities of the area.

RTÉ said it was pleased to learn of the board’s decision to approve what the national broadcaster calls its “Project 2025” plan for the “long-term modernisation” of its production facilities in Donnybrook, which originally date from 1962.

“The securing of planning permission is an important milestone in a project which commenced in 2002 and which aims to ensure that RTÉ is properly equipped to meet its obligations in a digital age,” the station said.

It made no reference to funding.

Designed by Scott Tallon Walker, the new broadcasting complex would extend to more than 63,500sq m (683,500sq ft) above basement level in buildings ranging from nearly 11m to 36m in height – the equivalent of nine storeys.

They would house television and radio studios, multi-purpose spaces, newsrooms, orchestra, office accommodation and associated facilities, sound stages, set storage areas, broadcasting technology suites, workshops, a creche and parking for 820 cars.

It would involve demolishing the remnants of a walled garden, the existing radio building, a squat multistorey car park to the rear, a single storey creche, a sound stage-library building, a set storage building and an outdoor set used by Fair City.

The board has also specified that a full architectural and photographic survey of the Radio Centre be carried out prior to commencement of development, with a copy to be lodged in the Irish Architectural Archive.

Its decision related to revised plans submitted by the architects during the course of the appeal.

Irish Times

Wednesday 24 November 2010

Award-winning Irish documentary 'The Pipe' released on 3rd December

The Pipe is a compelling documentary of Rossport’s struggle against the economic might of Shell and the tragic divisions that have split a once-peaceful and close knit community. Risteard Ó Domhnaill’s passionate, brave and beautifully shot documentary, produced by Rachel Lysaght (Underground Films), for Scannáin Inbhear, has already picked up the Best Documentary Award at the Galway Film Fleadh 2010, as well as being highly acclaimed by audiences at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this year. Now, hot on the heels of its success with sold-out screenings at the BFI London Film Festival last month, The Pipe goes on general release nationwide from Friday 3rd of December, with a Gala Preview taking place at the IFI on Thursday 2nd of December.

Rossport is a tiny village offarmers and fishermen in north Mayo that has, for years, been resisting Shell’s attempts to install a high-pressure pipeline to transport unprocessed gas from the massive new gas fields off the coast to an inland refinery. The government gave Shell compulsory acquisition powers over farmland in Rossport, and in June 2005, five local men were imprisoned for 94 days for defying a court order allowing Shell workers to enter their land. This set in train a cycle of protests, heavy-handed policing and a legal conflict that continues to this day. Years of protest have left bitter divisions in the community between moderate campaigners, those perceived to have ‘sold out’, and hardliners whose tactics have included direct action and a hunger strike.

For four years, Ó Domhnaill’s intimate access allowed him follow three members of the community; Willie Corduff, one of the Rossport Five and his attempts to defend the farm his father reclaimed from the bog; Monica Müller who controversially refused to join protests but whose court action has delivered a major blow to Shell; and Pat ‘The Chief’ O’Donnell, a local fisherman who is repeatedly arrested for daringly sailing his small fishing boat into the path of the gigantic pipe-layer The Solitaire. The film captures the anxiety, anger and disillusionment of years of conflict as well as their passionate connection to the local environment, and the spirit, humour and heroism that sustains them.

Fresh from three sold-out screenings at the BFI London Film Festival, director Risteard Ó Domhnaill commented ‘The aim of the film was always to provoke debate and focus discussion on the issues surrounding the Corrib Gas project, its impact on the local community and environment, and the manner in which our government put all the resources of the state at the behest of the oil companies. However, I never expected that the story of this small isolated community on the edge of the Atlantic, who nobody really gave a sod about, would have such a resonance internationally. This is not solely a story about the Corrib gas line, but about family ties; small local communities at war with each other; and the astonishing determination of the ordinary person faced with a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. The response at international festivals has been phenomenal and I’m really looking forward to seeing what impact the story makes at home in Ireland at a time when people are re-evaluating their attitudes as to where we have gone as a country over the past 10 years.’

The Pipe is being released at cinemas nationwide from the 3rd December. The Gala Preview of The Pipe at the IFI on Thurs 2nd December will be attended by director Risteard Ó Domhnaill, producer Rachael Lysaght, and members of the Rossport community including characters from the film Willie and Mary Corduff, Pat O’Donnell, Monica Müller and Maura Harrington.

The Pipe is produced by Scannáin Inbhear with funding from Bord Scannán na hEireann / the Irish Film Board and TG4.

Tuesday 23 November 2010

Developer challenges Dart Underground plan

A BORD Pleanála hearing into plans for the €2 billion Dart Underground project opened in Tallaght yesterday – and was challenged by a legal team acting for companies belonging to Dublin hotelier and property developer Owen O’Callaghan.

Iarnród Éireann is seeking permission from the planning board for a 7.6km tunnel travelling in an southerly arc from Docklands Station through Spencer Dock, to Pearse Station and on to St Stephen’s Green. From there it travels west to Christ Church, Heuston Station and to a new surface Dart station at Inchicore. Along the route the line is designed to connect with Iarnród Éireann’s northern, Kildare and Wexford rail lines. Iarnród Éireann claims the tunnel would increase capacity in the capital’s suburban services from 33 million passenger journeys per year to more than 100 million.

However, as the oral hearing got under way, senior counsel for Mr O’Callaghan’s companies, Colm Allen, said there was a significant legal question about the “jurisdiction of the board to do what it is about to do”.

Mr Allen said the Dart Underground project had the potential to “sterilise” his client’s property for as long as 10 years. He also said “if necessary” he would be prepared to “go elsewhere” to establish his point about the jurisdiction of the board.

Mr Allen said he was attempting to be helpful to the inquiry by flagging this matter now, offering written submissions on the point for consideration by the board. This could, he said, avoid the possibility of a more difficult decision at a later date.

However, Tom Rabbitte, senior inspector with the planning board, said he intended to go ahead with the hearing in the standard format for such oral hearings, but would make a note of Mr Allen’s comments.

Joe Costello TD, Senator Pascal Donohoe, Councillor Kevin Humphreys and East Wall resident Angela Broderick also asked to be heard at the opening of the inquiry as they objected to the venue for the hearing. Ms Broderick said the Tallaght venue represented a difficult and expensive destination for many residents who wished to attend the hearing.

Mr Rabbitte said the board had been unable to secure a suitable venue in the city centre for the expected duration of the hearing, possibly due to the time of year.

In his submission to the hearing, Iarnród Éireann chief executive Dick Fearn said that despite government efforts to achieve sustainable transport in Dublin, the reality was that “trip making has continued to be by private cars”.

Congestion was an “inevitable consequence”, he said.

Michael Reidy, manager of strategic and business planning with Iarnród Éireann, said a number of people had suggested using the existing Phoenix Park tunnel linking Heuston and Connolly stations across the north city, instead of the new project.

But he said a report by consultants Ove Arup had found in 2000 that this was “the least optimal solution” to provide additional capacity into and through the city centre. He said it would add to capacity constraints on the Maynooth line and would isolate Heuston as diverted Kildare services would effectively bypass Heuston to get to the tunnel. The hearing continues today.

Irish Times

Monday 22 November 2010

New DART line plan costs €40m

THE State has spent €40m planning and designing an underground railway line that may never be built, new figures reveal.

Iarnrod Eireann has admitted spending tens of millions of euros on the DART underground project, even though the 7.5km line does not yet have planning permission. New figures show that €20m will be spent this year alone planning the line that will run underneath Dublin city centre.

A public hearing into the project, which is expected to last up to four weeks, begins in Tallaght today. But with the Government forced to make huge cuts in public spending, it may yet fall victim to the recession.

Another high-profile rail project for the capital -- Metro North -- has already incurred costs of €135m, and if both are shelved if will mean hundreds of millions of euros of taxpayers' money will have been wasted.

Transport Minister Noel Dempsey has repeatedly insisted the project will be approved if it makes economic sense, and money was set aside in the revised capital spending programme announced last summer.

But a bailout from the International Monetary Fund and the EU could result in all large-scale infrastructure projects being indefinitely postponed.

DART Underground is a 7.5km tunnel linking the Northern line at East Wall to Heuston with new underground stations at Docklands, Pearse St, St Stephen's Green, Christchurch and Heuston; and a surface station at Inchicore.

It will allow for two DART lines in Dublin -- one running from Hazelhatch/Celbridge to Howth, and a second from Maynooth to Bray/Greystones.

It is expected to cost €2.5bn, which includes the tunnel, electrification of lines to Maynooth and Hazelhatch, a depot and 282 new rail cars.


Iarnrod Eireann said the costs incurred to date were needed to plan a major infrastructure project to the highest international standards.

"This has now been achieved," a spokesman said. "Experience has shown that proper planning at this stage of a project leads to savings later at construction. Subject to planning approval, construction of DART Underground can begin in 2012.

"Considering the scale of the project, and comparing it with other major infrastructure projects, the costs to date represent good value for money."

Four consortia have been shortlisted to build the scheme, and the successful bidder is expected to be announced in 2012. If approved, DART Underground will be finished in 2018.

The business case for the project, published by the National Transport Authority, says the line has a cost-benefit ratio of 2.4. This means that for every euro spent on the project, the State gets €2.40 back in wider benefits such as savings in reduced congestion, costs of dealing with road accidents and fare income.

By 2030, more than 25 million car trips will be removed from the road, meaning there will be 170 fewer accidents a year, it says.

"This is a long-term project with an expected life in excess of 100 years," the business case adds. "It should not be overly affected by short-term economic problems."

DART Underground will allow 20 trains to run in each direction per hour, allowing up to 64,000 commuters to use the line. Up to 7,000 full-time construction jobs will be created.

Paul Melia
Irish Independent

Energy use monitored using web browser

TWO INNOVATIVE projects that will save on energy costs and reduce energy demand were recognised at a ceremony during the first day of the Globe Forum event in Dublin.

Dr Antonio Ruzelli’s project will allow monitoring of energy consumption in the home using an ordinary web browser. David Connolly’s research on the integration of more wind power into the national grid was also rewarded.

Speaking at the event in Dublin’s convention centre, Minister for Energy and Natural Resources Eamon Ryan defended Ireland’s reputation as a centre of innovation excellence.

Mr Ryan said that “social networking and web-based companies are coming here. Literally, I could throw a stone from outside the building here and hit Google and Facebook and Yahoo and PayPal.”

Speaking after the event, Mr Connolly said that “unfortunately there are cutbacks in the area of funding to try and help the country survive at the moment, which long term isn’t really a good idea.

“The value that you add to a country by developing a new idea, especially a new practical idea, outweighs the cost of actually putting a student or a researcher through the process of doing it,” he said.

“We need to get more Irish companies talking to universities,” added Mr Ruzzelli. “For example, if some companies offer courses to final-year students that would help direct the research towards something that will have an impact on industry.”

The runner-up in the “Ireland’s Innovator” category was GeoGuides, a company which makes mobile phone applications for the tourism industry.

Aimee Byrne, who researches sustainable city planning at Trinity College Dublin was a finalist in the “Ireland’s Researcher” category.

Irish Times

'Even-handed' hearing on Slane bypass promised

THE ORAL hearing into the Slane bypass will be “even-handed” when considering whether an eastern or western route around the village is preferable, according to An Bord Pleanála.

Confirming that the hearing into the proposed road will take place, probably next February, a spokesman said: “It will be an open and even-handed assessment on both proposed options.”

There are more than 100 objectors to the bypass. The hearing is expected to hear strong arguments from opponents to the eastern route which runs close to the buffer zone of the Brú na Bóinne Unseco world heritage site that includes Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth.

The western route, which would dissect the Slane Castle estate and affect its famous concert arena, was rejected by the council in its environmental impact statement.

However, in reply in the planning board, the council supplied additional information on this option.

Slane is on the N2 and on a crossroads on the banks of the Boyne river and is approached by steep hills. The bypass would remove some of the 7,000 vehicles a day that pass through the village.

Meanwhile, members of the Bypass Slane group say they are “very disappointed” the village was not included as one of the locations being targeted in the new crackdown on speeding using mobile speed cameras.

The last fatality was in 2001. It is almost two years since there was a multi-vehicle pile-up there involving a number of local women who were dropping their children to school. The women helped to establish the Bypass Slane campaign.

Spokeswoman Michele Power said: “The only thing we have to protect us from another accident is the 30km/h speed limit introduced after the pile up.”

The group said the limit was only complied with by local residents and that last Friday morning, it seemed that practically every vehicle entering the village was breaking it; speeds of up to 60km/h were being recorded on a flashing speed signpost outside the primary school.

“Why do we have to go and fight again for something we should already have?” Ms Power asked.

The Garda Press Office said the locations identified for speed cameras were chosen according to a number of criteria, including the number of injuries and fatalities on the road in question and whether people were keeping to the limits.

Irish Times

Friday 19 November 2010

Bad smell in Ringsend costs city council €24m

Dublin City Council is facing a final bill of more than €24 million for eliminating long-term odour problems from its controversial Ringsend wastewater treatment plant.

The council will have to pay €19.6 million of the final bill itself, with the contractors for the project, ABA, paying €4.6 million.

A spokesman for the local authority confirmed that it was currently examining whether there was ‘‘any consequent liability on the part of any of the relevant parties and whether this would be covered under the council’s own professional indemnity insurances’’.

This examination was conducted following a written request to do so by the Department of the Environment.

In a written update on the issue to the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) recently, the Department’s Secretary General, Geraldine Tallon, said the council did not consider that it could force the contractor to meet the full cost of the ‘‘odour work’’ as part of the contract. This was ‘‘because of lack of clarity in relation to responsibilities relating to odour standards and the excess loading on the plant’’.

The Department will examine the final accounts for the scheme before deciding on the council’s eligibility for grant funding to cover the extra costs of the odour works, Tallon said.

An independent report into the historic problems of bad odours at the €300 million plant, carried out by consultant Brendan Fehily, said that elements of the operations contract agreed between Dublin City Council and construction and operations consortium ABA, were ‘‘either a serious error of judgment or a mistake’’.

The Fehily report found that calculations for the plant’s ultimate capacity were flawed, with some 225,000 users unaccounted for.

The work to remove the odour problems was conducted in 2008 and the Fehily report noted that the plant had a very positive effect on the water quality in Dublin Bay. The plant, built in 2003, was the first such waste water plant in the state to be acquired using a DBO (design, build, operate) contract.

Tallon said that the same odour and capacity problems would have arisen even if the plant had been procured under a traditional form of contract.

The Sunday Business Post

Council to finish Pierse projects in Wexford

Work on the €40 million county hall in Wexford and a €20 million civic square in Gorey is expected to be completed by the county council, following the collapse of Pierse Contracting.

A liquidator was appointed to Pierse Contracting and Pierse Building Services by the High Court recently, as the group had a deficit of €212 million. The court heard the companies owed €51.5 million to unsecured creditors, many of whom are sub-contractors and suppliers.

The firm began work on the new Wexford county hall in early 2008 and was due to complete the landmark building overlooking the Slaney in mid-2009.

The 10,500sq m (108,000sq ft) building was designed by NORD Architecture. The iconic design provides space for a new council chamber, a double-glazed 'skin' providing natural ventilation, a staff restaurant, executive tea rooms and an internal 'street' with sweeping views of the river. Each desk in the building was to be positioned to afford workers magnificent views.

However, delays dogged the project, which is now understood to be structurally complete, but remains to be fitted out internally.

Also incomplete are aspects of the new civic square in Gorey. Work began in August 2007 and was due to be completed by December 2008. The scheme included a new town square with offices for the county and town councils, a public library, courthouse, adult education centre, health service units and a small number of apartments, many of which were for the elderly.

The new courthouse and adult education centre have opened, but the civic offices, the apartments and the library have not.

Gorey town councillor and Wexford county councillor Malcolm Byrne said that he had been informed by council management that it would now move to finish the projects itself. “This would bring closure to the many delays which have affected the new county hall and civic square,” he said.

Cllr Byrne said council staff were operating out of substandard accommodation currently, while library staff in Gorey were in a similar situation. He also said the delays hampered services to the general public. “But I think the subcontractors are the ones who have been hurt the most,” he added.

Uncertainty also surrounds a number of other Pierse projects around the country, including the €48 million Boherboy water services scheme for South Dublin County Council.

The Irish Times

Taoiseach opens €600m terminal at Dublin Airport

Passengers passed through Dublin Airport's Terminal 2 today as the new €600m project was officially opened.

Aer Lingus operated the inaugural flight from Manchester as Taoiseach Brian Cowen formally unveiled the new three-storey facility.

Mr Cowen said viewing the multi-million euro project in the context of the economic crisis was short-sighted.

"T2 was designed and built not just for this year or the next, but for many decades into the future," Mr Cowen said.

"To view it through the prism of the current downturn would be short-sighted in the extreme.

"By investing prudently in improved facilities, we are laying the foundations for future growth and prosperity; not just for Dublin Airport, but also for the wider Irish economy."

Construction on the new building began in October 2007 and, at its peak, employed up to 2,600 workers on site, with 1,000 new jobs created with the building's opening.

Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) chairman David Dilger said the project would improve the travel experience for passengers.

He said: "The new terminal is the centrepiece of a five-year investment programme to expand, improve and upgrade Dublin Airport.

"Our passengers told us that they wanted better facilities and we have delivered them."

T2 will be home to Aer Lingus, American Airlines, Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Etihad Airways and US Airways. It will open on a phased basis.

Aer Lingus will have transferred all its services to the new facility by January. It is asking all passengers to come to Terminal 1 and staff will advise where to go.

Etihad will start operating its services from Tuesday.

T2 will also house a new US pre-clearance facility allowing passengers on US-bound flights to clear all customs, immigration, agriculture and security checks before leaving Ireland.

US carriers will transfer when the pre-clearance facility opens in the New Year.

Passengers using pre-clearance at Dublin will be treated as if they are a domestic US passenger and will face no further checks upon entry to the US.

Online travel agency said people were confused over the new travel arrangements.

Founder Stephen McKenna said: "It is not altogether convenient that passengers have to check into T1 and then travel out of T2, or vice versa for those visiting the country.

"The situation in relation to US customs and immigration needs to be clarified further and implemented as soon as possible before people can enjoy the real benefits of this new terminal."

Ryanair chief Michael O'Leary, a long-standing critic of the project, marked the occasion by dressing like an undertaker with a hearse, a coffin and carrying a wreath with the words Irish Tourism RIP.

T2 also contains almost 40 new shops, food and drink outlets.

Press Association

Irish Independent

Offshore resources seen as key economic solution

THE IRISH Offshore Operators’ Association has said Ireland’s offshore resources could provide an “important solution” to the State’s economic problems.

The association, which represents the oil and gas industry, says that just two finds off the west coast could make a “big hole in the bill for Anglo Irish”.

A policy paper published by the the association this month, which is unusually upbeat, notes that the industry has spent about €3 billion drilling 130 exploration wells with “limited success”, and says a single exploration well off the west coast costs more than €50 million.

Shell EP Ireland recently plugged a satellite well north of the Corrib gas field which had promised additional gas reserves, having spent an estimated €65 million on drilling it over the summer, according to company sources.

The Corrib North well, 80km off the west coast, showed “some indications” of gas, but in “non-commercial quantities”, according to company sources.

However, the association refers in its policy paper to a 2006 Department of Energy estimate of “potential, yet-to-find” recoverable reserves of 10 billion barrels of oil equivalent, valued at €455 billion.

“This is around 100 times Ireland’s annual consumption of oil and gas,” the association says. Also quoting the department, it says a “major oil discovery off the northwest coast, of the order of 750 million barrels recoverable, would deliver some $22 billion in taxes (€16.5 billion) to the exchequer over its lifetime”.

“In another example, a substantial gas/condensate field, say twice the size of Corrib, located in the South Porcupine area, would, over its lifetime, pay $6.7 billion (€5 billion) in taxes,” the association says, and, taken together, the two would make a “big hole in the bill for Anglo-Irish”.

It argues that if the Corrib gas project had been on schedule, “substantial tax revenues . . . would be flowing into the exchequer”, and defends the current fiscal terms which, it says, have been the focus of “misinformation” and “unfavourable comment”.

A revised cost estimate for the Corrib gas field shows that the development could reach €2.5 billion, but the company has received €87 million in tax breaks. Significantly, the International Energy Agency last week predicted a global gas glut, which could last a decade, and which should lead to lower prices for consumers – but lower returns for multinationals involved in hydrocarbon exploitation.

The association says lessons can be drawn from the Corrib project, including the “primary need” for a “transparent, robust and legally binding administrative and regulatory regime” for field development. It says that in the case of a major discovery, a mechanism should be established to “co-ordinate and optimise the inputs of the various state agencies”.

Bord Pleanála is considering Shell EP Ireland’s new bid to seek approval for its onshore pipeline, linking the offshore landfall at Glengad to Ballinaboy, Co Mayo, 9km inland.

Last November, the board found that up to half of a second route proposed was unacceptable on safety grounds due to proximity to housing.

Minister of State for Natural Resources Conor Lenihan, who has opened up the Atlantic margin for licensing, recently travelled to Singapore to brief senior executives from the largest Asian oil companies about prospects. These include Petronas and STX, and the national oil corporations of Singapore, the Philippines and Korea.

The Campaign for Protection of Resources, of which Minster for Energy Eamon Ryan was a founding member while in Opposition, has described the move as a “giveaway”.

Irish Times

Council approves plan to halt erosion at golf links

CLARE COUNTY Council yesterday granted planning permission to Doonbeg golf club for a €2 million coastal protection plan to prevent erosion of dues at the Greg Norman-designed links course.

The club has warned that if nothing is done to prevent the erosion on the Atlantic coast course, it would be detrimental to the viability of the golf club.

The west Clare-based club warned that a severe one-in-50- year storm may lead to a retreat in the dune line of over 10m (30ft) and that if the present rate of erosion continues to 2050, between 18m (60ft) and 27.5m (90ft) of retreat would be experienced.

The US owners of the course have already invested €69 million in the resort.

The plan, aimed at safeguarding the investment, will provide for the relocation of the 14th green, an 18th tee box, a sixth tee box, two 15th tee boxes and works in front of the fifth, 13th and 14th greens.

A previous 2003 proposal was turned down by An Bord Pleanála due to the scale of the proposal.

In its ruling on the revised proposal, the council granted planning permission for the works, stating the plan would not seriously injure the amenities of the area or of property in the vicinity.

A club spokesman said yesterday that the club was very pleased with the decision.

He said: “The works are of paramount importance. One has only to look at last week’s weather to see why the works are important.”

He said the club has made no decision on a start date for the construction works. The golf club told the council that “essential parts of Doonbeg golf course remain at high risk from severe coastal erosion during extreme storm events with combined high waves and storm surge”.

The club warned: “During such events, the dune face may retreat by up to 8m [26ft], causing a very significant loss of dune in a single storm and, consequently, severe damage to the golf course.”

The club ruled out relocating coastal golf holes at the course as it would affect numbers of protected snail Vertigo angustior at the course, which has been a major concern at the venue.

The environmental impact statement states the dunes have retreated by between 35m (115ft) and 47m (154ft) between 1890 and 2008 at the fifth, 13th and 14th greens, and the sixth tee.

Irish Times

Eirgrid to go ahead with interconnector cable at Rush

EIRGRID HAS said it intends to go ahead within weeks with the installation of the €600 million East-West Interconnector at Rush in north Co Dublin.

Eirgrid was granted permission by An Bord Pleanála last year to make a landfall for the cable at the town’s North Beach. The cable, which links to Wales, is to be routed through the village in a plastic duct buried a metre below the street surface.

However, the plan has come under opposition from locals in the Rush area, citing health and safety concerns. While work began elsewhere in July, the scheduled start in Rush was postponed.

Discussions have taken place with residents on details of the installation of the cable and on financial investment by Eirgrid in facilities in the Rush area.

In August, responding to concerns expressed by Rush Community Council, Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan asked Eirgrid to re-examine the route.

However, the company yesterday posted leaflets to houses in the area announcing work would begin towards the end of the month.

According to the company, 15 per cent of the 46km route in Ireland has been put in place and work was proceeding to meet the 2012 deadline for the cable being operational.

The announcement of the start came just days after international health expert Dr Eric van Rongen rejected fears that the interconnector posed health risks. Dr van Rongen’s remarks were made in a report commissioned by the Department of Energy.

“There are no indications that exposure to the static magnetic fields generated by the high-voltage, direct-current cable will in any way adversely affect human health, neither through acute nor through long-term effects,” Dr van Rongen said. “The risk associated with this exposure can be considered to be as close to zero as possible.”

A spokeswoman for Eirgrid said the company had looked at other options over four months but none was feasible.

It said routing the cable away from Rush through the nearby Rogerstown estuary was not possible as Rogerstown was a designated Natura 2000 site. EU guidelines set down that any project having a significantly negative effect on such a site “may only be authorised in the absence of alternative solutions”.

Irish Times

Sunday 14 November 2010

Hydro energy plan turned down

An Bord Pleanála has turned down plans for an ambitious hydro energy storage scheme using a mountain lake reservoir on the peatland uplands of the Cork-Kerry border.

The site in the Derrynasaggart mountains is within the Republic’s largest candidate special area of conservation. Observers feared bog slides and water contamination.

Enerco Energy of Co Cork had planned to construct a 90MW pumped hydro energy storage scheme.

Irish Times

Plan for road, rail museum rejected

Midwest tourism has suffered a blow with the rejection by An Bord Pleanála of plans for a road and rail museum in west Clare on road safety grounds.

The proposal was part of the West Clare railway tourist attraction where numbers have increased substantially since the return of the 117-year-old Slieve Callan steam engine in August last year. The West Clare railway operated between 1892 and 1962.

The proposal to rejuvenate the railway is the brainchild of entrepreneur, Jackie Whelan who said yesterday he was “very disappointed”.

Last December, Clare County Council gave the go-ahead to the plan but the National Roads Authority appealed.

Irish Times

O'Brien's reduced office plan gets approval

BUSINESSMAN DENIS O’Brien has been granted permission for a five-storey office and retail development on a site in Donnybrook, Dublin, that he had originally earmarked for a 26-storey tower.

An Bord Pleanála has granted permission for the development against the recommendation of its inspector, who said the five-storey scheme was excessively tall and bulky and would be contrary to the proper development of the area.

In 2005 An Bord Pleanála refused planning permission for a 26-storey tower that would have incorporated 36 apartments, offices and retail space, a gym and a roof garden. Two years ago it turned down significantly scaled back plans for a six-storey block.

The approved development involves the demolition of the existing single-storey building on the site and its replacement with two five-storey buildings, connected by a glazed bridge over The Crescent at first-, second- and third-floor levels. Seven retail units would be located at ground-floor level with office space on the first, second, third and fourth floors. There would also be 68 car parking spaces.

Local residents and An Taisce had appealed to An Bord Pleanála against the development largely on the grounds of the height and scale, which they said would dominate buildings in the area, particularly the residential terrace adjoining it on The Crescent, and would be out of character with largely low-rise Donnybrook.

The planning inspector who handled the case, Auriol Considine, last April recommended that permission be refused.

The height, mass and bulk of the development would constitute an incongruous element in the townscape, she said. It would lead to haphazard on-street parking resulting in a traffic hazard, and would compromise pedestrian safety along the residential street.

The development would “seriously injure” the amenities of the area and of property in the vicinity, and would be contrary to the sustainable development of the area, she added

However, the board chose to reject Ms Considine’s recommendation. Revisions made to the scheme last July meant the scale and layout were acceptable in relation to protection of the amenities of property in the vicinity and provision of parking, the board said.

A spokesman for Mr O’Brien yesterday said he did not wish to comment on whether the development would go ahead.

Irish Times

Thursday 11 November 2010

O'Brien is cleared for D4 project

COMMUNICATIONS tycoon Denis O'Brien has been given the green light to build a €30m office and shops development in Dublin 4, writes Donal Buckley.

Mr O'Brien was not available to comment yesterday on when he would proceed with the project in Donnybrook village.

Located at The Crescent, Donnybrook Road, the development would replace the current single-story commercial building occupied by Crunch Fitness, a fitness chain operated by one of Mr O'Brien's extended family.

His new five-storey project is designed as a landmark building to mark the transition from the suburbs to the city. It will include shops, offices and a basement with car parking.

With construction costs now falling, it may cost him less than €13m to build and even with prices falling it could be worth €30m when fully let.

Irish Independent

Council appeals for developers' bonds plan

MINISTER FOR the Environment John Gormley was yesterday urged to introduce a national policy to assist local authorities call in bonds pledged by developers to allow the completion of “ghost estates”.

The call came from the Mayor of Cork County, Cllr Jim Daly (FG), who said almost €60 million was being held in bonds by Cork County Council alone.

He estimated the figure nationally to be €500 million to €600 million.

Mr Daly said Cork County Council usually accounted for 10 per cent of planning applications, and this was supported by the fact that the council has 284 ghost estates, while the country had 2,800 unfinished estates.

He said planning permission for any development involving public infrastructure such as roads, paths and lighting was only issued with a condition that the builder sign a bond in the event of being unable to finish the public areas.

These bonds are obtained by builders from banks and insurance companies at a rate of about half the variable lending rate, ie currently approximately 2per cent.

The bond can be called in by a local authority if a builder fails to complete the public areas of a development satisfactorily, and can be used to ensure that paths, roads and lighting are finished to a satisfactory standard.

Mr Daly said although the money was not actually borrowed by the developer, the bank does charge the developer for it as it was available to the developer much like an overdraft facility.

He said that many of the bonds lodged to cover the costs in ghost estates during the construction boom years would now cover more than the cost of the work involved as construction costs had dropped by an estimated 40 per cent.

He claimed developing a co-ordinated policy nationally to assist local authorities to call in the €500 million to €600 million tied up in such bonds would be a huge boost to the construction industry, which has suffered greatly in the recession.

And given that an estimated 70 per cent of money spent in the construction sector reverted to the State through both direct and indirect taxes, it would also benefit the exchequer while helping stimulate jobs in construction.

Mr Daly stressed the bonds would only cover public infrastructure work in unfinished estates, and unfinished houses would remain boarded up.

However, he said residents would at least benefit from proper roads, paths and lighting.

Where builders have gone into liquidation or receivership, the liquidator or receiver could be called on to honour the bonds and ensure the work was finished, especially given construction costs were likely to be less than bond values.

Mr Daly said it should be relatively easy for the Department of the Environment to gather information from local authorities as to how much they have secured in bonds from developers for such works.

He said that on receipt of correspondence on the issue from Cork county manager Martin Riordan, he had written to Mr Gormley regarding his proposal, and he was looking forward to a response from him.

Irishh Times

Call for inquiry into pylon case

Fine Gael has backed calls for an independent inquiry into the collapse last June of the planning process for the Government's €280 million North-South electricity interconnector.

An anti-pylon group in Co Monaghan opposing elements of the project has already called or an independent investigation into the matter.

An error in the original application for the €280 million line through Meath, Cavan and Monaghan forced the State’s electricity network operator, Eirgrid, to withdraw the application on June 29th during a Bord Pleanála hearing into the issue.

The public notice, which is part of the application, stated the pylons supporting the power lines would be between 23 and 37 metres high, but it should have read 23 to 44 metres.

A review into the matter published by Eirgrid recently found that incorrect information was supplied by ESB International (ESBI), a firm fully owned by the ESB.

“The error arose through incorrect information being provided by one of Eirgrid's consultants, namely ESBI, and the error was inadvertent, or 'human error',” the report said.

Mr Varadkar noted the Eirgrid report and said the North-South interconnector was a "vital piece of national infrastructure".

"It is simply not good enough that its progress will now be delayed by over six months due to errors made by consultants," he said.

He said many people had incurred cost and spent time to contribute to the An Bord Pleanála hearing and that "at the very least, they have been discommoded".

"The collapse of the planning process will do nothing to help includecommunities in the planning and consultation process for the interconnector as they already viewed such schemes with deep suspicion."

Mr Varadkar said an independent inquiry should be established to find out exactly what errors occurred and that those responsible should be made fund the planning observations of third parties who had already incurred a cost during the first An Bord Pleanála hearing.

A spokesman for the Monaghan Anti-Pylon Group said Eirgrid’s report into the circumstances that led to the withdrawal of the planning application for the Meath-Tyrone 400Kv interconnector development was “totally inadequate”.

A spokesman said the report did not appear to have investigated why a “serious discrepancy” existed between the public notice that Eirgrid submitted to local newspapers on Thursday December 17th, 2009, and the planning application submitted to An Board Pleanála the following day.

“It seems inconceivable that the day after an error was made in a planning notice, the exact same figures were miraculously ommitted from an official planning application,” a spokesman said.

Eirgrid will have to resubmit its application to An Bord Pleanála and go through a second public hearing.

A spokesman for Eirgrid said the application would be resubmitted “as soon as possible” but that this was not likely to be until the new year.

Irish Times

Monday 8 November 2010

Complaint of negligence against solicitor dismissed

Tighe -v- Burke trading as McCartan and Burke solicitors. Neutral citation (2010) IEHC 280. High Court. Judgment was delivered on July 16th, 2010, by Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns.


The solicitor Joseph Burke was not negligent in dealing with judicial review proceedings brought by the plaintiff, Joseph Tighe, against Kildare County Council in relation to a planning application.


The plaintiff, Mr Tighe, was a lay litigant who brought a negligence claim against his former solicitor, Mr Burke, arising out of his application for planning permission for the development of a building in Newtown, Enfield, Co Kildare, in 2002.

In February 2003, the council stated that it required new newspaper notices. The plaintiff came to the view that a default permission under the 2000 Planning Act had come into being on March 18th, 2003, and instructed his then solicitors, Beauchamps, to institute judicial review proceedings.

In March 2004, he changed his solicitor to the defendant. Michael Collins SC had been retained by Beauchamps on the plaintiff’s behalf and continued to be briefed by Mr Burke.

The plaintiff alleged at a meeting with him and Mr Burke that an official in Kildare County Council had sought a bribe to facilitate the granting of the planning application.

Mr Tighe was advised by Mr Collins and Mr Burke to seek to deal with this allegation, which could not be proved, either by means of a complaint to the council or through the Mahon tribunal, rather than make it a part of the judicial review application.

One of Mr Tighe’s complaints against Mr Burke was that he “did nothing” about this allegation.

Mr Justice Kearns said he found this allegation to be entirely groundless.

Mr Tighe became aware that James Connolly SC was the author of a study of an aspect of planning law he considered relevant to his case, and he had a consultation with him.

He made two allegations arising out of this: that Mr Burke had sent Mr Connolly’s brief to the solicitors for Kildare County Council and that a covering letter from Mr Connolly outlining his apprehension that the case might fail was never sent to him by Mr Burke.

Mr Burke vehemently denied both allegations.

There were also issues concerning seeking discovery of documents from Kildare County Council, which were eventually furnished by the council in December 2004.

Towards the end of 2005, it became necessary to file the critical affidavits for the judicial review.

These were prepared by junior counsel and by the plaintiff himself. He claimed they were not delivered to the other side, which was strenuously denied by the defendant.

The hearing date was fixed for January 17th, 2006.

As the date approached, it became clear that neither Mr Collins nor Mr Connolly would be available, and Eamonn Gilligan SC was briefed.

At a consultation on January 13th he indicated to the plaintiff he did not think the chances of winning the case were better than 20 per cent.

On the same date, replying affidavits were filed by Kildare County Council.

Mr Tighe’s consultant engineer indicated to the plaintiff that he had nothing to add in response to these affidavits.

The plaintiff withdrew his case on foot of the advice given by Mr Gilligan.

He then took a complaint of negligence against his solicitor, alleging that he had failed to obtain his planning file from the council; that he did nothing about the alleged seeking of a bribe by a council official; that he failed to have his case ready for trial; that he had wrongly sent the brief intended for Mr Connolly to the solicitors for Kildare County Council; that he had wrongly advised him to withdraw the planning application, and that he was guilty of undue delay relating to discovery.

Mr Burke gave evidence that Beauchamps had been very negative about the likely outcome of the case when he took it over.

Kildare County Council contended that he acknowledged that he had been somewhat lacking in formulating questions raised by counsel, and in clarifying whether discovery had been complete, but said he believed he had progressed matters in an efficient and professional manner.


Mr Justice Kearns said he found the plaintiff to be a person “who was totally obsessed with every detail of his dealings with the defendant, Kildare County Council and the various counsel who had advised in this case . . .

“In many respects his replies to questions in cross-examination were evasive, argumentative and off point.”

He said as the case progressed, he found it abundantly clear that all affidavits brought into being on the plaintiff’s behalf had been furnished to the other side.

He rejected any complaint that Mr Burke had failed to take up any planning files from the council, pointing out that the plaintiff was able to do so himself, and had done so.

While there was some delay about the preparation of discovery and confirmation that it was complete, this did not amount in law to negligence or anything close to it.

He found that Mr Burke behaved with complete propriety in relation to the advice given to Mr Tighe before the hearing began, and rejected all the complaints made by the plaintiff.

Irish Times

Bord sticks to high density - in spite of the trends

HAS An Bord Pleanála lost the run of itself? As everyone knows there are over 9,000 vacant units in the Dublin area alone according to the latest DoE survey, and it will take years to clear.

Most of them are apartments and with prices on the floor, young buyers are switching to houses that have their own front door and no service charges.

So can we expect to see a swingback to the traditional three-bed semi in response?

Not at all, according to John O’Connor , chairperson of the Bord. He firmly rejects any attempts to revert to low density development patterns of the past, even if consumers have spoken with their cheque books.

He says this would be “ultimately wasteful of public investment and in conflict with international obligations and climate chage”.

However, he is willing to go along with some changes to existing planning permissions suggesting that they can be adjusted “within the sustainability guidelines”.

However, the bottom line is that builders with undeveloped sites in the Dublin area know quite well that they haven’t a hope in hell of selling apartments in the foreseeable future.

The punters want low level semis, whether or not the planners agree.

The planning authorities won’t be happy with this, given their huge dependence in the past on planning levies which have now virtually dried up, pushing councils into the red.

O’Connor sounds a bit like Big Brother when he points out that the planning system will have a crucial role in directing where development should be located, and the kind of development that is sustainable.

Is this the same planning system that allowed Liam Carroll to build almost 1,000 apartments in Tallaght. Come to think of it aren’t most of them still empty?

Not to mention the planning permissions given for apartments in some of the most obscure villages in the country, where the vacancy rate is also dangerously high. Not sure that we can swallow this high-minded rhetoric from the board.

Irish Times

Council selling homes below cost on golf land

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council stands to lose millions when it sells apartments that it bought from developer Cosgraves at the height of the boom

SIXTY-THREE cut-price apartments go on sale from €136,000 today in Dún Laoghaire aimed at buyers on the affordable housing list and first-time buyers.

Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council (DLRCOCO) is taking a serious hit after agreeing to pay developer Cosgraves an average €250,000 – a price agreed in 2006, at the height of the boom – for the one and two-bedroom social and affordable apartments on the grounds of the former Dún Laoghaire Golf Club. It will lose 24 per cent or more on each affordable unit.

The apartments are being sold at prices from €136,000, by far the lowest in the area. Affordable buyers – those who are on the council’s affordable housing list – will get priority, but the units are also available on the open market at €170,000. First-time buyers will also get priority.

Two-beds will cost buyers on the council’s affordable list from €184,000, while open market buyers will pay from €230,000 for the same units. Lisney is handling the sales.

The council will allocate the remaining 80 apartments (of a total 143) in the circular complex – which faces onto a central courtyard with a small toddlers’ playground and a set of stairs leading to an underground car park – to people on its social housing list.

The scheme, called Honeypark, is the first phase of a large development planned by Cosgraves on the 78-acre golf club lands where it has permission to build a mix of 840 units. This phase is just beside the roundabout at the junction of Glenageary Road Upper and Kill Avenue.

It is coveniently located: Mounttown Road Lower runs straight down from the roundabout to the town of Dún Laoghaire while Oliver Plunkett Road leads from the roundabout to Monkstown Avenue. There is a 45A and 75 bus stop right at the gates, and the Institute of Art, Design and Technology (IADT) is nearby on Kill Avenue. A shuttle bus from the scheme to Dún Laoghaire Dart station is promised.

The Cosgrave Group plans to put houses in the scheme on sale in spring 2011. “We are immediately commencing our next phase of the development which will comprise a park, local retail centre and four and five-bedroom family homes, which we expect to launch in early spring,” Peter Cosgrave said yesterday. The company is in negotiations with an anchor tenant for the neighbourhood shopping centre to be built on Glenageary Road Upper near the Kill Avenue roundabout.

Five terraced townhouses beside the entrance to the scheme – they are on a road that will eventually extend right through it – will be finished by Christmas but are not yet for sale.

The apartments are in 10 adjacent four-storey “core blocks”, each core having between 12 and 16 apartments, its own entrance and its own lift to the basement. The units are a good size and come with patios at ground level or good-sized balconies above.

In the four affordable blocks, balconies are at the back, looking out over the tree-filled site stretching up towards Rochestown Avenue. (Many of the trees will presumably come down to make way for Honeypark’s expansion.)

The units are a decent size: one-bed apartments range from 48.3-59.5sq m (520-640sq ft), the two-beds from 71-764sq m (764-813sq ft). Good-sized entrance halls open into open-plan livingrooms where kitchens are at one side of the room. Appliances aren’t included but kitchens come with tiled counter-tops, a good range of cabinets and tiled floors. In the show units, the floors throughout are oak and doors are oak-veneer. Bathrooms have white sanitary ware, fully tiled floors, showers over baths. Main double bedrooms have a fitted wardrobe. In the hall, there are also shelved storage cupboards and more storage space in walk-in cupboards where heat exchange system units are housed.

Cosgraves is proud of its communal – although individually-controlled – gas-fired central heating /water heating system all generated from a modest-sized boiler in the underground car park.

It expects BER ratings of B1 to A3 and says that homeowners should have low heating bills, around €450 a year for one-beds to €600 for two-beds. (It bases this estimate on bills in another Cosgrave development, Landsdowne Gate; it expects bills in Honeypark will be 10 per cent cheaper, as it has perfected its heating systems. It also has a ventilation system removing stale air without opening windows through ceiling-mounted grilles .

Each apartment comes with a car-parking space.

The management fees are €1,456 for two-bedroom apartments and just over €1,000 for one-beds. A management company has been set up.

Purchasers who have been refused mortgage finance from lending agencies may qualify for the Council’s Home Purchase Loan scheme.

What's available and who can buy it

DÚN Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council (DLRCOCO) has about 80 apartments for sale under its affordable housing scheme in eight different developments around the county, at prices ranging from €128,000 for one-beds in the Belfry and Belarmine in Stepaside, Co Dublin to €248,000 for a two-bed in Beacon South Quarter in Sandyford, Dublin 18. It has sold about 75 affordable homes so far this year.

These apartments are also for sale on the open market at prices around 20 per cent over those affordable prices. Lisney is handling all the sales for the council.

DLRCOCO currently has 1,900 people on its affordable housing list, and information about the 63 new apartments going on sale today at the Honeypark scheme has already been texted to them.

Roughly speaking, people earning less than €58,000 a year qualify to buy affordable housing in Dún Laoghaire – the rules governing eligibility for affordable housing vary from one local authority to another. In Dún Laoghaire, the rules take into account after-tax income and other individual factors.

If a property is sold within 20 years of buying it, DLRCOCO will clawback 20 per cent of the proceeeds – unless that brings the amount below the price paid.

DLRCOCO is committed to buying another 27 social and affordable units from Cosgrave Developments in this phase of the Honeypark scheme, but there’s no agreement yet on when they will be built or available.

An Bord Pleanála granted planning permission for 848 houses and apartments to be built in the first phase of the development on this part of the site, the south side of Glenageary Road Upper, in 2008.

Another 20 per cent of the 605 houses and apartments to be built in the second phase of the Cosgrave scheme should be given to the council for social/affordable housing.

But although An Bord Pleanála gave the developer planning permission in August this year to build the second phase planned – on the north side of Glenageary Road Upper, closer to the town – it is likely to be a long time before anything is built there. In all, a total of 1,500 houses and apartments are planned on the golf club lands.

Under planning laws, developers must provide 20 per cent of any residential development to local authorities for social and affordable housing at a discount from market prices. But after the property crash, most local authorites found themselves with affordable homes that cost them more than the new lower market prices.

Golf green gives way to housing

THE redevelopment of the Dún Laoghaire Golf Club site has proved controversial since the Cosgrave Property Group bought it in 2002. From the beginning, many local residents opposed the plan to cover the 78-acre green space, bisected by Glenageary Road Upper, with housing.

But in 2002, golf club members agreed to sell the land in exchange for €20 million and a new course in Enniskerry.

The site – 47 acres on the south side of the road, where Honeypark has been built, and 31 on the north side bordered by Tivoli Road – was controversially rezoned in 2004 after then Minister for the Environment Martin Cullen issued a directive to the council to do so to provide extra housing. And permission was ultimately granted for around 1,400 houses and apartments, despite rows between locals in favour of the status quo and a council insisting that it had to provide for Dún Laoghaire’s future housing needs. The developer’s plans for the site also include a public park, green spaces and a creche.

Controversy continued this year, when mature trees on Glenageary Road Upper were cut down to make way for road widening for the new scheme. Right now, the junction with the Kill Avenue roundabout is a bewildering tangle of barriers and yield signs. But people wishing to view Honeypark will be able to drive in through a clearly marked entrance from today, says selling agent Lisney.

Irish Times

Hen harrier puts paid to turbine plans

THE PROTECTED hen harrier has put paid to plans for a two-turbine extension to the existing 13-turbine wind farm at Booltiagh townland near Connolly in mid-Clare.

This follows An Bord Pleanála refusing planning permission to Booltiagh Wind Ltd to construct the turbines at Booltiagh.

The council refused planning for the proposal earlier this year.

In its appeal to the board, consultants for Booltiagh said the council had recently designated within the draft 2011-17 county development plan Slieve Callan, 6km to the north, as a preferred area for turbine development despite the fact it is a known hen harrier stronghold.

The consultants said: “Wind farms have been proposed and consented within special protection areas for hen harriers and on habitat designated as Annex 1 for hen harrier habitat, provided appropriate compensatory habitat and a long-term management plan has been adopted as part of the consent.

“It is accepted that the west Clare upland area as a whole is one of importance for hen harriers. This point has been made both by the Department of the Environment and by our own independent avian consultant.

“This is not at issue, what is at issue is whether the proposal for two additional turbines to the existing wind farm will have a significant adverse effect.”

The developers said: “If the presence of two additional turbines in the area is sufficient to warrant a refusal then it would be reasonable to assume that no further wind turbine development would be possible in the immediate area.”

The appeals board said the site was identified as an important foraging habitat for the hen harrier.

Irish Times

Wednesday 3 November 2010

Grid operator blown away by wind power's record output

IT was a big moment for wind power. Last Thursday at 7.45pm, a new record was set for the amount of electricity produced by wind power.

National grid operator Eirgrid said yesterday 1,196 megawatts of electricity were generated -- enough to power 250,000 homes.

And using wind instead of fossil fuels prevented 600 tonnes of carbon dioxide, the primary cause of global warming, from being generated.

The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland also said it would have cost about €80,000 to produce an equivalent amount of power in a traditional gas-fired plant.

The Irish Wind Energy Association said yesterday that wind power generation had delivered over half of Ireland's electricity needs a number of times this year.

By 2020, the Government wants 40pc of all power to be produced from renewable sources, and Ireland was set to meet that target, chief executive Dr Michael Walsh said.

"Ireland is leading the way in demonstrating that high levels of power generation from wind are achievable," Dr Walsh said.

Paul Melia
Irish Independent

Ireland formed from two islands, new book says

Ireland was once two islands with the Mountains of Mourne as hot as California's Death Valley, a new book revealed today.

Lava formations from primeval days helped provide the foundations for Carrickfergus Castle`s defences, the work by Belfast author Paul Lyle said.

Between Rocks And Hard Places links scientific, mythological and archaeological data. Published by the Geological Survey of Northern Ireland the book tells how Earth shaped Ireland's dramatic landscapes.

Mr Lyle said: "This area is exceptional for its natural beauty and rich heritage, but more than most ever realise. To the envy of many around the globe, it is possible for anyone here to easily see and examine rocks across almost the entire range of geological time.

"This book aims to reveal how we can read the rocks and decode the secrets of our distant past and the tremendous events that have moulded the natural and cultural landscapes we now know."

It describes how two islands an ocean apart joined to form Ireland. The publication shows how the deserts of Co Down were as hot as Death Valley.

Garth Earls, director of the Geological Survey, contributed to the book.

"For its size, the northern third of Ireland hosts as great a range of rock types and rock ages as you can find in Europe or indeed further afield.

"It has been incredibly influential, inspiring rich folklore, contributing to key historical events and continues to shape the very way we live our lives today."

Press Association

Irish Independent