Saturday 30 January 2010

Councillors seek inquiry into issuing of permit

Members of Wicklow County Council have voted to ask the Minister for the Environment to hold a full public inquiry into “all aspects of the performance and functions of Wicklow County Council” in the issuing of a waste management permit in 2003.

The councillors, who passed the resolution by 14 votes to five, also resolved that the handling of a previous investigation by the Department of the Environment’s Local Government Audit Service (LGAS) be itself investigated.

Speaking at a special meeting of the county council, Independent councillor Tommy Cullen said the issue related to allegations that the council’s then director of services, Michael Nicholson, had ordered the shredding of a waste permit covering lands at Ballybeg, near Rathnew, in January 2003.

The waste permit had a commercial value of more than €400,000, he said and he claimed the Byrne family who owned the land could have lost their farm, been fined up to €12.7 million and faced up to 10 years in jail if they had been convicted of operating a waste facility without a permit.

A draft report of the previous LGAS investigation noted that Mr Nicholson had ordered the permit removed from the file and shredded.

The LGAS report noted that Wicklow county manager Eddie Sheehy had told the LGAS inspector he felt he had not been given accurate information by Mr Nicholson.

In an at times heated debate, Mr Sheehy said he was “appalled” to read in The Irish Times before Christmas that he had received inaccurate information on a number of occasions from Mr Nicholson. He said he wanted to make it clear that any information provided by Mr Nicholson was something Mr Nicholson had himself been told - “and not something he had made up”. He asked that the newspaper note his remarks.

However, he also acknowledged that inaccurate information relating to the waste permit was given to the Byrne family, the elected councillors and solicitors for the Byrne family, in denying that a waste permit had been shredded.

Mr Sheehy said the LGAS had ultimately determined that an “administrative error” had occurred, which had no further implications for the council. A new waste permit had been issued by the council.

He also said the Byrnes were ultimately able to realise the value of the reissued permit and the council had apologised for giving inaccurate information to the Byrnes’ solicitors. Mr Sheehy said he would co-operate with any properly held inquiry.

The Irish Times

Thursday 28 January 2010

Tenders sought for skating rink

A 1980s craze could be set for a revival in southeast Co Dublin with tenders sought by Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company for a roller skating rink by the sea.

Proposals for the rink are part of plans to introduce leisure facilities to the harbour following the recent restoration of the East Pier and an application to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council to redevelop Carlisle Pier as a public and cultural amenity.

While the detailed plans for the rink are part of a tender process to design, build and operate the facility, it is likely that the rink would act as an ice skating rink in December and January and a roller skating rink at other times of the year.

The harbour company estimates that about one million people walk along the revamped East Pier each year, making it Ireland’s most popular walkway, while 650,000 passengers arrived into the harbour on ferry services from Britain last year.

Irish Times

Court further adjourns case against operator of illegal waste-transfer site

A CIRCUIT Court judge has said unusual circumstances led him to adjourn an application by Kerry County Council to imprison the operator of one of the region’s largest waste-recyclable operators for continuing to operate an illegal waste-transfer station near Listowel.

The station has been running for 4½ years without planning permission.

In July 2007, the Circuit Court, presided over by Judge Carroll Moran, ordered Eoghan McEnery of South West Bins Limited, to shut down his waste-transfer and dry recyclable plant at Carhooeragh, Kilmorna, Listowel, but granted a stay for 15 months. That had been extended again to April 2009.

There was no sign of Mr McEnery dismantling the business, Liz Murphy for Kerry County Council told the Circuit Civil Court in Killarney yesterday, and the council had no alternative except to bring a motion for committal against him.

Henry Downing, for Mr McEnery, said his client fully accepted he had to shut down and that he did not have planning permission, but he needed time to dismantle his operation and to move to an alternative site. “Because of the ‘not in my back yard syndrome’, my client has had extreme difficulty in getting an alternative site,” Mr Downing said.

The court heard of 26 attempts by Mr McEnery to find an alternative site, as well as efforts to acquire and merge existing sites with planning permission. It also heard how the planning process took several months.

Mr McEnery was now confident that a new site – nine acres, with industrial zoning but whose location he did not wish yet to disclose – would gain planning permission, Mr Downing said, possibly at the end of February.

With 10,000 customers in Kerry and west Limerick and more than 30 employees – 26 of them full-time – he was a significant employer in the region, and South West Bins was “an integral part of the waste management system” in the region, Mr Downing said.

Mr McEnery told the court that if his operation was shut down, he would go out of business. He had six competitors, including Kerry County Council, and he believed some of his competitors had “a big part” to play in objecting to him.

He had paid €1.1 million for a site in Dingle, but this would only cater for some of the plastics part of his recycling operation.

“With the boom, it was impossible to give what they [landowners] were asking. With the bust it is impossible to acquire money to buy the sites,” he said.

Judge Terence O’Sullivan said he appreciated it was very irregular for the courts to adjourn such an application, “but this is a rather unusual set of circumstances”.

“This businessman is a significant contributor to the economy. He employs 26 full-time people. It’s desirous that he should be able to carry on his business as best he can. I am satisfied he is attempting to relocate his business.”

He was “locked in the embrace of the planning process” and there was no wilful default by him. He adjourned the matter to before next Christmas. However, if he could not comply, there would be a requirement on him to cease his business, the judge added.

Irish Times

Planning dispute site in equine belt for sale

A 90-ACRE piece of land in Co Tipperary, which was at centre of a planning controversy, is to be sold by public auction after the owners failed to get permission for a waste-disposal facility.

In the heart of racehorse country, the site, near Rosegreen village, is close to the Ballydoyle training and racing stables and just a few miles from the country’s leading stud farm, Coolmore. It will be sold by public auction on February 9th.

Clonmel auctioneer Patrick Quirke described the site as “absolutely top-class land” and “as good as you can get in the south of Ireland”. The sale is expected to generate considerable interest given its location in Tipperary’s equine belt and as an indicator of current land prices.

Mr Quirke said there was no guide price but that the cost of similar agricultural land had “fallen by 50 per cent, from about €20,000 per acre to about €10,000”.

“Land of this quality”, which he described as perfect for a variety of agricultural uses, would appear to be “good value” at €10,000 an acre, but he admitted that it was not yet known “where the bottom of the market is”.

He said the “Golden Vale land”, which has extensive road frontage, was suitable for grazing or tillage.

The holding is non-residential but Mr Quirke thought it would be possible for a buyer to get planning permission for a house. About 15 acres are devoted to a rendering plant, which is still licensed but not operational.

The land was owned by the Ronan family who are prominent in Tipperary business circles. In 2002, the family sought approval to build an incinerator to burn animal waste and bone meal on the site. The proposal attracted considerable opposition, including from Coolmore Stud’s John Magnier, and was abandoned.

Subsequently the family entered into a business joint venture company, Green Organics Energy Ltd, which sought approval for a €100 million plant intended to process waste from meat factories and household organic brown bins.

The company planned to process the waste using a system known as anaerobic digestion to generate “green” electricity for the national grid and to manufacture biodiesel for cars.

However the project also created national controversy and objectors again included the Ballydoyle stables and Coolmore Stud.

Leading racehorse trainer Aidan O’Brien said the proposed development “would have destroyed Ballydoyle” and “ruined all the land in terms of raising horses”.

After a lengthy investigation and a public hearing in 2008, An Bord Pleanála, while acknowledging “the desirability of providing such facilities”, rejected the proposal claiming that it would be “prejudicial to the viability of the equine industry” in south Tipperary.

Now though the sale is expected to generate considerable interest given its location in Tipperary’s equine belt and as an indicator of current land prices.

Irish Times

Council renews case to close Bar Code club

DUBLIN CITY Council has reinstated its proceedings for the closure of Bar Code bar and nightclub and the demolition of parts of the Westwood Leisure Centre in Clontarf used by the club.

Although the High Court has upheld the Bord Pleanála decision to refuse permission to retain the nightclub, the council must still have an injunction granted by the courts before it can force the bar and club to cease trading and demand the demolition of structures built without planning permission.

The council must wait until February 17th to find out if Templeville Developments, owners of the leisure centre, will be appealing Mr Justice John Hedigan’s decision in the High Court yesterday to the Supreme Court.

If an appeal is taken, the council must wait until the end of those proceedings. If there is no Supreme Court appeal, the council will then seek a date to have its injunction against the unauthorised development heard in court.

A council spokesman said yesterday that there was no way of knowing when that injunction might be heard.

The council first began legal proceedings aimed at closing the bar, which had been the subject of a large number of complaints from local residents about noise and late-night revellers, in 2003. However, it suspended the action to allow for consideration of Templeville’s planning application to retain the bar.

The council refused permission in February 2008, and this was upheld by An Bord Pleanála the following September.

Local Fine Gael councillor Gerry Breen yesterday welcomed the court’s decision. “If the court had ruled any other way, it would have disadvantaged other businesses who play by the rules.”

The board had ruled that the proposed retention of Bar Code on the scale proposed for the sale and consumption of alcohol was “a non-permissible use” of the premises “in material contravention of the Dublin City Development plan”.

Irish Times

State admits failure to inform

THE STATE has failed to meet its obligation to provide information being sought by residents opposing the Poolbeg incinerator in Dublin, it has been acknowledged in the High Court.

The information should have been provided when residents brought court proceedings over the planned development.

The State yesterday consented to declarations by the High Court that it had failed to comply with its obligations under an EU directive to make “practical information” available to the public concerning access to procedures to review planning decisions. The declarations were made under a settlement of a court action over the proposed incinerator.

The Combined Residents Against Incineration had initiated High Court proceedings in January 2008, challenging the manner in which permission was given.

They claimed they were entitled to have a review of the decision in accordance with an EU directive on environmental impact assessment. They also claimed an environmental impact statement prepared by Dublin City Council on the incinerator was flawed and should have been rejected by An Bord Pleanála.

The residents brought their action against the Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government, and against Ireland, the Attorney General and Dublin City Council. An Bord Pleanála was a notice party.

The High Court was told yesterday a settlement had been reached in which the State admitted it had not complied with its obligation to ensure practical information was made available to the public on access to administrative and judicial review procedures.

Irish Times

Miracle needed at Mount Argus

HOUSEBUILDER Eugene Larkin will be praying for the divine intervention of Saint Charles Houben now that An Bord Pleanála has refused his Twinlight Construction company planning permission for two residential developments alongside Mount Argus in Harold’s Cross, Dublin 6. The saint is central to Mount Argus where his remains were reinterred by the Passionist order before his canonisation in 2007.

Larkin, who paid around €20 million for the monastery and 5.7 acres at Mount Argus early in 2008, had earlier secured permission from Dublin City Council planners for 211 apartments to the rear of the church.

A second application, also rejected by the board, had sought approval to demolish part of the monastery, refurbishment of the remaining parts of the period building and the provision of 55 apartments in a four-storey block as well as seven townhouses.

The objectors included the Mount Argus Road and Church Park Residents Association which described the development as “high handed and insensitive” to the conservation needs of the church and monastery. The group also pointed out that, while the monastery was not protected, it is inseparable from the church.

One of the inspectors from the planning appeals board complained that Twinlight’s plan to increase the culverting of the River Poddle running through the site would “have a negative impact on the amenity value and character of the watercourse”. An odd observation given that the Poddle is presently no more than a dirty, overgrown ditch.

The board’s decision was signed off by Mary Bryan, a qualified architect and a former chairperson of the Irish Georgian Society.

Irish Times

Irish Times blames planners ...

It's time to quiz planners for their part in the crash, says ISABEL MORTON

AS THE next few rounds of the blame game get going, including the banking enquiry, one wonders when our 88 different planning authorities and more importantly, our planning appeals board (An Bord Pleanála), will get much more than a sharp slap on the wrist for their part in the property fiasco which resulted in some 300,000 homes lying empty.

No doubt individual planning authorities, much like the banks and the developers, were only interested in what was going on in their own back yard, but one would have to wonder how and why An Bord Pleanála upheld permission for so much of what was built during the Tiger days.

An Bord Pleanála’s mission statement is “to play our part as an independent body in ensuring that physical development and major infrastructure projects in Ireland respect the principles of sustainable development and are planned in an efficient, fair and open manner”.

Surely, as an independent body, An Bord Pleanála was responsible for ensuring that local planning authorities didn’t lose the run of themselves? Why did they permit so much to be built, in so many obviously unsuitable locations, over such a long period of time?

Indeed, much like the Financial Regulator, Bord Pleanála could have gone a long way towards stopping the property train from going off the rails. But it didn’t and, so far, has managed to escape the nation’s wrath.

As we recently discovered, it was not just a simple case of getting the numbers wrong and allowing too many units to be built; it permitted many developments to be built in areas which were at risk of flooding and had poor infrastructure and inadequate services and facilities.

Furthermore, there appears to have been no control or any overall planning strategy, which might have prevented many minuscule one and two-bedroom apartments, none suitable for families with children and many of inferior design and construction, being built.

Ironically, last October 2009, at the launch of Bord Pleanála’s 2008 annual report, its chairman, John O’Connor, said he was “concerned that developers may be tempted, in the present market, to return to lower density development. However, national policies on building more sustainable communities for the future do not favour a return to old-style density development due to the greater than ever need for the most efficient use of expensive infrastructure, for increased environmental sustainability and for less urban sprawl.”

Of course developers will be “tempted” by lower density developments of houses rather than apartments, as there would hardly be much point in building more apartments to add to the unsold glut.

However, Minister for the Environment John Gormley recently recommended an amendment to the Planning and Development Bill 2009, which he brought before the Dáil last December. He said: “I have also taken a strong stance with certain local authorities by issuing directions requiring them to amend their development plans where they have included excessive or inappropriate zonings,” suggesting that planning authorities should consider using existing “down-zoning” provisions.

“It is no coincidence that our commuter towns are now suffering the most from the economic downturn. These are the towns where house upon house was built, and field upon field rezoned, with little thought given to flood risk assessment, or where nothing was provided by way of community facilities or amenities. This is not my idea of sustainable communities. Scatterings of estates, poorly linked by transport, under constant threat of flooding, distant from schools and dependent on transport by car, must become a feature of our past, not our present or future.” He explained how the Bill included the introduction of “flood risk assessments” as part of proposed future planning applications and recommended that all land zonings would have to be the subject of public consultation.

An amendment to the Bill is undoubtedly necessary; however, you can’t but wonder at the point of closing and locking the stable door at this stage. Gormley’s most interesting comment, however, came following his acknowledgement of planning departments’ increased workload and his respect for locally elected councillors, when he said: “I do not want their work contaminated by that small number of people who use the planning system for their own gain.”

His statement was a clear acknowledgement that all has not been well within planning departments. No doubt, they will be the next on the long list of organisations, which will be made subject to lengthy public (yet behind closed doors) enquiries. Like a large onion, there is always another layer to be peeled. And with each layer, come more tears.

Irish Times

Tuesday 26 January 2010

Nuns' order plans to redevelop Rathmines site

PLANS BY the Sisters of St Louis to redevelop the 3.5-acre site of their convent school in Rathmines, Dublin, are to be opposed by local residents who are concerned about the “excessive scale” of what is being proposed.

The order of nuns, which runs the successful St Louis High School, lodged a planning application with Dublin City Council before Christmas for a scheme that would include 86 apartments in blocks up to five storeys high on its playing fields.

The proposed development also includes the demolition of a Victorian house, No 1 Grosvenor Road, as well as a former chapel, and the construction of a new four-storey convent building with the St Louis grotto relocated in its private garden.

It also provides for a new two-storey sports hall on the northwest corner of the site, a new basketball court, 83-car parking spaces below a landscaped podium and the creation of an area of public open space at the corner of Charleville Road.

Kevin Donovan, a resident of one of the listed villa-style houses on Charleville Road, said most of his neighbours were opposed to the plan, on the basis that its “excessive scale” would be inconsistent with the conservation area status” of the locality.

He said they were also concerned about the traffic and parking implications of the scheme – designed by Murray O’Laoire Architects – as well as the loss of trees, open space and a “very fine” granite boundary wall along the Charleville Road frontage.

For some time, the sisters of St Louis and their estate agents, Bannon Property Consultants, have been considering development options for part of the convent school site where three basketball courts are currently located.

The school itself will not be affected.

“The scale and density of this proposed development has increased dramatically due to falling property values”, Mr Donovan said.

“To make the profit to fund the nuns residential block and school sports hall, a greater development is now required.”

Under the latest plan, the nuns would get a new convent building while the school would get a new indoor sports hall – both to be built by a developer, who has yet to be sourced.

In return, the developer would build the 86 apartments for private sale.

However, Dublin City Council planners may take the view that the proposed development would be in line with their policy to promote higher density residential schemes in inner suburban areas such as Rathmines is well served by public transport.

Irish Times

Court reserves judgment on Westwood

THE HIGH Court has reserved judgment in a case taken by a leading Dublin leisure centre against a refusal of retention planning permission for parts of the business, including a bar and nightclub.

Westwood Leisure Centre on Clontarf Road is seeking to overturn a decision by An Bord Pleanála refusing planning permission for the retention of extensive portions of the premises, including the Bar Code nightclub.

The owners of the club, Templeville Developments, may have to close or demolish numerous alterations and extensions to the premises if the court opts to uphold the planners’ decision.

In 2008, the board upheld Dublin City Council’s decision to grant retention permission for elements of the complex that were ancillary to its use as a leisure centre but said other extensions were built without planning approval. It said the elements being retained “shall not be used at any time for the sale or consumption of intoxicating liquor”.

The council first began legal proceedings aimed at closing the bar in 2003, but these were adjourned to allow for the planning application. Templeville then sought and was refused retention permission, and An Bord Pleanála upheld this decision in September 2008. The company sought a judicial review and the hearing was heard over five days late last year.

The council is now reinstating its case in relation to the unauthorised bar but says it can’t go ahead until the High Court appeal is decided.

Phillip Smyth, who controls Templeville Developments and runs two other clubs at Leopardstown and Sandymount, says he has been advised by lawyers not to comment.

The club is home to the country’s first 50m swimming pool, and its owners claim the bar is needed to subsidise other operations.

It says Bar Code occupies just 1 per cent of the overall floor space and claims local residents have been given assurances over the operation of the nightclub.

The council is also seeking rent arrears from the Westwood owners for the use of a carpark which the council owns.

The club has not paid for the use of the land since the mid-1990s, but the council has denied a claim by local Fine Gael councillor Gerry Breen that it has acquired a squatter’s title as a result.

In 2007, the council and Templeville agreed the terms of a lease for the carpark. Rent was agreed at €25,000 a year, abated to €1,000 a year for the first 10 years to offset expenditure by the club in surfacing the carpark.

The council says it has asked Templeville to pay the arrears, but nothing has been received yet. A council spokesman said there was an issue with the right of way at the carpark but this was resolved in the past few months and “all legal avenues” were being used to secure payment.

Irish Times

Inquiry must examine political acts that stoked crisis

WHEN WAS it decided to call this inquiry into our financial crisis a banking inquiry? By limiting the description of what is under scrutiny, the perception may arise that the Irish banking and regulatory systems are the sole focus of inquiry, writes ELAINE BYRNE

In the Dáil last week, Brian Lenihan spoke of the need for “a comprehensive analysis, which will enable us to understand the origins of the crisis and help us to learn lessons . . .”

This absolutely includes a thorough, honest examination of the political decision-making which facilitated the circumstances responsible for the worst financial crisis in the history of this State. A credible inquiry must embrace an analysis of systemic governance and policy failures. This would include:

1. A complete list of tax reliefs/incentives granted by the Government to developers, investors and first-time buyers which stoked up the price of land, inflated the boom and overheated the market. For instance, the rural renewal schemes which contributed to 300,000 unoccupied houses in ghost estates and the property incentives for new hotels which Peter Bacon estimates has caused an oversupply of 15,000 hotel rooms nationally.

2. A detailed breakdown of the cost of these tax incentives. The 2000-2007 Special Incentive Tax Rate for developers has cost the exchequer €800 million, for example.

3. All documentation held by the relevant Government agencies and regulatory authorities relating to the decision-making processes which granted these tax incentives and that are relevant to regulatory policy. Why was long-term macro public policymaking forfeited for short-term micro interventions? Did Government routinely ignore the policy advice of senior officials or was such advice inadequate? Would an inquiry reveal malfeasance within internal Government decision-making as the Ombudsman’s recent report on the Lost at Sea scheme seemed to suggest?

4. The appointment procedures and legislative framework which allowed retired regulators to move on to bank boards and the practice of cross-directorships where chief executives became chairmen of companies, contrary to corporate governance guidelines.

5. A declaration of the financial liabilities of politicians. How many politicians, or their close associates, received interest-free loans or mortgages on favourable terms or loans received outside of normal lending practices? Prime Time Investigates outlined, for instance, how Charlie McCreevy, minister for finance from 1997-2004, was fast-tracked a €1.6 million mortgage. Standard banking procedures were also ignored in relation to loans to former Fianna Fáil senator Don Lydon, current Fianna Fáil Senator Francie O’Brien and Celia Larkin.

6. An examination of local government zoning decisions. John O’Connor, An Bord Pleanála chairman, described local councillors as responding to the “special pleadings of landowners and other vested interests” in his 2007 annual report.

7. The structure of local government funding which facilitated the financial dependency on development levies (worth nearly €600 million in 2005 and nearly €700 million in 2006) and if this reliance influenced erroneous planning decisions.

8. A full picture of how local and national elections are funded. The Council of Europe body, the Group of States against Corruption (Greco), issued 10 recommendations yesterday on the transparency of Irish political funding and “trading in influence”, also referred to as legal corruption.

Greco noted that it was “crucial that full party accounts, including itemised information on the total annual income and expenditure, debts and assets of political parties, are also made publicly available”. The failure to do so was “a significant shortcoming” by Irish political parties.

When interviewed for this report last year, I gave Greco my study of all disclosed donations made to the standards commission from 1997-2007. Of the €10.1 million spent by parties and candidates in the obligatory three-week accounting period before the 2007 general election (never mind that spent in the previous two years!) just €1.3 million was disclosed to the standards commission. That’s €8.8 million in undisclosed donations.

The study also showed that 40 per cent of Fianna Fáil’s disclosed donations came from developers and construction-related donors and that Fianna Fáil received about £68,000 (some of the money was in Irish pounds, some in dollars) from financial institutions between 1998-2000 including Anglo Irish Bank, the Seán Quinn Group, AIB and Irish Life. Why were banks donating to a Government party?

Greco concluded that “full transparency and openness” would help “strengthen public trust in political parties and political representation in Ireland”. Lenihan, by the way, failed to mention trust even once in his Dáil speech establishing the banking inquiry.

The Treasury Select Committee in Britain held an inquiry to “identify lessons that can be learned form the banking crisis” and received more than 6,000 written questions from the public. These questions were distilled and formed part of the public questioning of the chancellor, the governor of the Bank of England and the regulatory authorities.

John McFall, chairman of that committee, told RTÉ’s This Week “public engagement was hugely important . . . because the public are saying, wait a minute, the banks have gone belly up and we are paying for it. What’s the situation? How did we get into this situation?”

The Irish public does not have any such opportunity to engage in an inquiry which from the outset is perceived to lack legitimacy because of the decision to hold the investigation in private, unlike similar inquiries in the US and Britain. To that end, I have registered the domain name and perhaps the governor of the Central Bank, Patrick Honohan, would use it to ask the public what questions they believe should be asked.

Irish Times

Friday 22 January 2010

Losses likely on Poolbeg incinerator

Dublin City Council could lose money on the planned Poolbeg incinerator in Dublin, even if the facility is highly profitable, The Sunday Business Post has learned.

Under the terms of a contract between the council and US energy giant Covanta, the council will forgo a large proportion of any income it is entitled to if it fails to supply an agreed ‘Band 1’ tonnage of waste to the facility. The clause applies even if the incinerator is profitable.

In addition to the potential loss, the council will face penalties if it fails to supply the 320,000 tonnes of waste to the incinerator each year. The incinerator will have capacity for 600,000 tonnes of waste, so the council is contracted to supply more than half the total each year.

The contract states that revenue from the sale of energy from the incinerator - both electricity and heat - will be shared between the council and Covanta. The agreement also specifies strict circumstances under which both sides may withdraw from the contract if an 'uninsurable risk' arises or in the event of a relevant 'change in law'.

It is understood that the areas covered by an uninsurable risk would include a legal determination that the contract breached competition law.

Environment minister John Gormley, who is opposed to the incinerator development, is to appoint a special investigator to examine aspects of the project at Ringsend in Dublin. Gormley has also said that he may refer the deal to the Competition Authority for scrutiny.

The Sunday Business Post

Incinerator decision welcomed

Opponents of a proposed €150 million twin incinerator development for Ringaskiddy in Cork Harbour have welcomed the decision by An Bord Pleanála following an oral hearing to refuse planning permission for part of the project dealing with municipal waste.

Indaver Ireland said that it remained confident of progressing the project after Bord Pleanála indicated that it was considering granting permission for both a hazardous waste incinerator and a transfer station if certain concerns were addressed.

Bord Pleanála said that Indaver should make amendments to its Environmental Impact Statement to address concerns over flooding, coastal erosion and revised emissions if it wished to obtain planning for the hazardous waste incinerator and transfer station.

Indaver Ireland had applied under the Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Act 2006 for a 100,000 tonne hazardous industrial waste incinerator, a 140,000 tonne municipal waste incinerator and a transfer station at the 12 hectare Ringaskiddy site.

Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment chairwoman Mary O'Leary welcomed the news and paid tribute to Cork County Council for opposing such a facility.

"It's good news for the commmunity and huge credit is due to Cork County Council for defending their waste management plans so thoroughly," said Ms O'Leary.

However, she called on Bord Pleanála to clarify its position on the proposed hazardous waste plant.

"The Bord states that the EIS is 'deficient' in regard to flooding of the public road, coastal erosion and their impacts, and therefore we are adamant that this should have been turned down outright, rather than giving developers a second bite of the cherry."

Ms O'Leary pointed out that recent flood management guidelines issued by Department of the Environment recommend that developments on sites subject to flooding should be avoided rather than engineered around and An Bord Pleanála should respect this.

A spokesman for Indaver Ireland said that the company had been informed by Bord Pleanála that it is considering granting planning for both the transfer station and the hazardous waste incinerator subject to receipt of additional information within three months.

"We will now proceed to meet this request .... Indaver is pleased to have progressed our application to this point. We are approaching completion of two aspects of our proposal and are confident that the specifics requested by the Bord can be satisfied," he said.

Regarding the municipal waste incinerator, An Bord Pleanála had ruled that planning was not appropriate "at this time, having regard to both layout and lmiited size of the site and current strategy of the Cork local authorities in respect of waste management,"he said.

Asked about the financial viability of the hazardous waste incinerator without a municipal waste incinerator, the Indaver spokesman said the preference remained to build both units but that the company was pleased with the progress it had made to date.

Green Party Senator Dan Boyle said the decision to refuse permission for the municipal waste incinerator undermined the economic viability of the hazardous waste incinerator and he called for a further public inquiry to address the question of flooding risk at the site.

Irish Times

Thursday 21 January 2010

Judge hearing Lissadell right of way case to visit estate

THE HIGH Court judge hearing the dispute over whether there are public rights of way across the historic Lissadell estate in Co Sligo has said he will visit the estate before the conclusion of the case.

Mr Justice Bryan McMahon announced his intention yesterday to lawyers for the owners of the estate and for Sligo County Council and asked the sides what would be an appropriate time for him to visit. The case is expected to last several more weeks, the judge also heard.

Earlier, the judge was told by Brian Murray SC, for the owners, Edward Walsh and Constance Cassidy, that his side disputed the council’s claim that public rights of way across the estate were created under some 14 grants made in the 19th century for the upkeep of various roads between Lissadell and other locations in counties Sligo and Leitrim.

Counsel said the crucial issue was that these grand jury grants, made on dates from 1813 to 1834, appeared to relate to roads “between” Lissadell and other locations and not to roads “within” Lissadell itself.

His side had been unable to find any grant referring to the building of anything at or within Lissadell. Many of the grants also related to long stretches of road and it was not clear what specific part of the road to which the grant related.

Mr Murray was addressing issues in the council’s counter-claim in the proceedings brought against it by the owners in which they are seeking declarations that there are no public rights of way over four roads in Lissadell.

Among various claims in its counter claim, the council contends the dedication and/or acceptance of public rights of way over the roads in question can be inferred from various materials, including the passage over the roads by members of the public “throughout living memory and since at least 1900”.

It also relies on various maps and the use of public money for the upkeep of roads at Lissadell.

The council also claims public rights of way may be inferred from the making of grants by the grand jury for the county of Sligo on dates from 1813 to March 1834 to the owners’ predecessors in title for the purposes of building or repairing the roadways.

Mr Murray said he expected to continue his opening today, after which his side will call evidence.

The action resumed this week after being adjourned last October to allow the sides assess the significance of discovered documents.

Mr Walsh and Ms Cassidy, whose principal address is Morristown, Lattin, Naas, Co Kildare, but who use Lissadell as a second home, bought the Lissadell estate, extending over some 410 acres and the former home of Countess Constance Markievicz, for almost €4 million in 2003. They have spent some €9.5 million restoring it and claim they cannot operate it as a tourist amenity if public rights of way exist.

Irish Times

Wednesday 20 January 2010

Soccer club asks to play on Murrough

A SECTION of town council owned land on the Murrough could be used as a training pitch for Wicklow Town AFC.

Cllr. Malcolm Earls had made a request on behalf of the soccer club to lease the land on a yearly basis from the council so it can be used for players to train. At the moment Wicklow Town AFC has two playing pitches but no training pitch.

Cllr. Pat Byrne initially earmarked the site as potentially suitable for the needs of the soccer club and Cllr. Earls and other members of the club visited the area to see just how suitable it may be.

At the moment the site is covered with firs but the club see plenty of potential for a training facility.

Town engineer, Pacelli Flood, believes there is a fair amount of work needed to make the site playable, including levelling works, draining, seeding and possibly lighting.

However, Cllr. Earls says the club can level the pitch themselves, as well as carrying some of the other works needed.

Town Manager, Michael Nicholson, has promised to get a price for levelling and get back to the club with the details.

Meanwhile the council also plans to revisit plans for a sporting facility at Brideshead.

In June the town council applied to Wicklow County Council for planning permission for the proposed development which included three pitches, an all weather running track and a sports-hall. However, the County Council refused planning due to concerns over the impact on the environment and traffic safety.

The consultants behind the turned down plan have now being asked to scale back the development and come up with a more suitable plan.

Wicklow People

Lissadell right of way claim rejected

Extensive documentary evidence about the Lissadell estate in Co Sligo dating back 200 years does not contain a single document showing the Gore-Booth family dedicated public rights of way, the High Court heard today.

Brian Murray SC, for the Lissadell owners, said there was no record of claims by Sligo County Council that such a dedication occurred at the beginning of the 19th century.

Gabrielle Gore-Booth, whose family owned the estate for some 400 years, had at one stage in 1956 closed off all four gates to the estate, he said. This was an action not suggestive of any belief by her of a right of public access, he argued.

A letter in 1969 from Aideen Gore-Booth - stating her father Sir Jocelyn had opened the estate to the public after 1900 and the public had rights of way since over three avenues in the estate - had to be seen against a background where the family were very anxious to secure funding for maintenance of the roads in the estate, counsel submitted.

The claim that public rights of way were dedicated from 1900 was “utterly implausible” on several grounds, including their location and extent as it was alleged the rights of way went right up to the house and criss-crossed every principal avenue.

Lissadell House, he argued, was built so as to maximise the privacy of its inhabitants and this was illustrated by the fact there was a tunnel for deliveries so the vista from the house should not be broken.

Counsel was outlining some arguments of barristers Edward Walsh SC and Constance Cassidy SC at the resumption of their action before Mr Justice Bryan McMahon over whether there are public rights of way on certain roads through the estate, now extending over some 410 acres but once incorporating 32,000 acres.

The couple bought the estate, the former home of Countess Constance Markievicz, for almost €4 million in 2003 and have spent some €9.5 million restoring it. They claim they cannot operate it as a tourist amenity if public rights of way exist.

The hearing was adjourned last October to allow assessment of the significance of recently discovered documents, some dating from the early 19th century. The owners claim the documents disclose no dedication of public rights of way but the council disputes that.

Mr Murray said Sir Michael Gore-Booth was made a ward of court after his father, Sir Jocelyn Gore-Booth, died in 1944 and the estate came under the control of the High Court wards of court office for several years.

A letter of February 1954 to SCC from the President of the High Court, who managed the wards of court list, stated the court did not object to the council carrying out certain road works on the estate provided it accepted this would give neither the council nor the public any right to claim a public right of way over the roads, Mr Murray said.

That letter also said there would be access to the sea shore at Lissadell but a gate on that road would be closed once a year to maintain the private nature of the road. The council accepted those conditions.

While some public monies were spent on road works, this was an acknowledgement tourists were interested in visiting Lissadell and were permitted to do so by courtesy of the owners, he added.

Ms Cassidy and Mr Walsh, with addresses at Morristown, Lattin, Naas, Co Kildare and Lissadell, are seeking orders and declarations that four routes in the estate are not subject to public rights of way.

The council contends public rights of way do exist including on the basis public monies were spent since 1954 on certain roadways.

The proceedings began after the council passed a resolution in December 2008 to amend the Sligo County Development plan to include provision for the “preservation of the public rights of way” at Lissadell. As a result of that resolution, the owners closed Lissadell House to the public in January 2009.

The case continues.

Irish Times

No evidence of Lissadell right of way, court told

EXTENSIVE DOCUMENTARY evidence about the Lissadell estate in Co Sligo dating back 200 years does not contain a single document showing the Gore-Booth family dedicated public rights of way over the estate, the High Court was told yesterday.

Sligo County Council was claiming such a dedication occurred at the beginning of the 19th century but there was no record of that, Brian Murray SC, for the Lissadell owners, said.

Gabrielle Gore-Booth, whose family owned the estate for some 400 years, had at one stage in 1956 closed off all four gates to the estate, an action not suggestive of any belief by her of a right of public access, he argued.

A letter in 1969 from Aideen Gore-Booth stated her father Sir Jocelyn had opened the estate to the public after 1900. Since then the public had rights of way over three avenues in the estate. The letter had to be seen against a background where the Gore-Booths were very anxious to secure funding for maintenance of the roads in the estate, Mr Murray said.

The claim that public rights of way were dedicated from 1900 was “utterly implausible” on several grounds, including their location and extent, as it was alleged the rights of way went right up to the house and criss-crossed every principal avenue.

Lissadell House, he argued, was built so as to maximise the privacy of its inhabitants, illustrated by the fact there was a tunnel for deliveries so the vista from the house should not be broken.

Mr Murray was outlining some arguments of Edward Walsh and Constance Cassidy at the resumption of their action before Mr Justice Bryan McMahon over whether there are public rights of way on certain roads through the estate, now extending over 410 acres but once incorporating 32,000 acres.

The couple bought the estate, once the home of Countess Constance Markievicz, for almost €4 million in 2003 and have spent €9.5 million restoring it. They claim they cannot operate it as a tourist amenity if public rights of way exist.

The hearing was adjourned last October to allow assessment of the significance of recently discovered documents, some dating from the early 19th century. The owners claim the documents disclose no dedication of public rights of way, but the council disputes that.

Mr Murray said yesterday that Sir Michael Gore-Booth was made a ward of court after his father, Sir Jocelyn Gore-Booth, died in 1944 and the estate came under the control of the High Court wards of court office for several years.

A letter of February 1954 to Sligo council from the president of the High Court, who managed the wards of court list, stated the court did not object to the council carrying out certain road works on the estate, provided it accepted this would give neither the council nor the public any right to claim a public right of way over the roads, Mr Murray said.

That letter also said there would be access to the sea shore at Lissadell, but a gate on that road would be closed once a year to maintain its private nature. The council accepted those conditions. While some public money was spent on road works, this was an acknowledgment that tourists were interested in visiting Lissadell and were permitted to do so by courtesy of the owners, he added.

Ms Cassidy and Mr Walsh, with addresses at Morristown, Lattin, Naas, Co Kildare, and Lissadell, are seeking orders and declarations that four routes in the estate are not subject to public rights of way. The council contends public rights of way do exist, including on the basis that public money was spent since 1954 on certain roadways.

Proceedings began after the council in December 2008 passed a resolution to amend the county development plan to include provision for “preservation of the public rights of way” at Lissadell. As a result, Lissadell House was closed to the public in January 2009.

The case continues.

Irish Times

Offaly power station hearing to begin

A public hearing is to get under way today to consider a planning application for a €300 million 325-megawatt gas-power station in Ferbane, Co Offaly.

An application for the plant, which will be located on the old ESB Ferbane power station was lodged with An Bord Pleanála by Tullamore-based firm Lumcloon Energy in August 2009.

The plant will consist of two generating units – a flexible unit consisting of two gas turbines and one steam turbine and a smaller simple-cycle unit. The simple-cycle unit is a reserve/peaking unit to support wind energy power plants in the event of a rapid fall-off in wind generation.

Lumcloon Energy says the plant will also be the first to use a new, more efficient design for condensing steam produced at the plant back into water.

The proposed plant has been specifically designed to support the Government’s plans to develop renewable energy.

If given the go-ahead, the plant would create 500 jobs during construction and a further 50 permanent positions on completion.

Work on the site is projected to begin this year with power from the plant be available to the national grid from the first half of 2012.

Over 80 submissions have been made to Offaly County Council and An Bord Pleanála over the plant.

An Bord Pleanála will consider all submissions and give its decision on March 10th.

Irish Times

Monday 18 January 2010

Plans for development in Ballycoursey scuppered

A CASTLEBRIDGE development firm has had its plans scuppered for four new houses in a field at Ballycoursey between Enniscorthy and Glenbrien. The development was put forward by P.W.M.W. Construction Limited (with addresses at Foxborough in Castlebridge and c/o Darragh Ryan of Cleariestown) and planning permission was granted by Wexford County Council.

However, the company ran into difficulties when its application for a sewerage discharge licence was considered by Bord Pleanála recently. In response to an appeal by the Eastern Regional Fisheries Board, the planning board ruled that the licence should be refused.

Outline planning permission for the four houses, with a shared entrance on to the public road, was originally granted to Joseph Mooney back in 2005. Early in 2007, P.W.M.W. Construction persuaded the county council to grant full planning permission.

The firm's application prompted an observation from local landholder Nicholas Quirke. He noted that the waste water from the small estate would flow into an open gripe on his property. He was concerned that this might affect grazing cattle.

However, this was not an issue when the case was considered by Bord Pleanála. Instead, the board was more worried about that fact that the stream in Ballycoursey More is already due to take the discharges from the new Castle Garden nursing home nearby.

Wexford People

Bray Town Council Development Plan 2005-2011

The Bray Town Council Development Plan can be viewed at

Wicklow County Council - Forward Planning

In answer to a phone call today, Forward Planning is the area of Wicklow County Council's Planning Department which deals with the preparation and review of the County Development Plan, Local Area Plans, Town Plans, Heritage and Protected Structures.

If you want to make a submission to the Planning Department in respect of any area of the County, it is to this Department the submission goes.

Council call for help to deal with planning application

WICKLOW County Council has requested the assistance of An Bord Pleanála in dealing with a planning application from Multimetals Recycling Limited for a facility on the Murrough.

Under Section 5 of the Planning Act, Wicklow County Council has referred the case to An Bord Pleanála to decide whether the provision of a metal recycling facility and construction of a 1.8m high wall is or is not development and is or is not exempt development. Section 5 involves a referral of a declaration by a planning authority of a question as to what is or is not development or exempted development.

The case is to be decided by April 29. A number of objections to the planning application have already been lodged with Wicklow County Council, including objections from Friends of the Murrough and others.

Wicklow People

Landscape work begins at Murrough before councillors get to see plans

SURPRISE has been expressed that landscaping work has already started along the Murrough before plans were shown to Wicklow Town Council.

Councillors had complained during the last meeting of 2009 about the condition the Murrough was in as work on the town relief road and port access road took place. At the same December meeting they were told they would be provided with drawings of the landscape plans before any of the works took place.

However, at the first meeting of 2010 last week, Cllr. Pat Kavanagh pointed out that landscaping work had already taken place which she didn't

regard as being suitable to the area.

'There were meant to be picnic tables in one part of the Murrough but that same area has now been planted with saplings. The area for the picnic tables is no longer there. Now leaves and litter will gather underneath. It's the sort of work you carry out on embankments. It might be low maintenance and little mowing needed, but it isn't advisable for the areas it's in.'

She felt the best option was to take up the saplings already planted.

Town Manager, Michael Nicholson, agreed that the elected members were promised they would be shown a finished landscape plan before work started and said he would immediately follow up the matter.

Wicklow People

Proposed Amendments to the DLRCC Draft County Development Plan 2010-2016

Submissions in respect of proposed Amendments to the Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council Draft County Development Plan 2010-2016 must be in by the 22nd of January. Contact bps to make a submission.

Draft Dublin City Development Plan 2011 -2017 - Dublin City Council

The closing date for submissions to the Draft Dublin City Development Plan 2011-2017 is 12 Mar 2010. If you wish to make a submission please contact bps.

Review of County Development Plan 2006-2012 - Laois County Council

A review of the Laois County Council County Development Plan is underway. If you wish to make a submission to the 2006-2012 Development Plan, please contact bps before 1 March 2010.

Greystones/Delgany Local Area Plan 2006 - 2012 - Proposed Amendment - Wicklow County Council

Greystones/Delgany Local Area Plan 2006 - 2012 - Proposed Amendment is now on display. To make a submission, please contact bps before the 8th of February 2009.

Vacant homes to meet housing needs

THERE are more than 100,000 vacant houses nationwide which the Department of the Environment now wants to secure to solve social housing problems.

Junior minister for housing Michael Finneran said the latest figures available to him are that there are 100,000 to 140,000 vacant properties across the country, not including holiday homes. At least 10,000 of these are in Dublin.

He now wants to target these for extended long term leasing and rental accommodation schemes to meet growing demands for social housing.

Mr Finneran made a presentation to the Cabinet last week on his strategy.

He said if there is a social housing demand at the same time that a slew of vacant properties exist, it would be remiss not to link one with the other.

"I would be a foolish minister if I did not try to match our problem [social housing] with their problem [vacant houses]," he said.

There are 56,000 people on local authority housing lists. More than 20,000 of these would already be placed in accommodation by councils under rent assistance schemes.

"I see an opportunity [after the property crash] because there are a lot of vacant properties and every cloud has a silver lining," he said.

He has allocated €40 million for the long-term leasing scheme, targeted at 4,000 houses this year.

Another €80m will be spent on the rent accommodation scheme, set to open up 8,000 houses.

Mr Finneran said the latest figures available to the Department of the Environment are well over the 40,000 figure used by the Construction Industry Federation.

But he said the department’s figures are the most reliable estimate as they are not confined to those still held by developers.

However, many of the units are not suitable for the needs of those on the housing list because of size and access issues.

Mr Finneran said capital assistance grants will be used to adapt these houses and make them suitable for those with mobility problems or disabilities.

Irish Examiner

Court hears of Docklands theatre dispute

A dispute related to the development of the new Grand Canal Theatre in Dublin’s docklands will not affect the opening of the theatre in March, the Commercial Court was told today.

Ramford Ltd, a company controlled by developer Joseph O’Reilly, has brought proccoeedings arising from an agreement of June 29th 2007 between his company and O2 co-owner, Harry Crosbie, to develop the 2,000 seat theatre.

Mr Crosbie owns the lease of the theatre at Grand Canal Square, designed by architect Daniel Libeskind, which is due to open on St Patrick’s Day.

Under the June 2007 agreement, Ramford claims it was to design and construct the theatre and to ensure that various theatre works were designed, carried out and completed.

It claims Mr Crosbie undertook to furnish a contract sum of €10 million on the completion date and also to discharge additional amounts paid by Ramford for the purchase and installation of fixtures, fittings and equipment (FF&E).

It is claimed it was agreed, if the direct and vouched costs of the FF&E exceeded €6.5 million, Mr Crosbie would pay the additional amount within 10 working days from receipt of the relevant invoices provided the FF&E were installed in accordance with the agreement.

It is also claimed, should any dispute arise, the agreement provided for that to be referred to an independent professional for determination.

Ramford claims it had spent some €9.4 million on FF&E by July 2009 when a dispute arose between the sides as to liability for some €2.9 million of that amount.

Ramford claims it then sought to have that matter dealt with by an independent professional, as provided for in the agreement, but Mr Crosbie had maintained the matters in dispute were not appropriate for determination by the independent professional.

Mr Crosbie also asked Ramford not to nominate an independent professional unless it had a declaratory order to that effect from the High Court.

The President of the Law Society, on the application of Ramford, had on December 15th last, nominated John Gore-Grines as the independent expert but on December 23rd solicitors for Mr Crosbie said they did not accept that nomination.

Lyndon MacCann SC, for Mr Crosbie, said today his client took issue with several of the claims made by Ramford but the dispute would not affect the opening of the theatre in March next. Mr Justice Peter Kelly, on consent of Mr Crosbie, transferred the proceedings to the Commercial Court.

Irish Times

Half of NRA's projects put on hold due to cuts

Plans for half of the projects under the remit of the National Roads Authority (NRA) are to be suspended this month.

The NRA has confirmed that it will take the vote on the suspension of the planning of projects in January as a result of a 20 per cent cut in its budget for this year. The capital provision for national roads will be €1.115 billion, down €287 million on 2009. The vast bulk of this will be spent on the completion of the four inter-urban motorways from Dublin to Belfast, Cork, Limerick and Waterford.

It is believed that the vote will result in around half of the NRA’s 55 projects, which are in the planning stages, being put on hold - but a spokesman for the semi-state body said no decision had been made on which projects would be in the firing line. However, it could mean that plans for roads such as the Dublin eastern bypass, the Galway city outer bypass and the M20 Cork to Limerick and Cork northern ring road could all be shelved indefinitely.

NRA spokesman Seán O’Neill said it was too early to speculate on how many, or which, projects where planning would be suspended.

‘‘There is over €1 billion committed to projects already in the ground, so we have to work with the balance of resources, which is significantly down. The programme of ongoing projects and works will be reviewed by the board before a decision is made on a suspension of some of these," he said.

A construction industry source said, however, that around half, or more, of the current projects in planning will need to be suspended and any major projects ‘‘will not get near the ground’’ for several years at least.

‘‘Based on the financial requirements for these projects, compared to the finance that is there, it’s just not feasible or possible to progress with most of the programme," the source said.

Many of the schemes on the N2 (Ashbourne to Ardee), N5 (Longford to Westport), N25 (between Waterford and Cork), N24 in Tipperary and N22 in Kerry are in planning stages.

Councils criticised by court over waste report

The High Court has severely criticised the four Dublin councils for 'massaging' key reports into Dublin’s waste sector to influence the outcome of a review.

The court said that a number of draft reports had been altered to suit the stance of the councils. The reports formed the basis for the councils’ subsequent justification to vary the capital’s waste policy.

However, this variation was quashed by Mr Justice Liam McKechnie in a recent ruling.

In his full judgment, which has been obtained by The Sunday Business Post, McKechnie said the reports contained comments written by the councils, indicating which parts of earlier drafts were acceptable to them. The councils then issued instructions to either delete or reword those parts 'that would not have supported their position'.

Such massaging of reports, which were later - in their edited versions - released publicly, is a strong indicator tome of unacceptable influence in a process supposedly carried out in the public interest," McKechnie said in his judgment.

The deletions and rewordings were carried out before the two technical reports were published in September 2007 and February 2008.

Dublin City Council formally varied the waste management plan for the Dublin region in March 2008, saying that only the councils or their contractors could collect waste. The move prompted legal action from several private waste firms.

The revelation that council officials influenced the content of the reports is contained in the unapproved High Court judgment delivered by McKechnie in the case taken by private operator Panda.

A spokesman for the council said - ‘‘the independent experts came to their own conclusions and stand over their reports’’.

However, McKechnie’s judgment said that the councils went ‘‘far beyond’’ simply having a preferred outcome to the process in mind. ‘‘From the start, there could have been no other outcome," he said.

The Sunday Business Post

Dublin city plan goes on view

The proposed new Dublin City Development Plan, which designates building heights, land zonings and development standards for the city, went on view at the council’s Wood Quay Venue last week.

The draft plan, which has been developed over the last year, was published last month. However, the facilities at the Wood Quay Venue will allow the public to make video submissions on the plan or to use an interactive map to see how the plan will affect their neighbourhood.

The plan aims to direct the development of the city from 2011 to 2017 and to allow for an evolving 'vision' for the city for the next 30 years. However, it is, in several aspects, a more modest vision than the previous development plan published in 2005.

Plans for building heights have been substantially scaled back from those envisaged at the height of the boom. The draft plan states that most areas of the city are 'not appropriate' for high or even mid-rise buildings, although the council does identify buildings up to the height or Liberty Hall (about 50m) as mid-rise.

So-called 'taller' buildings are identified as those in excess of 50m - or office buildings of 12 storeys or residential buildings of 15 storeys. Only the docklands and the areas around Heuston and Connolly stations have been identified as suitable locations for these high-rise developments. George’s Quay could also be considered, but only after a local plan is developed for the areas.

The areas with potential for buildings of up to 50m include Phibsborough, the Digital Hub, the North Fringe, Ballymun, Pelletstown, Park West/Cherry Orchard and the Naas Road. Grangegorman and the Clonshaugh Industrial Estate could also be included in this group if a local area plan was adopted.

The draft plan will be open to submissions until March 12th next.

The Irish Times

Sunday 17 January 2010

Call to end rezoning for retail in midwest

THE MIDWEST Regional Authority is calling on local authorities in the midwest not to zone any more land for retail development and to dezone land already zoned for housing in the region.

In the draft regional planning guidelines for Limerick city and county, Clare and north Tipperary 2010 to 2022, the authority says the amount of large-scale retail development either built or permitted meets all reasonable requirements up to 2022. “It is clear, therefore, that further retail development will inevitably have detrimental impacts on some existing established retail areas and that these impacts may be irreversible.

“Limerick city centre, which has already suffered from increased competition is likely to suffer further significant impacts which would be contrary to the objective and need to provide a vibrant and successful gateway core area,” it adds. Outlining the implications for local authorities’ development plans in the region, the guidelines state that councils “should provide for no net increase in floor space of large retail developments other than that arising from redevelopment projects, including regeneration, in town and city”.

The authority is also calling on councils to act on overzoning for housing in the region.

In the guidelines, the regional authority has ruled that the Government’s Special Development Zone (SDZ) approach is not an appropriate mechanism for development in the region. The SDZ approach allows for local authorities to be bypassed with applications decided by An Bord Pleanála.

The report says the authority established a Strategic Development Zone committee to consider whether, where and for what purpose an SDZ might be identified within the region. “After a considerable number of meetings, this committee completed its remit and decided that the SDZ model would not be beneficial,” it states.

Irish Times

Campus developer accuses planning board of sitting 'in ivory tower'

ONE OF the developers of a high-tech bio-tech campus that was linked to NUI Maynooth in a project that could have created up to 2,000 jobs has criticised An Bord Pleanála, which refused permission for the development, saying its members “cannot sit in an ivory tower and make decisions independent of the national good”.

Conor Mallaghan, chief executive of Carton Demesne Holdings Ltd, also said the proposed South Meath Area Research and Technology or “smart park”, which was a joint proposal with NUI Maynooth, would have involved an investment of €250 million.

The park was granted permission by Meath County Council but appealed to An Bord Pleanála by four parties including An Taisce. The board refused permission.

The smart park was to be built at Moygaddy, part of the Carton Demesne in Co Meath.

“I fundamentally believe in this development more than ever,” Mr Mallaghan said yesterday.

“The knowledge, innovation and research and development sectors are areas Ireland is committed to and the way to deliver them is in co-operation with bodies like NUI Maynooth and companies like Intel.”

After the permission was overturned, the developers asked the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment to visit the site. That is expected to take place in the coming days, depending on the weather.

The park was to contain three blocks where NUI Maynooth wants to put a 2,600sq metre innovation centre, a sports science building of 3,300sq metres and a research centre of 3,200sq metres. There would also be office accommodation, 130 residential units and a neighbourhood centre.

“Out of the 54 pages of its report, An Bord Pleanála has three lines dedicated to the bigger picture; it has to be recognised that the board cannot sit in its ivory tower and make decisions independent of the national good,” Mr Mallaghan said yesterday.

While he would not rule out the planning application being resubmitted, he said that when it came to An Bord Pleanála the developers would have to be satisfied that “its brief is above and beyond the 2004 Heritage Act and it gives due cognisance to the social, economic and national impact of its decisions.”

The board refused permission on five grounds, including that it contravened the regional planning guidelines for the greater Dublin area and policies in the Meath county development plan; that it is close to a special area of conservation and that it would be contrary to policies on the preservation and enhancement of woodlands and to discourage the felling of mature trees.

Irish Times

Nuns concerned over future of site

An order of nuns which lost out on a €40 million windfall when it was refused planning permission for a prime site in Galway is concerned that the land will be rezoned for recreational use. The Sisters of Mercy had hoped to build 126 homes on a 12-acre at Taylor’s Hill but the plan was refused by An Bord Pleanála following objections by residents.

The proposed site, surrounded by some of the most expensive houses in Galway, is a short distance from Salthill and from the city centre. Galway City Council last year passed a motion calling for the land to rezoned and developed into an amenity park, including a children’s memorial park.

Catherine Connolly, a councillor, proposed the move, stating that the land should be handed over to the city as retribution for years of abuse of children by religious orders.

Irish Times

Judicial review in right of way dispute

THE ROW over a disputed right of way at Doonbeg golf course has taken another twist with the High Court granting a judicial review of Clare County Council’s decision to extinguish the right of way.

Long-time opponent of plans to extinguish the right of way James McNulty has been being granted the review against councillors voting to extinguish the right of way across the Greg Norman-designed golf course.

At a council meeting last September, councillors voted 22 to three in favour of extinguishing the right of way. The move ended the public’s ability to walk across the fourth and 14th fairways at Doonbeg golf course.

The councillors’ decision provided for an alternative right of way to be located a short distance from the existing one.

The plan also involved the golf club constructing a car park that will be used predominantly by surfers.

In his claim Mr McNulty is seeking a court order quashing the council’s decision and a declaration that the council, in extinguishing the right of way, was acting beyond its powers.

Mr McNulty’s move is the latest twist in the current dispute dating back six years, which was sparked by the golf club building a six-foot wall across the right of way.

The golf club instituted its own High Court judicial review proceedings of a Bord Pleanála decision ruling that the golf club acted illegally in building the wall without planning permission.

The proceedings were struck out with no order last October following the councillors giving the go-ahead to the extinguishment.

Cllr PJ Kelly (FF), who opposed the extinguishing of the right of way, said yesterday: “It was inevitable that the decision to extinguish the right of way would be legally challenged because of the clumsy way in which the council handled the matter.”

Cllr Pat Keane (FF) was one of the 22 councillors who voted in favour of the proposal. He said yesterday: “It is disappointing that the decision has been challenged, but anyone is entitled to do so. I would hope that the case can be dealt with quickly.”

The council has yet to file its response to Mr McNulty. A spokesman for the council said it was not in a position to respond at this stage.

Irish Times

DDDA seeks security for costs of legal action from McNamara company

THE DUBLIN Docklands Development Authority (DDDA) has brought a preliminary application aimed at having developer Bernard McNamara’s company, Donatex Ltd, provide security for the costs of their legal action alleging the authority exposed them to claims of more than €108 million over the purchase of the Irish Glass Bottle (IGB) site at Ringsend in Dublin.

The motion for security of costs was mentioned yesterday before Mr Justice Peter Kelly, who listed it for hearing on February 10th.

The motion was due to have been heard next Monday but the sides have agreed to defer it on terms including requiring Donatex to file a replying affidavit by January 22nd.

The action against the DDDA has been brought by Mr McNamara and Donatex arising from their involvement in the €412 million purchase of the IGB site.

Earlier this week, judgment for €62.5 million and €98 million was entered respectively against Mr McNamara and Donatex arising from failure by Donatex to repay loans given to it by private investors for the IGB site acquisition.

During those proceedings, the court heard neither Mr McNamara nor Donatex could pay the sums sought.

Mr McNamara and Donatex had last November initiated their action against the DDDA. They claim, because of a High Court finding in 2008 that the DDDA acted outside its powers in how it fast-tracked permission for another docklands development at North Wall Quay, that the DDDA was never entitled to enter in November 2006 into an agreement involving Mr McNamara and developer Derek Quinlan related to development of the IGB site.

They allege the DDDA was unable to perform its obligations under that IGB agreement and therefore frustrated the ability of Mr McNamara and others to develop the site, meaning substantial losses for them.

Mr McNamara said he faced potential claims totalling more than €108 million on foot of loans raised from Anglo Irish Bank and private investors with Davy Property Holdings Ltd and on the basis of guarantees given by him related to those loans.

Mr McNamara claims the Dublin Port Company and South Wharf plc had in September 2006 advertised the IGB site for sale by tender, representing the largest site in Dublin 4 for years to become available for development.

He claims then DDDA chief executive Paul Maloney approached him a month later about becoming involved with the authority in submitting a bid for the IGB site.

Mr McNamara claims he initially indicated he was not interested as he believed it would not be possible to generate a profit from the site.

He alleges Mr Maloney had further meetings with him and made several representations, including that the DDDA could “fast-track” any application for permission for development without the planning risk of third-party observations or appeals to An Bord Pleanála.

On that basis, he said he would be prepared to consider a joint bid with the DDDA for the site.

Beebay Ltd was incorporated and used by himself and the DDDA to bid for the IGB site. Mempal Ltd, a company controlled by Derek Quinlan, later acquired an interest in Beebay.

In November 2006, Donatex held 41 per cent, Mempal 33 per cent and DDDA 26 per cent of Beebay.

In late January 2007, Beebay’s tender was accepted and it acquired the site for €412 million with funds of some €288 million from Anglo Irish Bank (later converted into a joint facility provided by Anglo and Allied Irish Banks), €57.5 million from Donatex, €32.1 million from the DDDA and €46.3 million from Mempal.

The funds provided by Donatex were sourced from private clients of Davy and the loan stock instrument was later transferred from Davy Estates Ltd to Jersey-registered Ringsend Property Ltd (RPL), which earlier this week secured summary judgment against Mr McNamara and Donatex on foot of that instrument.

Irish Times

Sunday 10 January 2010

Gormley to reject remarks on incinerator

MINISTER FOR the Environment John Gormley will express his “dismay” at a Cabinet meeting next week over remarks by Dublin city manager John Tierney on the controversial Poolbeg incinerator project.

Mr Tierney last week said the Minister “must be aware” that Dublin City Council had a statutory obligation to go ahead with the incinerator and that interference with the project could leave the State with a multimillion-euro compensation bill.

The incinerator site is in Mr Gormley’s own constituency of Dublin South East. As an opposition TD, he made a submission to An Bord Pleanála against the application for permission to build the facility. However, on becoming Minister, he was legally precluded from interfering in a statutory process that had already begun.

The Cabinet is holding an all- day meeting in Dublin on Wednesday.

The Dáil is not due back until January 19th and Ministers will use the extra time to discuss issues of general policy in such areas as the environment, local government, energy, and social welfare.

Green Party sources told The Irish Times last night that Mr Gormley would “express dismay at Cabinet about comments by the Dublin city manager on waste policy”.

Mr Gormley is expected to draw attention to the High Court ruling of December 21st which says that when a private company collects waste, it owns that material and can determine where the waste is to be deposited.

Mr Justice Liam McKechnie also said the planned Poolbeg incinerator was “not free from uncertainty”.

Mr Gormley said at the time that in light of the decision, the council would be digging itself into “deeper trouble” by going ahead with building the 600,000-tonne incinerator.

On the issue of local government reform, the Minister will stress the need for “strong content” on the powers of regional government and the importance of ensuring that “proper funding” is put in place.

Minister for Social and Family Affairs Mary Hanafin will lead a discussion on social welfare policy, including the principle as to whether the lone-parent allowance should be phased out when a child turns 13.

However, Government sources were keen to emphasise there was no question of a decision being made at the meeting on this issue, and that the discussion would be confined to general policy approaches.

Ms Hanafin said last month that the Government’s policy on the one-parent family payment was not working.

She had told Cabinet colleagues the issue should be discussed formally by Government and the systems in other countries examined.

“The idea of continuing to pay somebody until their child is 22 if they’re in full-time education, it just [militates] against that lone parent herself having a stable relationship or marrying or even taking a full-time job, because of the attachment to ‘the book’,” she said.

Ms Hanafin said last month that Britain was in the process of ceasing the benefit when children reached the age of seven, but she thought that was too young and would put too much pressure on both children and parents.

Irish Times

Planning For A Brighter Future In County Clare

An action aimed at harnessing the industrial and tourism potential of the
Shannon Estuary is among a series of measures outlined in the Draft Clare
County Development Plan 2011-2017.

The strategy has been unanimously approved by members of Clare County
Council following a year-long review process. It will be placed on public
display in two weeks before going through a 10-week public consultation

Once approved, the Plan will pave the way for the zoning over 700 Hectares
of land for 'Marine Related Industry' at locations along the Shannon
Estuary, the provision of Electric Vehicle charge points throughout the
County, the implementation of a County's first Wind Energy Strategy, the
development of an inventory of community, social and cultural facilities
throughout Clare, and a requirement for all new buildings and houses to have
a low level access shower and toilet on the ground floor to ensure access
for all.

The Draft Clare County Development Plan 2011-2017 sets out an overall
strategy for the proper planning and sustainable development of the
functional area of Clare County Council. When adopted the six year blueprint
will replace the existing County Development Plan 2005 and it will be the
sixth such Plan since 1964.

Mayor of Clare Councillor Tony Mulcahy welcomed the unanimous adoption of
the Draft Plan. He noted: "The primary goal of this Plan is to position
County Clare as a driver for local and regional growth through harnessing
the potential of its unique location, quality of life, natural resources and
other competitive advantages. Ultimately, the Plan seeks to make County
Clare a better place to live in, work and visit."

Commenting on the proposed zoning of large tracts of land along the Shannon
Estuary, County Manager Tom Coughlan stated: "The Estuary because of its
deep water, shelter and other natural advantages is a significant potential
asset for the county and for the first time the Draft Development Plan
introduces a chapter aimed at developing the Estuary for various economic
and recreational uses. In addition to this, the Draft Plan introduces new
proactive policies in relation to economic development and enterprise in the
county including in rural areas."

He continued: "The Draft Plan has a strong emphasis on renewable energy
production, storage and distribution and for the first time contains a
separate Wind Energy Strategy for County Clare aimed at further tapping into
the potential of the significant wind resources of the county subject to the
normal environmental safeguards. The Draft Plan includes also for the first
time a chapter dealing specifically with Rural Development and Natural

The Draft Plan also includes

- A proposal that all new buildings and houses would be required to
have a low level access shower and toilet. This measure aimed at ensuring
the lifetime adaptability of homes in particular would be in excess of the
minimum requirements of the current building regulations and will prevent
the need for expensive retrofitting in many cases
- A separate volume a Record of Protected Structures for the county
and includes a photograph and description of over 500 buildings and
structures already protected and a further 200 that are proposed for
- An innovative and forward thinking proposal that in future certain
developments will be required to provide facilities to allow for charging of
electric cars and vehicles
- A Strategic Flood Risk Assessment carried out in light of new
Guidelines issues to Planning Authorities on Flood Risk Management.

The Draft Clare County Development Plan 2011-2017 will be available in
public offices, libraries and on the internet at in late
January 2010. Public exhibitions and various stakeholder meetings will also
be held around the County and written submissions will be invited. At the
end of the public consultation period, the Manager's Report on any issues
arising will be prepared and submitted to Members in June 2010.

Thursday 7 January 2010

School plans own windfarm

IT could be the way ahead for schools of the future – providing their own power from a windfarm.

Cork County VEC and Macquarie Partnerships for Ireland, have submitted plans for two 20-metre high wind turbines which will supply power for a new multi-million euro primary and secondary school in Bantry.

Noel O’Connor, chairman of Cork County VEC, said the development was the first of its type in the county. He said he hoped it would become a blueprint for all new schools.

"Over the years the VEC have been discussing using green energy as much as possible," Mr O’Connor said.

He said the two wind turbines should be able to make the schools self-sufficient in energy.

"We may even be able to reach a point where such small windfarms will generate excess electricity which they will be able to sell onto the national grid."

Construction is expected to begin in the spring for the schools which will accommodate more than 900 pupils.

Bantry Community College will facilitate 700 students arising from the amalgamation of St Goban’s College and Árdscoil Phobal Bheanntraí, while Gaelscoil Bheanntraí – a new eight-classroom primary school for 228 pupils – will be built on the site.

The VEC is also encouraging all schools to harvest rainwater in barrels.

Irish Examiner

Seaplane plan for west meets with 'fierce opposition'

THE PROMOTER of plans to commence a scheduled commercial seaplane service for tourists in the west of Ireland said yesterday he “is taken aback by the ferocity of opposition” against locating in Lough Derg.

Director of Habourair Ireland Ltd, Ronan Connolly said: “There has been total overkill on this . . . We are talking about a nine to 12 seater sea plane.”

Harbourair Ireland Ltd has three planning applications before local authorities in Galway and Clare to develop facilities to allow it land a seaplane in Lough Derg, Galway city docks and the main harbour serving Inis Mór, the largest of the Aran Islands.

The service will also serve Foynes in Co Limerick in its first phase. But Habourair’s plans for a berthing facility at Mountshannon in Lough Derg have provoked vehement local opposition.

Local opposition was underscored yesterday as the Department of the Environment made a submission to Clare County Council stating “birds are likely to be disturbed and possibly injured by the operation of seaplanes in Mountshannon bay”.

The bay is located in a special protection area for birds.

The department, along with An Taisce, is demanding that the council request a comprehensive study from Harbourair on the impact the seaplane will have on protected birds and other wildlife in the area.

Separately, the Lough Derg branch of the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland has told the council: “It is unclear how any operation of a float-plane in the area indicated could ever be safe.

“The area indicated is one of the busiest boating areas on the Shannon and the proposed operating area lies directly across the approaches to Mountshannon harbour.”

Mr Connolly said the planning applications for Galway city and Inis Mór attracted no objections , in contrast to the application for Lough Derg.“Tourism is in serious decline and you would think that initiatives like this would be welcomed.”

Mr Connolly said that it was “nonsensical” to claim the seaplane would disturb birds in the area. “The planes won’t be disturbing birds at all . . . A lot of the objections from a factual point of view don’t hold up.”

Mr Connolly said the cost of processing the planning applications and foreshore licences was about €250,000.

He said that it would cost between €75 and €100 for a one day return ticket between the various destinations.

A decision on the application is expected later this month.

Irish Times

Tuesday 5 January 2010

Council queries golf club coastal plan

CLARE COUNTY Council has told Doonbeg golf club that it has concerns that its scaled down €2 million coastal protection plan may lead to other parts of the coastline adjoining the site becoming noticeably eroded.

The concerns expressed by the council form part of a raft of new information sought by the planning authority in relation to the Doonbeg golf club proposal.

The club wants to put in place a protection plan to the most vulnerable sections of dune, which are steep sections fronting the sixth tee and 13th green area and the 14th and fifth green areas on the Greg Norman-designed course.

A previous 2003 proposal was turned down by An Bord Pleanála and the club has now told the council if it does nothing, it would result in the dune system further eroding and would be detrimental to the viability of the golf club.

The application states that “essential parts of Doonbeg golf course remain at high risk from severe coastal erosion during extreme storm events with a combined high waves and storm surge”.

Placing the plan on hold, the council states: “There are concerns that to permit this proposal may lead to a situation whereby other parts of the coastline adjoining here become noticeably eroded, and as such impact on the dynamics of the beach, leading to a possible future situation where further coastal protection works may need to be carried out.”

The council has invited the golf club to submit its proposals on this issue and to include any proposals it may have for further coastal management work.

The council is also asking the golf course why a revised layout of the golf course has not been explored as an alternative erosion management measure.

“Notwithstanding that the proposal is for the protection of the existing course, it is considered that it should be demonstrated that there are no other feasible options of a review of the golf course design.”

The council has also taken into account the submission by the Department of the Environment over the proposal.

The council said that the mid-Clare coast special protection area (SPA) is of special conservation interest for cormorant; barnacle goose; ringed plover; sanderling, purple sandpiper and turnstone and the wetlands and its waterbirds are also of special conservation interest.

The department stated: “The appropriate assessment screening does not take into consideration the potential effects of the development on the SPA and its conservation objectives.

“The proposed development, alone and in combination with other plans and projects, including the existing golf course development, has potential to have significant effects on the candidate special area of conservation (SAC) and SPA and on the conservation objectives of these two sites. As a result, an appropriate assessment of the implications for these Natura 2000 sites is required under the EU habitats directive.”

It points out that the environmental impact statement lodged with the application states the proposed development has the potential to affect the conservation objectives of the SAC.

Irish Times