Sunday 30 May 2010

Desmond seeks to screen RTE's latest production

IT’S A CASE of “not in my back garden” – quite literally – for Dermot Desmond who is against RTÉ’s proposal to redevelop its campus at Montrose and is asking An Bord Pleanála for an oral hearing.

Desmond is well known for objecting to developments in the D4 area but this time he’s not just reprising his self-appointed role as guardian of the D4 status quo.

The garden of his home on Ailesbury Road is located northeast of RTÉ’s grounds, but also happens to abut the RTÉ campus.

The national broadcaster intends to demolish and rebuild the 1960s and 1970s broadcasting facilities on half of the 16-acre site, doing away with most of the original design by Scott Tallon Walker.

Desmond says the RTÉ parkland is enjoyed “by many thousands of people who pass and repass along the Stillorgan dual carriageway and who live within the immediate vicinity”.

In a 16-page appeal, Desmond says his Victorian house is a protected structure “and as an adjoining occupier I am entitled to be protected from insensitive and inappropriate development”.

One of the proposed buildings is 50 metres from his back garden and he says he is worried about noise, disruption and dust during construction – and that affected residents haven’t been consulted. He says it’s not just the RTÉ building but the entire grounds that are protected – not to mention his own house.

Desmond is one of eight appellants to the development. The others are An Taisce, Brian and Orla Murphy, the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, Eugene and Eva O’Reilly and others, Ailesbury Apartments Management Ltd, Brendan and Sharon Mullin, and Michael McKillen and M McKillen.

Irish Times

€60m retail park in Cork gets go-ahead

The site of a former textile factory on Cork’s north side is to be transformed into a €60 million commercial retail park that developers hope will create up to 3,000 new jobs, writes Louise Roseingrave.

The 4.5 acre site in Blackpool housed the former Sunbeam textile factory which was a major employer until it burned down in 2003.

After five-and-a-half years in the planning process, An Bord Pleanála cleared the way for what developers Rothbury Estates describe as a “transformational project” for the north side of the city to construct 430,000 sq ft of enterprise, office and retail warehousing space. The company aims to begin the two year build project by the end of 2010.

Irish Times

At war with the blots on our landscape

Local authorities are entirely at the mercy of vested backyard interests, says Ian Lumley, An Taisce’s heritage officer

WHEN THE singular visionary Robert Lloyd Praeger (1865-1953) founded An Taisce, Ireland’s National Trust, with like-minded environmentalists such as Frank Mitchell (1912-1997), in 1948, the intention had been to celebrate, to sustain and “to safeguard” Ireland’s heritage, protecting it from various hazards, including the ribbon development Praeger feared.

The situation has worsened over the decades. Long before the bogus boom era of greedy developers and corrupt politicians thriving on mindless building projects, the Irish landscape had been in peril. Country villages, towns and the major cities of Ireland would, from the 1980s onwards, become distorted by the addition of ring roads, further complicating an already confused transport network.

Long established as one of Ireland’s most courageous guardians of the built and natural environment, Ian Lumley has been An Taisce’s heritage officer for 10 years, and he was a dedicated volunteer before that. His interest in protecting the environment began when he was a schoolboy, through working on a project about the medieval centre of Waterford city. But Ireland’s heritage is more than a passion; it is his life’s vocation.

To be committed to the environment in Ireland, where even archaeology has been compromised, excavation reports are merely part of development plans and many EU environmental and wildlife directives have been ignored, would appear a hopeless battle.

Wood Quay, Tara and now the massive bridge planned for the Boyne, which will have a devastating impact on the ancient landscape, show that heritage suffers at the hands of vested interests. Many of the planning decisions taken during the past 20 to 30 years defy intelligent discussion, never mind aesthetics. But Lumley sounds surprisingly positive: “I put the effort into clear-cut cases where there is a breach of European law, as well as national and local policy.”

He has a slight physical resemblance to the novelist Henry James and sounds very like the writer Colm Tóibín – “so I’ve been told,” he concedes with polite detachment. Lumley sits in his office in An Taisce’s headquarters, a wonderful building, the Tailors’ Hall, off Dublin’s High Street, across from Christ Church. Dating from 1706, it is contemporaneous with Marsh’s Library. Lumley’s room, with its three beautiful windows, is alive with muted sunlight and towers of bound files. Lumley spends his days examining applications, dealing with phone calls – “even now there are still calls coming in from developers and politicians as regards planning applications” – and attending hearings.

Cynics regard An Taisce as an independent but powerless organisation run by do-gooders and funded by its 5,000 members, yet Lumley knows otherwise. “The present generation of county managers and politicians have left an appalling legacy of badly planned sprawl. An Taisce tends to get most publicity for its involvement in the planning system, when in reality most of our resources are directed towards schools and education projects for the future.”

Many Irish country towns have been left with half-built houses standing in abandoned, uncompleted suburban housing estates. The people who have moved in spend exasperated hours attempting to contact county managers about the need for basic footpaths and street lighting, never mind the promised green area that still resembles the Western Front. But then large tracts of the Irish landscape could easily provide locations for war movies.

Lumley, who was born in Waterford city in 1958, grew up admiring the achievement of the distinguished 18th-century architect John Roberts (1712-1796), “but I had relatives in the countryside as well, so I have a feeling for both the rural and the urban”. The crude suburbanisation of the Irish landscape not only obliterated a way of life – and, with it, chapters of Irish social history – but also imposed a short-sighted car-based pattern of development that is now failing to deal with the emerging crisis in carbon emissions and fast-approaching oil-supply peak.

Lumley, an idealist with a grasp of the practical realities, is calm. His command of the facts is devastating and controlled. There is no rhetoric, only specific examples of bad decisions. Ireland’s infrastructure has been based on, he says, “unsustainable resource and fossil-fuel consumption”, while vital services such as water supply and the treatment of waste have been inadequate. Planning ran riot as planners were pressurised to meet the demands of private interests and, as Lumley says, “schools and social services were neglected”. It is ironic that a government committed to bailing out bankers is now interested in culture not because it wants to save the heritage but merely because it wants to use it to support the economy. “On a positive note, though,” says Lumley, “one of the core objectives of the National Trust movement is the appreciation of culture at its most integrated.” He is not interested in scoring cheap points; the fiasco is obvious to all. Instead Lumley is concerned with assessing the damage. He refers to An Taisce’s latest annual report, which was being sent to members this week. “All of the various aspects of policy are addressed in the report,” he says. It reads as an informed assessment of mismanagement at both national and local levels. It looks at specific issues and scrutinises them precisely.

An Taisce, through its watchdog role in planning, has had a ringside seat in watching An Bord Pleanála at work. “Local authorities in Ireland,” he says, “are entirely at the mercy of vested backyard interests and systemically disregard EU law, national policy and, most dramatically of all, their own development plans in making planning decisions.”

He believes An Bord Pleanála does provide a safety net and overturns “some of the more outrageous decisions”. However, it has consistently granted permissions to roads and waste projects. There is also a direct link between road building and one of the major environmental threats in Ireland: the operation of unauthorised quarries to supply construction materials. “Galway county has emerged as the most problematic Irish local authority in disregarding its own development plan,” he says, adding that Meath also has an appalling record in planning, in areas such as the Carton estate business park, as well as on heritage and environmental issues.

He is disappointed by the limited scope of the amendment to the 2009 Planning and Development Bill. Why? “Because from experience it will have very little impact at local level,” he says. The Bill contains a clause extending the lifetimes of undeveloped expired planning permissions, including a hard-luck clause enabling developers to extend permissions delayed due to economic shortfalls.

If a single issue dominates An Taisce’s concerns, it is the impact of road building on society. It is imposing car dependency and urban sprawl, “replicating what happened in the US in the 1950s during the post-war Eisenhower administration”. Between now and 2015 an additional 850km of road is planned, as well as a Dublin-Derry dual carriageway. Environmental concerns are already being raised in Northern Ireland. An Taisce is now working with the Department of Transport in a nationwide schools programme promoting cycling as sustainable travel.

Railways are another viable alternative to car travel, and Lumley is pleased with the success of the reopened Limerick-Galway service. “Passenger numbers have exceeded expectations. We are promoting a low-carbon, high-speed express ferry and rail service between Ireland and Britain.”

On the other hand there is our unsustainable air travel. “The continuation of current levels of global air traffic is untenable because of the high level of emissions per flight.” Airports too create major problems: there is a proposal to extend Sligo Airport into the sea to accommodate the longer runway requirement of international jet aircraft. A further application for increasing the capacity of Ireland West Airport, in Knock, is also pending. “This would further worsen Irish per-capita aviation emission,” he says.

How aware are the Irish of their heritage? “The treatment of the Irish landscape, particularly as regards dumping, confirms poor practical concern. Awareness is one thing; performance is quite another.”

As we stand outside the Tailors’ Hall, admiring the beauty of Georgian design, it seems appropriate to ask if Georgian architecture is his particular interest. “Georgian Dublin was a battle won, but 95 per cent of what I do is about planning and environmental issues throughout the country. I believe in Ireland; it is as Praeger said in his 1948 radio address on the founding of An Taisce, when he referred to the heritage as needing ‘protection against dilapidation, against injury, whether caused by carelessness, ignorance or ruthlessness, against sequestration for private ends, and in recent times often against the action of public bodies’.” Lumley adds: “Look at the record of the National Roads Authority.”

The threats have been evident since Praeger’s day, those risks persist and the situation has worsened.

Irish Times

Pier's demolition ruled illegal

THE DÚN Laoghaire Harbour Company may have to reinstate a Victorian railway station on Carlisle Pier following a ruling by An Bord Pleanála that its demolition last autumn required planning permission.

Following the demolition, Ciarán Cuffe TD - now Minister of State with responsibilities for planning - referred it to the appeals board, seeking a formal decision on whether or not it was "exempted development".

The main basis of Mr Cuffe's complaint was that the 2008 Planning and Development Regulations reduced the size threshold under which structures could be demolished without permission to 100sq m.

This followed the failure of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council to address complaints made in September 2009 by An Taisce and others that the demolition of the railway station (1859) was unauthorised.

Acting on the advice of its solicitors, Mason Hayes and Curran, and planning consultants MacCabe Durney Barnes that planning permission was not required, the harbour company proceeded with the demolition.

"The council by its inaction colluded in this unauthorised development", said Ian Lumley, An Taisce's heritage officer.

"When public bodies fail in their legal responsibility, resignations or dismissals should be the consequence.

"An Taisce is requesting the harbour company and the local authority to take action to reinstate the original part of the Carlisle Pier railway station as the focal point for public benefit and recreational activity in the harbour area."

He said the harbour company would have no option but to reconstruct the former station or to seek retrospective planning permission for its demolition.

A spokeswoman for the company said it was studying the board's decision before making any comment.

An Bord Pleanála said the demolition of the station building and the 1960s ferry terminal was not exempted development because of the fact that its floor area of 1,000sq m exceeded the threshold of 100sq m specified in the 2008 regulations.

Accordingly, it found that the demolition of the structures on Carlisle Pier - even though they were not specifically protected - "constitutes development within the meaning of sections 2 and 3 of the Planning and Development Act, 2000, as amended".

The board's decision was hailed as "fantastic news" by Dún Laoghaire architect Adam Hall, who documented the building and its demolition.

"Hopefully, we can now bring about reinstatement of the Victorian railway terminal," he said.

The station was built as a terminus to serve passengers travelling on the mailboat service to Holyhead.

It ceased being used in 1984, following the inauguration of the Dart line. Since then, ferry services have been relocated to a new pier.

Irish Times

Corrib terminal to test gas from grid

THE SHELL Corrib gas terminal in north Mayo is due to test gas from the national grid shortly as construction work winds down at the Ballinaboy site.

“Backfeed gas” from the Bord Gáis Éireann network will be fed through the Ballinaboy system, which has been subject to testing over the past two months to ensure the pipework is free of leaks.

Lead developer Shell, which still has to receive approval for the controversial onshore pipeline from landfall to Ballinaboy, intends to submit its new application to An Bord Pleanála by the end of this month.

It has confirmed that it hopes to run the pipeline through Sruwaddacon estuary, as the appeals board has directed.

Shell declined to give a predicted date for full production pending the outcome of the planning application. However, it is unlikely full production will start before next year.

Addressing a site tour for the press, Shell’s project site manager Brendan Butler said testing of gas fed from the pipeline to the west would take place over three months to make sure that all equipment was working correctly.

Mr Butler, who has over 24 years’ experience with oil and gas production, worked with Shell on its Sakhalin project in Russia before moving to the Corrib development in 2007.

The Ballinaboy plant will be filled with nitrogen to protect against corrosion, while the developers await the outcome of An Bord Pleanála’s decision, according to project construction manager Paul Hughes of CMC.

Late last year, the board found that up to half a modified pipeline route was unacceptable on safety grounds due to proximity to housing at Rossport, Glengad and Aughoose.

The company anticipates that up to 85 permanent staff will be employed at Ballinaboy, with 130 long-term positions, once construction at the terminal is complete in July.

At peak, the company says 1,500 people were employed on the project. As of mid-May, some 23 per cent of 773 people employed directly or through various contractors were from Erris, while 22 per cent were from Mayo and 50 per cent from elsewhere.

The workforce will be reduced to about 200 by the end of this year, according to the company.

Among staff currently being let go are up to half of some 120 personnel employed by Longford firm Gilmore Security, while other contractors are also scaling down.

A group of 15 local third-level students spent last summer on site, and interviews are taking place for similar paid placements this summer.

The methanol still, recycling methanol injected as a type of “anti-freeze” into the gas, and the flare stack are among the tallest structures on the 16-hectare terminal area, constructed on a 40-hectare bog formerly owned by Coillte.

“Flaring”, where gas is released into the atmosphere and ignited to release pressure, will rarely take place, the company says.

However, a “small amount of gas” will be flared during start-up until the gas composition meets the required specification, it has said.

The company said it places great emphasis on safety on the construction site.

A recent safety milestone was reached for the third time on site when one million man hours were worked without a single lost time injury.

Adrian Deane, from Gortbrack in north Mayo, is one of 25 site operators trained for permanent posting, and another 18 are due to be recruited. Originally hired as an electrician, he opted to take a course in operations at Middlesborough in Britain and then worked at the Shell plant in Bacton before returning to Mayo.

His brother Brendan was one of the first locals to be hired by Dutch company Hertel for the Corrib contract three years ago. Along with colleagues Christopher Reilly from Ballinaboy and John McAndrew from Carrowmore, Brendan Deane has worked on scaffolding, insulation and painting.

The Mayo Hertel staff and their project manager Andrew Canning, from Blackpool, said they felt lucky to be working on the Corrib project during the construction downturn.

During protests at Ballinaboy in 2006 and 2007, Mr Canning said he experienced very little hostility while living in Carne near Belmullet.

Irish Times

Pier development permission refused

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council has refused planning permission for a car park and “promenade” on Carlisle Pier, following An Bord Pleanála’s ruling the demolition of structures on the pier was illegal.

In a decision on an application by Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company, it said the development would be “premature pending regularisation of the previous demolition” and a car park would have a “detrimental impact” on the area.

Irish Times

It's simpler and cheaper to just join the dots

Dublin has the unique distinction of being the only city to have two free-standing light rail lines that don’t link up.

THE PEOPLE of Nantes must have been thrilled in 2004 when Time magazine described it as “the most livable city in all of Europe”. And one of the main reasons was that it has a first-class public transport system, something Dublin doesn’t have and is unlikely to get any time soon.

France’s sixth largest city, Nantes is as bourgeois as Bordeaux, with a fine legacy of historic buildings – notably the chateau of the dukes of Brittany. But it’s hardly the Breton city claimed by Cllr Louisette Guibert at a two-day colloquium on Ireland’s landscapes, organised by the Société Française des Etudes Irlandaises.

There was a ripple of laughter among the French participants over that notion – and another ripple when I told them that Dublin had the unique distinction of being the only city in the world to build two free-standing light rail lines that still don’t connect, six years later. They simply couldn’t believe that anyone could be so stupid.

In Nantes, everything is connected – in a metropolitan area with a population of 600,000. The city claims to be the first in the world to have organised an omnibus service – as early as 1826 – and its example was followed by Paris, London and New York. Nantes also began operating tramways in 1879, although these were all closed in 1958.

That mistake was rectified in 1985 when it became the first city in France to reintroduce light rail transit, or “new generation” tramways, followed by Grenoble (1987), Paris (1992), Strasbourg and Rouen (1994), Lyon, Montpellier and Orléans (2000), Bordeaux (2003), Mulhouse and Valenciennes (2006), and Le Mans and Nice (2007).

It was largely the success and sleek lines of the new Nantes and Grenoble tramways – as well as the clunkier Manchester Metrolink, inaugurated in 1992 – that inspired the adoption of light rail in Dublin, giving us the Luas. Dithering by the government delayed and compromised the original plan, which took nearly 12 years to deliver.

Compare that to Bordeaux. Two years after Alain Juppé’s election as the city’s mayor in 1995, plans for a tramway network were adopted, and by Christmas of 2003 – just six years later – the trams started running on three lines. Further extensions came into service in 2005, 2007 and 2008, giving Bordeaux an overall network of 44km.

I have written before about the remarkably civilising effect this entirely street-running tramway has had on the city, allowing most of its historic core (designated by Unesco as a World Heritage Site in 2007) to be transformed into a wonderfully liberating and enormously attractive pedestrian zone. Truly, Bordeaux is a sight to be seen.

It has even pipped Nantes for the honour of having the longest tramway network of any city in France. The one-time capital of Brittany, whose wealth in the 18th century was built on the slave trade, has three modern tramlines with an overall length of just over 41km. If the city’s dedicated Busway is included, however, this rises to 48km.

The Busway – it has even been trademarked by the Nantes area transport company, Tan – effectively operates as Line 4 of the tramway network. Introduced in 2006, it provides a fast route for articulated buses every four minutes at peak times (six minutes, off-peak) between the city centre and the outer ring road, to the south.

Unlike Dublin’s quality bus corridors (QBCs), the Nantes Busway runs on its own reservation in the middle of the road and has tramway-style stations rather than mere bus stops – all of which show the time the next bus is due. Tickets (€1.50 for any journey, valid for an hour) are also transferable between buses and trams, and all the lines link up.

The network operated by Tan includes the Busway and three tram lines as well as numerous bus routes (one has Bobby Sands as its destination), an express bus service to Nantes Atlantique Airport, three navibus lines on the river Loire and four suburban rail lines, which are operated by SNCF, the French national railway company.

Trams and buses run until 1am on weekdays and until 3am at weekends, to cater for late-night revellers. But the real value of having an extensive tramway network is shown by the fact that 63.5 million journeys were made on it in 2007, compared to 28.4 million on the two Luas lines in Dublin, even though Nantes has only half the population.

Almost nothing in Dublin is integrated: not the two Luas lines, nor the Dart and other suburban rail services, nor even the bus services (such as they are). Yet now the State is planning to add another disparate element, Metro North, to a non-existent network, and at vast expense, probably €5 billion, or €277 million per kilometre.

An Bord Pleanála has held 37 days of hearings on this project by the Railway Procurement Agency, which is intended to link Swords with St Stephen’s Green, serving Dublin airport along the way. It is being considered under the Strategic Infrastructure Act, and the board has now set itself an objective of making its decision by July 20th.

In these financially straitened times, the Government needs to consider what the country can afford. Despite the recent pledge by the European Investment Bank of a €500 million loan for Metro North, even the Greens should baulk at its cost and opt instead for much more affordable alternatives such as linking up the two Luas lines in the city centre, more street-running light rail and/or Nantes-style busways.

Irish Times

List of unfinished unoccupied or estates ready by 'mid-year'

A NATIONAL list of all unfinished or unoccupied housing estates will be completed “in the middle of the year”, according to Minister of State for the Environment Ciarán Cuffe.

The Minister told the Dáil that he had recently received the report of a pilot exercise with Laois County Council to establish the number and type of unfinished houses and estates within the authority’s remit and the national list was expected by mid-year.

Pressed by Terence Flanagan (FG, Dublin North East) about the exact date for the completion of the list, Mr Cuffe declined to be drawn, but claimed that Fine Gael councillors were still putting forward “mad ideas for rezoning”.

“The goose that laid the golden egg is long gone and it would be constructive” if Fine Gael thought carefully “about sustainable planning rather than rezoning land as the solution to our economic woes”.

During environment questions, Mr Cuffe said the Laois report classified the different types of unfinished estates. They included those with incomplete paths, lighting, parks and green spaces, as well as those where some houses were completed but others still under construction. Also categorised were estates with half-built units.

The Minister wrote to city and county managers a fortnight ago seeking their help in completing the survey, he said. “It’s early days but there are themes of public safety, completion and management of essential infrastructures, amenities and the long-term future and resolution of sites.”

Mr Flanagan said many homeowners had paid over the odds and were in negative equity. “They have been badly let down by the system.”

He asked about an exact date for the completion of the survey, and what lessons had been learned to ensure the same situation “does not recur in five or 10 years’ time”.

Mr Cuffe said they had to put in a “proper planning system”, and he was “flabbergasted to see that in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, Fine Gael councillors were to the fore in promoting even more rezonings. Have they learned nothing from the mistakes made?”

The Minister added that Fine Gael councillors should “work closely with the management teams and the professional planners, and listen carefully to their advice”.

Mr Flanagan asked what hope the Minister could give homeowners where developers were bankrupt.

Mr Cuffe said: “Where several homes are occupied in an estate but they are largely unfinished, and there might be a litter problem and/or a sewage problem, I believe that county and city managers will do all that they can to improve the quality of life in those areas. There is no pot of money for completion, of which I am aware. In many cases there are bonds that have been put up by the developer.”

Irish Times

Docks body losses not known, says Gormley

THE COST to the State of the losses caused by serious failings at the Dublin Docklands Development Authority were not yet known, Minister for the Environment John Gormley told the Dáil.

He was replying to Fine Gael spokesman Phil Hogan who asked what the taxpayers’ liability would be “arising from this irresponsible mess and the decisions that were made over the years”.

Mr Gormley said the loans had been taken into Nama (National Asset Management Agency) and the authority had been asked to produce a business plan by the end of July.

“It is only after rigorous examination and total engagement with Nama that we will know what the outstanding liability is,” he added.

Mr Hogan welcomed the Minister’s decision to extend the remit of the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) to include the authority, as had been provided in a Fine Gael Bill which Mr Gormley had voted against last December.

“I am not a total hypocrite, as some other people might be,” he added.

Labour’s Joanna Tuffy said the Minister had received advice from the Attorney General that the authority could be brought under C&AG’s remit by way of ministerial order.

Yet the Minister had written to Bernard Allen TD, chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, last September, indicating that amending legislation would be required.

Ms Tuffy said that legislation would do much more than bring the authority within the CAG’s remit. Legal advice received by her party indicated that merely adding the authority to the schedule of the existing Act would mean the CAG only being able to look into the future.

He would not be able to examine the authority’s past decisions.

Ms Tuffy said in the case of the Dirt T inquiry, it was necessary to ensure the legislation enabled the C&AG and the Oireachtas committee to examine the banks’ past treatment of bogus non-resident accounts. The same should apply to the authority, if precedent was anything to go by.

Mr Gormley said that was not the advice he had received from the Attorney General, and it would not make sense if it were so.

He had been told that the C&AG’s remit could look at issues raised in two reports.

Pressed further on the issue, Mr Gormley said as the Minister with responsibility for the authority, he was most anxious that there be total openness and transparency in the various matters involved.

“I will not be wanting in this regard and anything that is required for such an investigation will be given,” he added.

Mr Hogan said the matter would have moved further on by now if the Minister had agreed to the Fine Gael proposal last December.

Mr Gormley said Mr Hogan knew he had not received the various reports relating to the authority at the time.

The reports, he added, had been cited in newspaper articles as containing explosive information, but he had said that was not the case and he had been proved right.

Irish Times

Licence granted for 'superdump'

A 300,000-tonne capacity regional landfill near Lusk in north Dublin, in which one sixth of the county's waste will be dumped, has been granted a waste licence by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The licence for the landfill, which has been once of the most contested developments ever proposed for the region, is subject to more than 250 conditions relating to environmental management operation, control and monitoring of the facility.

The EPA held two public hearings on the development and said the conditions take into account the concerns expressed at those hearings.

However local residents opposing the development said they are "horrified" by the decision which they have today referred to the European Commission and the European Petitions Committee.

The EPA said it was satisfied that the operation of the facility, in accordance with the conditions of the licence, will not adversely affect human health or the environment, and will meet all relevant national and EU standards.

The conditions it said impose "strict controls" on all emissions from the facility. They also require that leachate - contaminated liquid which drains from landfills, be collected and treated to prevent contamination of soil and ground water.

Odour management infrastructure will have to be installed, all waste must be pre-treated so that only residual waste is dumped, and landfill gases must be collected and treated.

Strict monitoring will be required, the EPA said, particularly in relation to ground water which will be monitored throughout the life of the landfill and after its closure in 30 years time.

Fingal County Council initially applied for a licence for the landfill in the townland of Tooman/Nevitt close to Lusk in July 2006. More than 100 objections to the facility were received, a particularly large number for the EPA, and two public hearings were held.

The licence would allow 500,000 tonnes of waste to be dumped annually at the landfill, but the planning permission for the plant, granted by An Bord Pleanála last year, restricts the intake to 300,000 tonnes a year.

Nevitt Lusk Action Group, which objected to both the EPA and An Bord Pleanála against the development said the facility was unnecessary and would destroy a valuable ground water resource.

"We're not surprised by the EPA decision but we're still absolutely horrified by the Government and Government agency's lack of foresight in allowing this to go ahead," group spokeswoman Gemma Larkin said

The landfill would also destroy ground-water essential to the operation of the horticulture industry in the area, she said.

A spokeswoman for Fingal said the council was considering in detail the conditions and sub-conditions set out in the waste licence, but did intend to proceed with the development.

Irish Times

Metro - Irish Times letter

Madam, – Your Editorial (May 17th) is eloquent on Metro North. However, instead of
jumping to untested conclusions, The Irish Times should be demanding to see the analysis that purports to show Metro North really is a good investment for Ireland. That is a highly debatable claim.

No cost benefit analysis was done of the proposed 18 km Metro from St Stephen’s Green to Belinstown, north of Swords. Some analysis was done of a much shorter 10 km route from Dublin City Centre to Dublin Airport.

That analysis is only available in heavily redacted form, but shows that the option was a bad investment. There is good reason to believe the current larger proposal is not viable either, not least given that the outlook for patronage has dropped sharply from that of the boom years when Metro North was conceived. In the present crisis there is no excuse for a failure to assess transparently a capital investment proposal costing about €5 billion, before deciding to build it.

Further, in demanding an efficient public transport system, you lament the cuts in Dublin bus numbers and Government bus subsidies. You should be aware that one-third of Metro North passengers will be taken from existing parallel bus routes, and those services will be cut accordingly. Metro North will therefore have a significant detrimental effect on the environmentally positive bus usage you support. – Yours, etc,


Irish Times

Locals 'horrified' at granting of licence for Lusk landfill

A 300,000-TONNE capacity regional landfill near Lusk in north Dublin, in which one-sixth of the county’s waste will be dumped, has been granted a waste licence by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The licence for the landfill, one of the most contested developments ever proposed for the region, is subject to more than 250 conditions relating to environmental management operation, control and monitoring.

The EPA held two public hearings on the development and said the conditions take into account concerns expressed at those hearings. However, local residents opposing the development said they were “horrified” by the decision, which they have referred to the European Commission and the European Petitions Committee.

The EPA yesterday said it was satisfied that operation of the facility in line with conditions of the licence would not adversely affect human health or the environment, and would meet all relevant national and EU standards.

The conditions, it said, impose “strict controls” on all facility emissions. They require that leachate – contaminated landfill liquid – be collected and treated to prevent contamination of soil and ground water. Odour management infrastructure must be installed and all waste must be pre-treated so only residual waste is dumped.

Strict monitoring will be required, the EPA said, particularly in relation to ground water, which will be monitored throughout the life of the landfill and after its closure in 30 years.

The licence granted to Fingal County Council would allow 500,000 tonnes of waste to be dumped annually at the landfill, but the planning permission for the plant, granted by An Bord Pleanála last year, restricts the intake to 300,000 tonnes a year.

Nevitt Lusk Action Group,which objected to both the EPA and An Bord Pleanála against the development, said the facility was unnecessary and would destroy a valuable ground water resource.

“We’re not surprised by the EPA decision, but we’re still absolutely horrified by the Government and Government agency’s lack of foresight in allowing this to go ahead,” group spokeswoman Gemma Larkin said.

Since Fingal had applied for the facility, Dublin City Council had been granted permission for the Poolbeg incinerator, which would take the waste intended for the landfill, Ms Larkin said. The landfill would also destroy ground-water essential to the horticulture industry in the area, she said.

Local Green Party TD Trevor Sargent said the EPA decision was based on outdated policies.

A spokeswoman for Fingal said the council was considering the conditions and sub-conditions in the waste licence, and intended to proceed with the development.

Irish Times

Sunday 16 May 2010

Eirgrid defends interconnector plan

EIRGRID HAS defended its proposal to build an interconnector in the northeast which would link electricity grids in the North and South.

Residents of the northeast, led by groups including the North East Pylon Pressure Group, have argued that large pylons and high-voltage overhead lines are not appropriate in the area.

More than 900 submissions have been made to An Bord Pleanála relating to the plan for some 140km of 400 kilovolt overhead line on lattice towers from Meath to Tyrone.

A public oral hearing into the plan in Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan, was attended by hundreds of people as it began yesterday.

The part of the electricity line within the State will cover 100 kilometres and will pass through Meath, Cavan and Monaghan before crossing the Border to a new substation in Co Tyrone.

People living in the northeast have suggested a number of options, including underground cables along existing rail lines.

This would not interfere with animal or human health and would not have a negative effect on farming or tourism, they argue.

However, many of the objectors have accepted in their submissions that improvement of the electricity infrastructure is needed.

Louis Fisher of Eirgrid said yesterday that the development was needed to improve electricity competition by reducing constraints to the all-island electricity market, to support renewable power generation, to improve the security of supply and to maintain the reliability of the network in the northeast, .

If the interconnector was not built, it would put the reliability of customer supply in the northeast at risk by 2017, he said.

The second interconnector was also needed in case of an unplanned outage at the existing interconnector from Louth to Armagh, which would have serious consequences.

This outage would cause “widespread disconnection of customers in one part of the system and system instability or even collapse in the other”, Mr Fisher said.

The risk and serious potential consequences of power system separation resulted in more expensive generation and higher electricity costs.

There was nothing particularly unusual about this project in its design, construction or operation, said Aidan Geoghegan technical specialist with Eirgrid.

He said there was no difference between this and more than 400 kilometres of line already operating safely.

However, the masts in this project would have less of a visual impact, he said.

Mr Geoghegan dismissed submissions that underground cables should be used. Overhead lines were equally as safe.

Forced outage duration of an underground cable would be at least 10 times longer than an overhead line because they take significantly longer to repair. While an overhead line might take a day or even repair itself the underground cables could take four weeks to fix, he said.

Despite concerns about fatalities with overhead cables, there was not a single fatality on overhead cables (110kv, 220kv or 400kv) since records began in 1995, Mr Geoghegan added.

Underground cables were used in specific circumstances such as under the sea as in the proposed Ireland and Wales interconnector, he said.

They were also estimated to cost up to 10 times more to construct than overhead lines.

Eirgrid has also dismissed calls for using the route of disused railway lines or placing cables under roads as railway lines and roads in the northeast would be too narrow for the development.

The hearing is expected to last until the end of June and local authorities, residents’ groups and the Department of the Environment and An Taisce will appear before the board.

Irish Times

€500m loan for Metro project approved

THE DUBLIN metro project was given a significant boost yesterday when the European Investment Bank announced it had approved a €500 million loan in principle.

The bank’s vice president with responsibility for Ireland, Plutarchos Sakellaris, said yesterday that the project represented a significant contribution to sustainable urban transport for Dublin.

It will be a public-private partnership (PPP) project with a provisional completion date of 2016.

“It will be the backbone for a future integrated public transport network in the Irish capital,” said Mr Sakellaris.

Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey welcomed the decision and said it was an important signal of confidence in a priority public transport project for Dublin.

“Metro North is now well on track for delivery in 2016,” he said.

An oral hearing before An Bord Pleanála on the railway order application for Metro North, concluded in March this year. Its decision is expected during the summer. Separately, the Railway Procurement Agency has shortlisted two PPP consortiums under the procurement process.

Metro North was one of the key projects announced as part of Transport 21. The Government has consistently refused to state what budget will be allotted to the metro system on grounds of commercial sensitivity. The announcement was also welcomed by Fine Gael’s spokesman on transport Fergus O’Dowd.

“It needs to be built as soon as possible and on time,” he said. “Now is the cheapest time to get a loan. It is essential to the city of Dublin in terms of infrastructure.”

The EIB’s loans to the 19km Dublin Metro, which will run from Dublin city centre to Fingal via Dublin airport, will amount to 8 per cent of the project’s estimated €6 billion cost.

The project involves the design and construction of a light metro system serving the northern corridor. Seventeen stations will be built and 21 trains will service the line. The project is designed to be the backbone of a future integrated public transport network in the Dublin region. It will interchange with Luas lines, the Dart and suburban rail services.

However, an underground interconnector linking Heuston and Connolly stations with the city centre and St Stephen’s Green will be necessary to make all those connections possible.

Mr Dempsey said the interconnector would be his main priority when appointed as Minister. However, the completion date for the interconnector looks likely to be 2018, a few years behind schedule.

Irish Times

Parnell's €20m development given the go-ahead

GAELIC GAMES NEWS: PARNELL’S GAA club have received planning permission from An Bord Pleanála which allows them to begin construction on a €20 million sports facility on the former grounds of Chanel College, near Coolock village, north Dublin.

The club envisage the project will generate up to €5 million in wages for the local community, with 200 people employed during the 12-month development, which will commence in the autumn. On completion, Parnell’s expect to employ 10 staff on a full-time basis and another 20 part time.

The joint venture between Parnell’s and the Marist Fathers – whose 12 acres of land Parnell’s purchased at a reduced rate citing “sports use value” – will ensure pupils at Chanel College will also have use of the new facilities. The investment will increase to €30 million with the construction of 17 houses and 53 apartments on the remaining four acres of land.

Parnell’s were able to undertake this ambitious project due to the sale of 22 acres of land near Dublin airport in 2007, at the height of the property boom, for €22.5 million.

There will be three floodlit pitches, two all weather pitches and a full size sand-based grass pitch, along with a sports hall containing a championship-sized basketball court (discussions on its use are ongoing with local basketball clubs), a gym, a sports therapy centre and a new, modernised clubhouse.

“We are delighted that this superb facility is going to be in the heart of Coolock village where it can become a focal point for our games and community life,” said Parnell’s chairman Frank Gleeson.

The club looked at other modern GAA club developments around the country, like Nemo Rangers GAA in Cork, before drawing up their ambitious plans.

“The facilities here will be the best available anywhere in the country and we are delighted that in a short period of time we will have the facilities to nurture the enthusiasm and talents of the young and not-so-young people of this area,” added Gleeson.

Parnell’s marquee Dublin footballer is Stephen Cluxton and the three-time All Star goalkeeper added: “This will simply transform the club. I believe Parnell’s and the local community will reap the benefit of this decision for many years to come.”

The project began with submissions for planning permission to Dublin County Council on July 31st last year, which was granted in December, but it took a further 10 months before objections could be dealt with in full by An Bord Pleanála.

Project architect Charles Robey stated: “The modern clubhouse design was noted by An Bord Pleanála as being of “high-quality” and features large glazed windows and viewing galleries conceived with a view to ensuring that the playing pitches, player facilities and entertainment areas of the club all integrate seamlessly.”

In recent months they have adopted a proactive recruitment drive ahead of their opening Dublin football championship fixture against 2009 All-Ireland champions Kilmacud Crokes at Parnell Park tonight (6.45pm).

Irish Times

Bids for Dart underground sought

BIDS TO construct the Dart underground from Dublin’s Docklands to Inchicore have been sought by Iarnród Éireann just one week after the company announced a three-year delay in the project.

The 7.6km underground line, which will link Heuston Station to the Dart line, was due to open in 2015. Iarnród Éireann last week said it did not now expect the project to be completed until 2018.

A spokesman for the company yesterday said the original timeframe had been set in 2007 when the line was due to terminate at Heuston Station. The subsequent decision to extend it to Inchicore meant there would be 40 per cent more tunnelling than had been proposed.

Iarnród Éireann was not delaying the project and was now formally starting the procurement process by seeking tenders to design and build the line, he said.

The company intends to submit an application for a railway order, planning permission for the project, to An Bord Pleanála next month.

The tender documents, which will be published in the EU official journal in the coming days, seek submissions from interested parties by July 20th.

The successful candidate will be required to undertake tunnelling, track-laying, signalling, station construction, car-park construction and other mechanical and electrical works associated with the project.

Irish Times

Thursday 6 May 2010

Tesco's windmills dwarf Liberty Hall

Tesco's plan to build two wind turbines - taller than Liberty Hall - in the north Dublin countryside is being challenged by local residents.

Appeals have been lodged with An Bord Pleanála against a decision for the go-ahead to the plan.

The turbines are so tall that search and rescue helicopters will have to plot new routes to safely bypass the turbines in poor visibility.

In addition, air traffic control at Dublin Airport has concerns that the two turbines - which would soar nearly 100 metres over Donabate, Portrane and the surrounding areas - would be picked up by its radar system.

As well as the residents' move to block the plan, Tesco itself is appealing conditions set down by Fingal County Council planners.

The turbines are to be built to help power the retail giant's distribution centre in Donabate. They will have a support base of 65 metres, topped by a huge blade that will bring the total height to 91 metres.

By comparison, Liberty Hall is just 60 metres and the country's tallest building - the Elysian in Cork - is 72 metres in height.

Following concerns raised by both the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) and Dublin Airport, Tesco engaged a consultancy to determine the potential impact. The major concerns expressed by the IAA were addressed and Fingal County Council granted permission subject to 15 strict conditions.

In its appeal, the Donabate Portrane Community Council cites the local authority's development plan, which states that renewable energy developments should not have an unacceptable impact on the character and appearance of the surrounding area.

The appeal states that photomontages included with the planning application "clearly show the surrounding area visually impacted significantly".

Particular concerns are raised over the the impact on Newbridge Demesne - a heritage area of national importance - Broadmeadows estuary and Rogerstown estuary, which are both designated Special Conservation Areas.

"The turbines will be visible from within Newbridge Demesne," the appeal states. "Newbridge Demesne is not only a public amenity, it is a tourist attraction and decreasing its attraction has economic consequences for the Donabate area."

Local residents, John and Maeve Riordan, complain in their appeal that the turbines would visually dominate the area. They also describe the potential impact on flight paths from Dublin Airport as a "primary concern."

Planning permission was granted after information was clarified with the IAA, but the organisation "continued to issue caution", the appeal points out.

Luas Cherrywood extension has final stretch put in place

WITH A flash and a large plume of smoke, the last piece of railway track was welded into place on the Luas Cherrywood extension yesterday.

The €300 million extension to the line, which is expected to open to the public in October, is already wired and "live", with testing of trams expected to begin late next month.

At 7.5km, the extension almost doubles the initial 9km length of the Luas Green line from St Stephen's Green to Sandyford. It is to have 12 stops between Sandyford and Brides Glen, about 1km beyond Cherrywood.

While most of the Luas Green line follows the route of the former Harcourt Street railway to Brides Glen, the extension deviates from the original.

It turns southwest alongside the prominent Vodafone building at Central Park, across the M50 and continues to Glencairn, close to the British ambassador's residence. From there, it turns back to the Ballyogan Road and across the M50 to Leopardstown.

After the final weld yesterday, chief executive of the Railway Procurement Agency Frank Allen said the deviation was to tie in with high levels of development around Glencairn, the Gallops, and along Ballyogan Road, all planned in tandem with the Luas.

Property developers within 1km of the Luas line were charged a special development levy, in a move designed to raise about €150 million of the cost of the extension.

Many of these developments were apartment blocks of between five and seven storeys which are now largely vacant.

However, Tom Manning of the Railway Procurement Agency said the property developers' difficulties had not affected the line's development.

"There is a 30-year timeframe for the State to recoup the money, so that could be as many as three or more economic cycles," he said.

At €300 million, the route has cost €40 million a kilometre.

The first phase of the Luas light rail worked out at €35 million per kilometre.

Iarnród Éireann confirmed yesterday there would be a three-year additional delay to the planned opening of its Dart underground project.

Public consultation on the project, now not due to be completed until 2018, continues.

Meetings will be held between 5pm and 8pm on each of the following dates at these venues: Today: the Atrium, Civic Offices, Wood Quay; Monday, May 10th, the Alexander Hotel, Fenian Street; Tuesday, May 11th, Hilton Hotel, Kilmainham, Dublin 8; and Thursday, May 13th, Sean O'Casey Community Centre, East Wall, Dublin 3.

Irish Times

Permission granted for Sixmilebridge hotel

A small town in Co Clare is set to get its first hotel after An Bord Pleanála approved plans for a site in Sixmilebridge.

When completed, the hotel will employ 20 people full-time while a further 50 jobs will be generated during construction.

An Bord Pleanála has confirmed its decision to grant planning permission to Gerard and Martha Kearney for the demolition of an existing guesthouse and commercial development and the construction of a 28-bedroom hotel.

Clare County Council had originally granted permission for the development. However an objection from a local resident forced the matter to be taken up by An Bord Pleanála.

While no start date has been set, a spokesman said the Kearney family is hopeful that work will get under way “as soon as possible.”

Irish Times

Wind farm could take five years to be operational

The businessman behind plans to construct a €200 million wind farm in west Clare has admitted that it may be five or six years before it becomes operational.

Director of West Clare Renewable Energy Ltd Pádraig Howard said that the project may not be operational until the Government changed how connections to the national grid were allocated.

Earlier this year, the company lodged an application for the 31 turbine 410 ft high wind farm on 3,000 acres of upland around Mount Callan over the Atlantic, that would produce sufficient energy to power 59,000 homes.

The project is facing local opposition, but during its 20-year operational phase, the wind farm could provide a windfall of €15.5 million to 30 farm families in the area.

For wind farms to proceed, they require a connection to the grid; currently grid connections are being allocated through the Government’s “gate three” process.

Mr Howard has admitted that the company is towards the end of the queue for the grid connection. “We applied in 2007,” he said. “We are well down the list.”

Irish Times

Concert promoters claim design would detract from architectural merit of venue's facade

THE OPERATORS of the O2 have appealed to An Bord Pleanála against plans by Harry Crosbie - who built the venue - for a "Dublin Parlour" to animate the bleak site at the rear.

The proposed development, which was approved by Dublin City Council's planners in February, would involve installing stacks of 200 recycled shipping containers to provide market stalls and seating for free concerts on the upper levels.

The scheme by LiD Architecture was the winning entry in a competition held last August by the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland, which attracted 46 entries from Irish and international architects and designers.

At the time, Mr Crosbie said the plan for Point Village Square - which would also feature an 80-metre ferris wheel - was a temporary, low-cost solution "to open the area to the public and share our assets rather than letting them lie idle in the recession".

He forecast that it would bring seven million visitors to the area every year. "This will be a site that will combine the attractions of the world's busiest concert venue of its size, a market to rival Covent Garden and a unique tourist attraction in the big wheel."

But Amphitheatre Ireland Ltd, the Live Nation vehicle that operates the O2, is appealing against the Dublin Parlour on the basis that it would compromise the building, which is a protected structure because it incorporates an old train shed.

"Due to its obtrusive height, scale and design it will detract from the architectural and historical merit of the northern facade of the O2", the appeal states.

The appellants are also concerned that the containers would be too close to the building.

LiD rejects this, saying the proposal "doesn't make contact with the building, it is temporary and therefore reversible and furthermore the Point Depot building has been modified almost beyond recognition in recent years".

LiD's Deirdre McMenamin said: "We believe that there may be an intention to block what is a temporary project to create a unique public amenity from happening by using the appeal process to delay it so that it is no longer feasible to carry it out."

In its response to the appeal, LiD noted that Mr Crosbie attempted to negotiate with his partners "to avoid the damaging delays of the An Bord Pleanála appeal process" and offered amendments to the design, including a reduction in height of the containers.

"These amendments were intended to address the concerns raised in the appeal document. However, the appellant did not accept these amendments and in fact made additional requests, resulting in an unsuccessful outcome to these negotiations."

Mr Crosbie, who is chairman of Amphitheatre Ireland Ltd, said he and Live Nation had operated a "phenomenally successful" partnership for 20 years.

"They're Americans and they've taken a view that it might detract from the venue, and I think they're wrong."

He said he would be going ahead with the opening on May 29th of a market at Point Village Square, next to the Luas terminus.

"We'll have 130 stalls and they're completely booked. It will be a modern version of the Dandelion Market and it's going to be packed."

Irish Times

Developer welcomes Cork hospital planning permission

PROPERTY DEVELOPER Owen O’Callaghan has welcomed an announcement by Cork City Council that it intends to grant planning permission for his proposal to build an €80 million private hospital in the city.

Mr O’Callaghan said the city council had confirmed to the company it intended to give permission for the 93-bed hospital on Lancaster Quay on the Western Road, which will create up to 300 permanent jobs and a further 350 jobs during construction.

The hospital project has been tied up in planning for the past 18 months and was granted planning permission by the council in July 2009 only for the project to be appealed to An Bord Pleanála.

The board upheld the appeal and refused planning permission last December.

However O’Callaghan Properties submitted revised plans to the council in March.

Although those who made observations can still object up until May 30th, council planners have indicated to the company that it is their intention to grant the permission.

Mr O’Callaghan said the company had “fully taken on board” the views expressed by the board in its refusal for the previous proposal last December and the company was happy to meet any of the conditions outlined by the council.

“The project can immediately go to tender, is fully funded and we are committed to making it happen and creating the jobs as quickly as possible. In fact, we can be on site by September next,” said Mr O’Callaghan, adding that construction should be completed within a year.

“In our view, this project represents a very good opportunity for the city in economic, development and employment terms and we sincerely hope that it will not be delayed any further by anyone at this point.”

The 120,000sq ft, six-storey hospital would be located on a two-acre portion of the former Jurys site.

It will include six operating theatres, 20 consulting suites, surgical day beds and recovery beds as well as an intensive care unit. It will only carry out elective work.

O’Callaghan Properties had already confirmed last year that it has agreed a deal with health care operators La Tour of Switzerland and the Health Care Partnership, to run the new hospital while the project is being backed by a European private equity fund.

O’Callaghan Properties had originally planned to build 100 apartments on the site.

However it dropped that plan in favour of the hospital, having already built 175 apartments and a new Jurys hotel, now the Lee Hotel, on the site, which is adjacent to the south channel of the river.

Irish Times

Tuesday 4 May 2010

Festivities planned to mark reopening of Royal Canal

A SUMMER of waterway festivities is being planned ahead of the official reopening of the Royal Canal. Formally closed as a link between Dublin and the Shannon in 1961 the last boat to travel the route was actually in 1955, when large parts of the route were already virtually derelict.

Now, after a 36-year campaign for its restoration initiated by local users, the Royal Canal Amenity Group, the Heritage Boat Association, local authorities and Waterways Ireland among others, the canal will be reopened on September 30th.

The official reopening by Waterways Ireland is to take place in Richmond Harbour, Co Longford, at the point where the Royal Canal meets the Shannon.

At 145.6km long the canal has a catchment population of 1.2 million people, making it one of the largest public amenities on the island.

It stretches from the Liffey through north Dublin city, passing Croke Park and Mountjoy Jail, before crossing a viaduct over the M50 at Blanchardstown and crossing counties Dublin, Kildare, Meath and Longford, to Clondra about 10km west of Longford town. Longford Town Council is also planning to reopen a branch line to the town.

Waterways Ireland recently hosted the first meeting of its working committee to plan celebrations leading up to the reopening.

Members of the Inland Waterways Association, which also participated in the campaign for the reopening, will take part in the working committee.

There will be a formal and permanent recognition of the years of work which the past and present campaigners have contributed to saving the canal.

Sporting organisations along the Royal Canal, including the National Coarse Fishing Federation and the Kilcock Canoe Polo Club, will also be involved and are planning events to ensure locals along the route participate in the celebrations. While the schedule of events is still in planning, Noel Spaine of the amenity group said non-water based activities, such as a walk along the canal banks on mid-summer’s day, would also be included.

“The last boat to go through carried waterways author Ruth Herd and her family in the 1950s,” Mr Spaine said.

“Then in 1961 it officially closed and Ian Bath and others got the amenity group going in 1974. It will be great to see it officially open again.”

The summer of activities will finish with a cruise of boats along the most westerly stretch, about 10km of canal from Kenagh to Richmond Harbour.

Waterways Ireland director of marketing and communications Martin Dennany said the opening was “the beginning of a new era for the Royal Canal as a navigable waterway and an accessible public amenity”.

The Royal Canal was first opened in 1817, 27 years after work began. It was in competition with the Grand Canal which mirrors its route on the south side of Dublin and reaches the Shannon at Shannon Harbour, Co Offaly.

The Royal Canal was frequently in financial trouble and opened late and over budget, at a cost of £1,421,954.

Irish Times

Meath is worst overzoning offender

WATERFORD, Monaghan and south Tipperary are among the worst offenders for overzoning land.

But the Dublin commuter counties of Kildare, Meath and Wicklow also have an oversupply which will take years to build out due to lack of demand.

Meath tops the league table of counties with the biggest oversupply. It has land for 124,173 homes but only needs 2,023 -- 61 times the demand -- but Waterford, Monaghan and South Tipperary also face major problems.

These local authorities now face the prospect of having to dezone thousands of hectares of unwanted land. The top five overzoned counties are Meath (61 times' demand), followed by Waterford (40 times), Louth (38), Monaghan (26) and south Tipperary (17).

In the first three months of this year, just over 500 homes were built in the top five counties. They have land zoned for more than 250,000.

In Waterford City just three units were completed. Regional Planning Guidelines seen by the Irish Independent state there should be an excess of zoned land.

It adds: "Excess should normally lie between 50pc and 150pc of the land required."

The figures show almost four times the required land has been zoned.

The guidelines said there was no co-ordination in planning housing, which should have been built on sites in urban centres and "other derelict land".

Paul Melia and Treacy Hogan

Irish Independent

Land rezoned for 800,000 more homes than needed

COUNCILS have rezoned enough land to build almost 800,000 new homes that the country does not need, an Irish Independent investigation has found.

Local authorities have rezoned enough land to construct almost 1.1 million houses and apartments across the country at a time when thousands of homes lie empty in 'ghost estates'.

But official projections received by the Government have found fewer than 300,000 new units are needed between now and 2016.

The revelation highlights the extent of the role councillors and planners have played in fuelling the property boom which collapsed with devastating consequences.

Some councils including Meath rezoned up to 60 times more land for residential use than was needed.

Just two out of 34 councils -- Limerick and North Tipperary -- under-zoned land.

Councils who designated too much land for housing will now be forced by the Government to de-zone it back for agricultural use.

New laws due to pass through the Dail will compel local authority members to heed official planning guidelines instead of merely paying them lip service.

Green Planning Minister Ciaran Cuffe last night vowed councils who engaged in rezoning "madness" would be ordered to either de-zone the land, designate it for other uses or allow restricted development.

"There has been massive over-zoning. This is now clear. We need to learn the lesson of the ghost estates which we now have as a result of us losing the run of ourselves during the Celtic Tiger years," he told the Irish Independent.

"In Monaghan there is enough land rezoned for 60 years. That's madness."

Draft planning guidelines obtained by the Irish Independent reveal just 290,000 houses and apartments will be needed nationwide over the next six years.

However, official figures by each local authority sent to the Department of the Environment reveal councils have rezoned 33,000 hectares of land -- enough to build a staggering 1,086,119 units.

The draft guidelines also warn the current overhang of supply will extend "into the coming years" as uncompleted schemes are eventually finished and sold.

"In the short term it is not planned for, or expected, that housing completions will be significant," the documents state. "The figures (for housing demand) for 2016 may prove unachievable as the housing market is likely to be slow to recover."

The government report warns targets by "most of the councils" for building homes up to 2016 will now have to be deferred until at least 2022.


It advises that demand for housing should be met by using properties lying idle in ghost estates instead of building new homes.

The report also calls for a ban on "doughnut" estates, where large numbers of houses were built in villages and rural areas instead of in towns and cities. Mr Cuffe heavily criticised councils for allowing housing estates to be built up to three miles from towns and villages in rural settings where families had to rely on cars.

He said councils did not have the money to service these estates with water, roads and sewage.

And he warned local authorities will be given just 12 months for their development plans to fall in line with regional guidelines. But councils forced to de-zone land for 800,000 homes will not have to pay compensation to developers. This was removed in the 2000 Planning and Development Act.

Paul Melia and Treacy Hogan

Irish Independent

Treasury to build social scheme

ONE of the first developers to have property loans taken over by NAMA is to build social housing for Dublin City Council, writes Paul Melia.

Treasury Holdings yesterday announced it would begin construction of 112 apartments at Spencer Dock in the Docklands, most of which will be used to house older people.

And it said that 300 jobs would be created during construction of the homes. The Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA) has to finalise planning permission which is expected to happen in the coming weeks.

A spokesman for the company said the deal with Dublin City Council would help make the Docklands a "sustainable" city quarter.

"These social housing units will help realise the vision for Spencer Dock as a socially mixed living, working, retail and leisure space in the heart of the city," the spokesman said.

Irish Independent

Sunday 2 May 2010

One Limerick council vetoed

The city council has already agreed on its submission to the Limerick Local Government Committee, headed by former Kerry Group chief, Denis Brosnan.

A boundary extension into Co Limerick and a small area of Clare is the preferred option of the city council.

City manager Tom Mackey said the amended proposals for a boundary extension of October 2005 set out four reasons and they were and they were as valid today as they were then.

Irish Examiner

Key changes to Greystones plan

BUILDERS OF the €300 million redevelopment scheme under way at Greystones harbour in Co Wicklow are to seek increases in the residential and commercial elements of the project.

Sispar, a consortium involving John Sisk and Company and house builders Park Developments, in partnership with Wicklow County Council, is proposing to increase the number of new homes in the scheme from 341 to 375.

It also proposes to increase the commercial area to 6,425sq m – an addition of about 800sq m. Car parking at the €300 million redevelopment project is to be increased from 953 spaces to 1002.

Because of the involvement of Wicklow County Council the application is be decided by Wicklow county councillors under Part VIII of the Planning and Development Act, which does not provide for an appeal against the local authority’s decision.

Sispar had initially sought planning permission for 375 homes, the maximum allowed under the County Development Plan. But this was reduced by An Bord Pleanála to 341 in a move designed to reduce the bulk of the new homes at the front of the project and create a larger civic square.

Sispar said the use of Part VIII of the Planning and Development Act was not a move to undermine the planning board’s decision. Spokesman Paraic Keogh said the board’s decision had been designed to create a civic square and this would be retained in the project. The additional apartments would be located to the rear of the development, on part of a site reserved for a 16-acre park. The move would utilise about three acres of the park.

The commercial changes proposed include the redesignation of most of a block of apartments known as “block D” fronting on to the civic square, for commercial purposes.

This increased commercial space would then be used for a primary care, medical centre. Mr Keogh said a deal had already been agreed with healthcare company Meret, which had an agreement with the HSE.

Wicklow County Council director of services Seán Quirke said the application would be the subject of four weeks of public consultation, followed by two weeks for objections.

The decision would ultimately be made by a vote of elected councillors and there was no provision in Part VIII of the Planning Act to appeal the decision either to the council or to the planning board.

The application to reconfigure block D is to be made next week, followed in July by the application to change the number of new homes. Work on the existing harbour walls is due to be completed by this October.

Should planning permission be granted, work will then get under way on the development of the reconfigured block D, car parking and the civic square.

Work would also continue on the provision of facilities for local clubs.

By the end of 2011 hoardings opposite the Beach House pub and Bayswater Terrace would come down and the public would have access to the square and the waterfront.

No date for the start or completion of the housing elements of the plan was given.

According to Mr Keogh the application to vary the development represented a firm commitment to complete the project. “Sispar are prepared to finish with this subject to achieving the necessary amendments,” the company said.

The alternative is that the harbour walls would be completed with an unfinished public square and routes through the site to the sea for boat users, the developers said.

Irish Times

Campaign to preserve Moore Street buildings

THE CAMPAIGN to protect the historic Moore Street area of Dublin will be the most important campaign since Wood Quay, said James Connolly Heron, great-grandson of James Connolly.

Mr Connolly Heron was one of a group of relatives of the 1916 leaders who met politicians from the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Environment, Heritage and Local Government yesterday to inspect the site around the GPO and Moore Street which is due to be redeveloped.

Last month An Bord Pleanála approved planning permission for a major redevelopment of the Carlton Cinema site covering a 2.7 hectare site taking in most of a block of Upper OConnell Street and fronting on to Henry Street, Moore Street, O’Rahilly Parade and Parnell Street.

The area covers much of the route taken by the leaders of the 1916 Rising after they left the GPO, as well as their final headquarters in 16 Moore Street.

Developer Joe O’Reilly, who built the Dundrum Town Centre in south Dublin, has been granted permission for the 800,000sq ft development which will comprise 98 retail units, 69 residential units, 4,500sq m of restaurants and coffee houses and some 700 car parking spaces.

Mr O Reilly is one of the first ten developers going into Nama. He was also named as one of the Anglo Irish so-called “Golden Circle” – one of 10 Anglo Irish Bank customers who borrowed from the bank to buy a 10 per cent stake in the lender.

Speaking to Oireachtas committee members and local TDs yesterday, Mr Connolly Heron, a member of the Save 16 Moore Street Committee, said the State needed to take a proactive role in the preservation of the area, as the issue was “too important” to be left to a private developer.

Numbers 14-17 Moore Street is a designated National Monument. Under the plans, the facade of the buildings will be preserved and a commemorative centre built in number 16. However, campaigners are proposing that the interior of the buildings be preserved in their original state.

“This is the last surviving building where the leaders actually met,” Mr Connolly Heron said. He called on the Government to establish a museum which would resemble the Anne Frank House museum in Amsterdam which preserves the original structure and contents of the house.

Irish Times

Council faces €42m bill for affordable homes in Dun Laoghaire

DÚN LAOGHAIRE Rathdown County Council faces a bill of €42 million upon completion of 170 social and affordable homes on the former Dún Laoghaire Golf Club lands.

The council has to pay Cosgrave Developments €35.6 million of the money owed when the first 143 social and affordable units are finished and handed over to the council later this year. The homes are being built on a corner of of the site, at the junction of Glenageary Road Upper and Kill Avenue. Cosgraves is one of the top 10 development companies whose loans have been transferred to Nama.

The agreement over pricing was made in June 2008 when planning permission for the scheme was granted by An Bord Pleanála.

The remaining proposed 27 units, made up of five social and 22 affordable units, will cost the council a further €7.3 million, if they are granted planning permission and built.

The amount owed to Cosgrave Developments was revealed at a council meeting on Monday in response to a question by independent councillor Victor Boyhan asking that a report on the cost of the units be provided.

In relation to the social units, the council has agreed to pay an average of €149,284 each for 20 one-bedroom units, €250,062 for 46 two-bedroom units and €310,480 for 19 three-beds.

For the affordable units, the 21 one-bedroom units were €178,490, the 62 two-beds were €293,109 and two three-beds were €310,480.

The council’s housing department has asked the Department of the Environment to fund the 85 social housing units in the scheme, for which the cost is over €20 million.

The council currently has 2,026 applicants on its affordable housing list, and says it is “optimistic” about selling on the units in the Cosgrave development to suitable applicants.

When asked how the council’s budget would be affected if there’s insufficient take-up of the units, a spokesperson from the council said “demand from applicants for affordable housing already provided in the Dún Laoghaire area has been high, therefore we are optimistic that there will be a demand for the apartments in the golf club development”. The council says it is anticipating capital expenditure of around €180 million in 2010, but says this figure is subject “to the availability of funding and/or the resolution of legal or other issues”.

Next week Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council plans to put 117 affordable units in Stepaside and Sandyford on the open market due to lack of interest from applicants on the affordable housing list. The acquisition cost of these units was €27.5 million.

Irish Times

Sligo may lose €100m funds over bridge row

SLIGO COULD lose €100 million in Government funding if the deadlock over a planned bridge continues, a trade union leader warned yesterday.

Community leaders have also warned that the multimillion euro Cranmore Regeneration project is now at risk in an area which has endured decades of poverty and neglect.

The project which got the green light in 2007 has seen 65 boarded-up houses in the sprawling local authority estate demolished. But it is now stalled following a decision by councillors to delete plans for the Eastern link bridge from the Sligo and Environs Development Plan.

Councillors have repeatedly insisted that the Cranmore project was a stand alone one but on a visit to Sligo last November Minister for Housing Michael Finneran insisted that it was inextricably linked to the bridge. He urged the councillors to draw up a master plan for the area following a “period of reflection”.

Mr Finneran estimated that the amount of State funding at risk was up to €100 million given the cost of providing the bridge, the access routes and refurbishing the 500-house Cranmore estate.

Hugh McConville chairman of the Sligo Council of Trade Unions yesterday warned that there was now “a real danger” that Sligo would lose massive public investment at a time when 100 local retail units are closed and unemployment has soared.

Acknowledging the “genuine difficulties” involved for those meeting the needs of all Sligo residents, he said it was vital at this stage that decisions be made to ensure that Sligo does not lose out. “We are very worried from a jobs perspective”, he said.

Councillors opposed the bridge, which got the go ahead from An Bord Pleanála, because of concerns about its impact on a long established residential neighbourhood in the Doorly Park area of Sligo. Residents say their community will be split in two, that several houses will be demolished on foot of compulsory purchase orders and that 20,000 cars will pass by their doors every day in what is now a very tranquil neighbourhood.

Councillors had urged officials to find an alternative location for the bridge but the National Parks and Wildlife Service this week told them the entire area was protected by a habitats directive.

Michelle McMorrow, chairwoman of the Cranmore Community Co-operative has pleaded with councillors to reinstate the Eastern link bridge, saying that it would provide much needed employment as well as critical access to Sligo General Hospital and IT Sligo.

She said the community had a vision and wanted to reverse the legacy of poverty and neglect.

Three people have been murdered in Cranmore in recent years but Ms McMorrow said the community had fought back and had recently won a National Pride of Place award.

“I grew up here at a time when if you were applying for jobs you could not give Cranmore as your address,” she said.

“A lot of work had been done here getting the community involved and we do not want it to slip away now. Sligo is crying out for this investment. Any town in Ireland would.”

Irish Times

DDDA sculpture left high and dry

The Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA), which recorded a deficit of €213m last year, has spent hundreds of thousands of euros on developing a landmark sculpture in the Liffey that has now been postponed indefinitely.

Wire Man by Antony Gormley, the British sculptor, is a 46-metre steel sculpture that was supposed to be located in the river. However, it has now been shelved due to “the financial challenges faced by the authority”, the DDDA admitted last week.

But files released under the Freedom of Information Act show that more than €340,000 has already been spent on the project, which was granted planning permission following an appeal early last year. The total budget for the project is estimated at about €1.6m.

The project may never be completed due to the parlous state of the DDDA’s finances.

The proposed towering sculpture, modelled on London-born Gormley’s own body, was to have been situated beside the Sean O’Casey Bridge overlooking Dublin’s International Financial Services Centre.

Gormley, who designed the Angel of the North sculpture in Gateshead, England, has been paid €54,110 to date for developing his idea of a steel lattice figure that would have towered over the city.

The DDDA also spent €80,200 on a competition to select a sculptor from a shortlist of eight candidates, eventually won by Gormley. The agency spent a further €172,418 bringing the project through the planning process and a total of €36,054 on “public consultation”.

A spokesman said last week that the planning costs were exacerbated by an appeal to An Bord Pleanala and the need for an environmental impact statement. The planning costs included fees for consultants, engineers, architects and geologists. The public consultation costs, according to the DDDA, included marketing and promotional expenses.

In May last year, Gormley texted Paul Maloney, the then chief executive of the DDDA, to express his frustration at delays in the project. Maloney replied by email, assuring Gormley that the DDDA “remains committed to the delivery of this project” but said the authority was facing “extremely serious financial challenges in light of the collapse of international financial and property markets”.

Maloney continued that the DDDA would investigate and take up any offers of assistance in funding the project. “For the next six months, it will be a priority of ours . . . to secure any support for the project so that we can proceed in January 2010,” he said.

Despite this assurance, the DDDA admitted this weekend that the project was not “being progressed”.

Gormley told The Sunday Times last year that “the international art world was watching Dublin and it would be foolish not to go ahead with the project”. He said that he had been assured by the DDDA that the €1.6m set aside for the project had been “ring-fenced”.

“I would be surprised and disappointed if the project didn’t go ahead as planned,” he said at the time.

In June 2008, just as its finances were unravelling, the agency spent €170,218 on an installation by Spencer Tunick, a photographer who takes images of nude groups.

The installation took place over a weekend in June 2008. Tunick was paid €31,768 and €13,574 was spent on project management. Some 25,000 volunteers posed naked on the South Wall harbour in the Dublin docklands.

The production costs for the event, and a subsequent photo shoot at a nearby apartment building, cost €49,381, while a marketing campaign to highlight the event — including a website — cost another €75,493. The overall spend included the cost of sending each volunteer a limited-edition photograph. Earlier in the month, Tunick had created another installation, in Blarney Castle, in Co Cork, featuring 1,200 volunteers, including Ray D’Arcy, a Today FM DJ. The cost was met by the organisers of Cork Midsummer Festival.

William Galinsky, the festival director, said Tunick charged the same fee as for the DDDA project. There were also costs of just under €32,000, but marketing expenses were lower because it was part of a festival and production costs were lower because the site was easier to work on than in Dublin.

Sunday Times