Friday 30 December 2011

Hospital board seeks tenders ahead of planning approval

TENDERS ARE being sought for a “design and build” contract for the controversial children’s hospital on the Mater site in Dublin at least a month in advance of An Bord Pleanála’s decision on whether to grant planning permission for it.

Read the article @ The Irish Times

Concerns as Kilkenny scheme gets go-ahead

AN BORD Pleanála has granted planning permission for a new road and bridge crossing of the river Nore which its critics claim would be the death knell for the city’s medieval character.

Read the article @ The Irish Times

Friday 16 December 2011

2,000 properties face takeover threat from DART Underground

UP to 2,000 businesses and homes will be forced to live with the threat of their properties being taken over by Iarnrod Eireann for the next seven years.
The state railway company was yesterday granted permission to build the DART Underground line, but has been given up to 2018 to formally tell owners along the route if their land will be needed to build the line. Normally, state agencies taking land under Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) are given 18 months to complete the transaction.

The decision of An Bord Pleanala to allow the railway company seven years to acquire the lands comes because the government has suspended all work on the project. This means that landowners will have difficulty selling or developing their properties until a decision is made on whether the €2bn project will go ahead. Experts last night said that having the threat of a CPO hanging over a property meant it was effectively "unsellable".

Read the article @ The Irish Independent

Diageo to submit development plan for James's Gate

GUINNESS maker Diageo is ready to apply for planning permission for a €100m makeover of its iconic James's Gate Brewery. Diageo Ireland has been in talks with Dublin planning authorities and local councillors since the summer about how best to redevelop large sections of the huge St James's Gate site, known worldwide as the home of Guinness stout.

Diageo says it is now ready to submit a planning application for redevelopment of the north side of the site, between James's Street and Victoria Quay, following the talks. The plans are now at the planning stage with a formal planning application being made to Dublin authorities this week. The plans will go on public display tomorrow at the Dublin City Council offices at Wood Quay, just down the river from James's Gate.

Read the article @ The Irish Independent

Red Hand chiefs bid to tackle rural depopulation problem

A special committee will be set up to examine the issues and come up with solutions.

School closures and planning restrictions are among the factors identified as important factors in the difficulties being experienced by some rural clubs.

"The committee will focus on our many clubs with dwindling numbers, in areas with schools proposed for closing and the added impact of PPS 21 (planning strategy) which has yet to be measured," said county chairman Ciaran McLaughlin.

Read the article @ The Examiner


Planning authority says Gaeilscoil can proceed to development at the Tank Field.
An Bord Pleanala has overturned a Cork City Council decision for a second time and granted approval for the construction of a new Gaeilscoil, on the grounds of the Tank Field in Mayfield. The area in question is zoned as a sports field , and has been at the centre of a contentious argument for several years. The planning authority said it believed it wasn`t constrained in granting permission even though the City Council voted against approval last July because it considered the development would constitute a material contravention of the City Development Plan. Local residents say they`re concerned that An Bord Pleanala would overturn the decision of the local authority and that a campaign to preserve the Tank Field will be vigorously pursued.

Read the article @

New Information Added To Online Flood Maps

Online Flood Maps have been updated with information now available on areas across the north that may be affected by flooding from rivers, sea and now rainfall. The Strategic Flood Map also gives helpful information on the location of flood defences already in place to reduce risk and is intended to increase awareness among the general public, local authorities, utilities and other organisations about the risk of flooding. This is to enable them to be better prepared to take appropriate action to reduce the impact of flooding.

Read the article @


It's looking increasingly unlikely that a progress report into the merger of Limerick's two local authorities will be completed by the end of the year.

Implementation Committee Chairman Denis Brosnan had hoped the report might be ready for the Minister before Christmas after he described the October deadline as overly ambitious.

Detailed negotiations between officials of both councils on the one hand and politicians on the other are ongoing as the structure for the new merger authority is due to be finalised in 2012.

Read the article at

Galway GAA have abandoned plans for a training centre at Athenry

A plan for a GAA hurling training centre to be located near Athenry have been dropped.

The decision will see the Galway hurling board lose some €2.5 million which has already been spent on a site of over 100 acres.

To proceed, the project would cost further millions and would eventually, the GAA hoped, be worth €8 million.

Plans were submitted to the Council for planning permission and a grant was issued in 2008 for the facility.

To read the Irish Times article on which this summary is based, please click here.

Residential quarter planned by Gerry Gannon

Developer Gerry Gannon has unveiled plans for a large residential neighbourhood at Oldtown in Swords, north Dublin. Gannon Properties has lodged the first of two planning applications with Fingal County Council for 469 homes, mostly three and four-bed units as well as two-bed starter houses. The site is on zoned lands between the northwestern edge of Swords and a new regional park planned by the council.

Read the article @ The Irish Times

Lusk landfill will no longer proceed

The massive regional-scale landfill waste facility proposed near Lusk will no longer proceed. Fingal County Council has made the decision.

According to reports in the Irish Times, around €33m and 14 years have been spent to date by Fingal County Council on the project. Additional monies amounting to more than €45 million were due to be spent on land if the project proceeded.

The Council has quoted multiple reasons for the decision, but it is clear that national policy and competition are the main ones.

This could however be viewed as a victory for the local community which opposed for the project for 14 years until a planning decision to grant was issued in March 2011.

The Council's decision not to proceed will end many local landowners concerns over the uncertainty of the future use of their lands.

To read the Irish Times story on which this summary is based, please click here.

The DART Underground decision

An Bord Pleanála has decided, unanimously, to grant the DART Underground Railway Order

To read the full DART Underground decision, please click here.

Having read the details of the decision, my commiserations go to the residents of East Wall for whom little or no change appears to have been made to the Railway Order such that its impact on that community would be reduced.

There is a concern in the East Wall community that the Strategic Infrastructure Act 2006 has facilitated a situation whereby the concerns of objectors and observers were given a hearing and then dismissed in favour of the project's proposers - in the name of the 'common good'.

An almost identical decision would, it seems, have been made in the event no Third Party involvement had ever taken place.

I wonder whether if each part of the project had been assessed separately under the normal planning application procedure, would the project have eventually been passed in such an unaltered state. I doubt it.

This is no doubt a complicated project. It is no doubt an important project for the state. But the impacts of the project fall almost entirely on one community. If this is in the common good, then it fails to pass most definitions of the common good.

The common good is served when it is possible to make everyone better off without making anyone worse off. Within East Wall, if this project ever starts, life will be worse off for over ten years.

Monday 12 December 2011

Residents oppose demolition of buildings in Dunshaughlin

MORE THAN 800 residents of Dunshaughlin, Co Meath, are appealing against the county council’s decision to grant the demolition of three historic buildings in the town to make way for a new shopping centre.

Last March Cusack Homes sought permission from Meath County Council for the development which includes a 4,239 sq m anchor retail unit, five smaller shops, two offices and 323 parking spaces on a site off Main Street.

The application sought permission for the demolition of a boundary wall but did not seek the demolition of any buildings.

However, last April the council sought revisions from the developer following concerns about traffic safety related to the proposed entrance off Main Street to the development.

Last September the applicants submitted proposals to allow for a changed entrance which included the demolition of mid- to late-19th century buildings including an old industrial building, dating from the 1860s, listed on the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

The revisions also include the demolition of two late 19th century houses known locally as Gogan’s home and pub.

The houses were in use until recently and while one is currently vacant the other is still occupied by an estate agent’s firm.

Read the article @ The Irish Times

Friday 9 December 2011

Cosgrave challenges corruption charges

THE SUPREME COURT has begun hearing an appeal by former Fine Gael TD Liam Cosgrave aimed at halting his criminal trial in connection with alleged corrupt payments concerning land rezonings in Co Dublin.

Mr Cosgrave and businessman James Kennedy are separately seeking orders to stop their trials over alleged corrupt payments in relation to rezoning of lands in Carrickmines owned by Jackson Way Properties in 1992 and the successful rezoning of part of these lands in 1997.

Mr Cosgrave, Merrion Park, Blackrock, Co Dublin, has denied charges of receiving sums in June 1992; on December 23rd, 1997, at Buswells Hotel, Dublin; and on October 30th, 1997, at the Davenport Hotel in Dublin.

Mr Kennedy, Cormorant Wharf, Queensway Quay, Gibraltar, has also denied 16 charges of making corrupt payments to politicians relating to rezoning motions voted on by Dublin County Council and Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown concerning land in Carrickmines.

Read the article @ The Irish Times

Cosgrave challenges corruption charges

THE SUPREME COURT has begun hearing an appeal by former Fine Gael TD Liam Cosgrave aimed at halting his criminal trial in connection with alleged corrupt payments concerning land rezonings in Co Dublin.

Mr Cosgrave and businessman James Kennedy are separately seeking orders to stop their trials over alleged corrupt payments in relation to rezoning of lands in Carrickmines owned by Jackson Way Properties in 1992 and the successful rezoning of part of these lands in 1997.

Mr Cosgrave, Merrion Park, Blackrock, Co Dublin, has denied charges of receiving sums in June 1992; on December 23rd, 1997, at Buswells Hotel, Dublin; and on October 30th, 1997, at the Davenport Hotel in Dublin.

Mr Kennedy, Cormorant Wharf, Queensway Quay, Gibraltar, has also denied 16 charges of making corrupt payments to politicians relating to rezoning motions voted on by Dublin County Council and Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown concerning land in Carrickmines.

Read the article @ The Irish Times

HSE appeals decision on removal of statue

THE HSE South has appealed a decision by Killarney Town Council refusing permission to remove a 1930s Christian statue from the roof of the town’s community hospital.

The health executive has paid fees of €4,500 to lodge the appeal with An Bord Pleanála against the council decision. It has also engaged leading heritage and planning consultants in its bid to overturn the town council decision.

The sudden removal of the large red and white statue of Christ from over the central front door of the hospital in March 2010 provoked furore locally and has already been before An Bord Pleanála by way of referral.

The bishop of Kerry, the Killarney Soroptimists and others have publicly questioned health and safety reasons put forward by the HSE. At one stage there was a threat of a march on the hospital.

Read the article @ The Irish Times

Developer's controversial Achill structure praised as 'genius'

The Stonehenge-like structure built on Achill Island by controversial developer Joe McNamara has been praised as 'genius' and a piece of public art.

Mr McNamara is due to return to the High Court today over the unauthorised development. But a local politician, who visited the site several times last week, feels it would be a "terrible" decision to tear it down.

Mayo County Council currently has the matter before the High Court, but Cllr Michael McLaughlin (FG) believes it could become a major tourist attraction.

"People will travel from all over to see it and I think it could be one of the major tourist attractions in the west of Ireland. If left it will still be standing strong in 5,000 years and will continue to pose questions and generate debate, that's what good art does.

"It is public art in my opinion. There's a fine line sometimes between genius and madness but I certainly think this is genius."

Joe McNamara, known as the 'Anglo Avenger' after a series of high-profile protests against Anglo Irish Bank, was released from jail on Monday night after spending the weekend there.

He was found in contempt of court last Friday by Judge Roderick Murphy for ignoring two injunctions served by a Mayo County Council planning officer to stop work on the structure the weekend before last.

The structure, the purpose for which remains unclear, was erected without planning permission between November 25 and 27.

Cllr McLaughlin, a member of Westport Town Council, the nearest large town to Achill Island, argues that while planning was clearly breached, the structure is worthy of an exception.

"I know there are planning breaches and, by the letter of the law, it should come down. But I think an exception should be made," he said.

"First of all, from an engineering point of view, it is a fantastic piece of work. He did it all himself and I wouldn't say it is even one quarter inch out of place and he got it built in one weekend.

Last Friday Judge Murphy told McNamara that he will be invited to 'purge his contempt' at today's court sitting and 'deal with the matter of what appears to be an unlawful development'.

It is understood that McNamara is preparing to apply for retention planning permission for the development.

Edwin McGreal

Read the article @ The Irish Independent

Businessman told to halt demolition of listed mansion

A HONG Kong-based businessman has been ordered to stop demolition works at the 17th century listed Georgian house that inspired the paintings of a leading artist.

Local residents in Thomastown, Co Kilkenny, were dumbfounded when they noticed that part of the back of the stunning Kilmurry House had been knocked down. It is the home where celebrated Irish artist Mildred Anne Butler, who was born in 1858 and died in 1941, lived for most of her life.

The property dates to 1690 when a Colonel Bushe built a seat on lands granted to him under the Cromwellian settlement. In the late 1800s the estate was bought by Ms Butler's father, Major Henry Butler of the renowned Anglo-Irish Butlers of Ormonde dynasty of Kilkenny Castle.

Read the article @ The Irish Independent

Businessman told to halt demolition of listed mansion

A HONG Kong-based businessman has been ordered to stop demolition works at the 17th century listed Georgian house that inspired the paintings of a leading artist.

Local residents in Thomastown, Co Kilkenny, were dumbfounded when they noticed that part of the back of the stunning Kilmurry House had been knocked down. It is the home where celebrated Irish artist Mildred Anne Butler, who was born in 1858 and died in 1941, lived for most of her life.

The property dates to 1690 when a Colonel Bushe built a seat on lands granted to him under the Cromwellian settlement. In the late 1800s the estate was bought by Ms Butler's father, Major Henry Butler of the renowned Anglo-Irish Butlers of Ormonde dynasty of Kilkenny Castle.

Read the article @ The Irish Independent

Tuesday 6 December 2011

Developer jailed over 'Stonehenge' on Achill

PROPERTY DEVELOPER Joe McNamara has been jailed until Tuesday by a High Court judge for contempt of an order to stop building a “Stonehenge-like structure” which he intends to be a “place of reflection” on Achill Island.

Mr McNamara, who was acquitted earlier this year after he drove a cement mixer with the words “toxic bank” at the gates of Leinster House, was asked by Mayo County Council’s planning officers last week to stop the unauthorised works in Achill, but he continued with the project.

The council then brought proceedings against Mr McNamara (41), Achill Island, Co Mayo, and Salthill, Co Galway, and secured orders on November 26th last requiring him to stop the works.

It claimed works continued after he was served with those orders and that it then initiated proceedings for attachment and committal of Mr McNamara.

After hearing from the sides yesterday, Mr Justice Roderick Murphy found Mr McNamara had continued work on the structure, an outer ring of large columns with tapping stones placed on top, despite being served with the order to cease those works.

Read the article @ The Irish Times

Still not too late to stop Mater hospital madness

HEALTH CUTS “hurt the old, the sick and the handicapped”, said the infamous Fianna Fáil slogan in 1987. And now we’re facing another batch, which will result in the closure of up to 4,000 public nursing-home beds, the imposition of a €50 annual levy on medical cards and new charges for home help.

The Department of Health has been forensically examining every budget line for further cuts in an already ramshackle health service. Yet at the same time, it plans to forge ahead with the proposed children’s hospital on the Dublin Mater site at an acknowledged cost of €650 million, and probably a lot more.

While other extravagant, boom-era boondoggle schemes such as Metro North are being cancelled, the hospital is to proceed. Indeed, Minister for Health Dr James Reilly’s recent statement that enabling works would start next year and construction in 2013 blithely assumed An Bord Pleanála approval for this contentious project.

The Government’s decision to proceed is all the more surprising given that former hospital development board chairman Philip Lynch – forced to resign more than a year ago after he queried the suitability of the site – branded the location as “a political decision, a northside job. I’ve no doubt in the world about it”.

The decision was made with unseemly haste in June 2006 “behind closed doors and signed off as government policy by the cabinet without any participation from the public, child health professionals or our elected representatives”, as Dr Roisín Healy, of the New Children’s Hospital Alliance, told An Bord Pleanála’s recent oral hearing.

Read the article @ The Irish Times

Opposition by residents leads council to shelve Clontarf flood defence plans

PLANS FOR flood defences of up to 2.17m (7ft) in height to protect Clontarf from the sea have been scrapped by Dublin city councillors following opposition from local residents.

Councillors of all parties voted last night to reject the council management proposals for building a barrier along the promenade in Clontarf to protect homes and businesses from inundation by the sea.

The area was hit by an “extreme tidal event” in February 2002 and a less severe one in October 2004, both of which caused damage to homes and businesses.

The council has had planning permission from An Bord Pleanála to build flood defences up to 2.75m high since 2008. However, when it announced two months ago that it planned to begin construction early next year a campaign against the move began.

Residents and business associations, who did not appeal to An Bord Pleanála before the scheme was approved in July 2008, said there had been inadequate public consultation at the time. They added they were unaware of the proposed heights of the development until last October.

Read the article @ The Irish Times

500 homes at risk as council rejects flood defence scheme

MORE than 500 homes will remain at risk of flooding for the foreseeable future after Dublin city councillors last night rejected plans to build a defence scheme.

In a unanimous decision, councillors threw out plans to build the defences along a 3km stretch of the coastline, meaning the northside suburb of Clontarf will remain unprotected from storms and high tides.

The council had secured funding of €4.3m to erect grass mounds between the promenade and road stretching from Alfie Byrne Road to the Woodenbridge. But the height of the mounds caused controversy, with residents claiming they would block views of the sea.

Some 83pc of the defences were to be under 1.5 metres, the council said, reaching a maximum height of 2.17 metres near the old Clontarf baths.

Read the article @ The Irish Independent

Sisk and Park need NAMA for marina

JOHN Sisk and Son Ltd and Park Developments have indicated they need the support of NAMA to finish off the €300m Greystones marina project in Co Wicklow.

The loans given to Sisk and Park were transferred over to NAMA in November 2010, but there has been no official indication yet from NAMA whether it wants to support the second phase of the development, which includes a medical centre, apartments and clubhouses for harbour users.

"The directors expect that ultimately NAMA will provide ongoing funding facilities to allow for completion of the development,'' the builders said. Wicklow County Council is also a partner in the project.

Read the article @ The Irish Independent

Saving historic heart of our towns

HIGH streets and town centres throughout Ireland have come to look the same in recent years, with regular department stores and the brash brand names of largely overseas multiples increasingly dominating the streetscape.

The result is that many cities and urban areas have lost their individual identities. Often, the only saving grace is some old or historical building that stands out because it is so different to the glass, steel and plastic facades of today. The venerable landmarks are usually officially ‘listed’ for preservation, whilst some simply escape the rush to modernisation.

However, there’s evidence that places which are retaining their historic environments are doing better economically. We’re told there is something in the human psyche that makes people enjoy being in historic environments. Sounds like a no-brainer, though obviously not to many commercial developers who ran riot during the boom years.

But, just think for a moment of how a town such as Clonakilty, in west Cork, can make the most of its built heritage, or why Adare, Co Limerick, always seems packed with tourists and coaches. The prime reason surely is that both are lovely places in which to be, enhanced by a deep sense of tradition and atmosphere.

The east Cork town of Youghal, famous for its built and natural heritage, sees a heritage-led regeneration plan as compensating in some way for huge losses in local manufacturing in the past decade.

Read the article @ The Irish Examiner

Glanbia plans major new manufacturing plant

Food group Glanbia is seeking sites in Leinster to build a greenfield dairy manufacturing plant, according to a weekend report.

It may invest more than 50m euros in the facility, the Sunday Times says, which is hoped to come on stream when milk production quotas come to an end in 2015.

It says a decision on whether to build the facility on a 100 acre greenfield site is expected in the second quarter of next year.

The paper says sites owned by NAMA are among those the food group is looking at.
The plant will be designed to tap into a different catchment of dairy farmers than its current facility at Ballyragget in Co Kilkenny.

The new plant will produce milk and value added products such as yoghurts and cheeses.

Read the article @

EirGrid starts challenge against Laois plan to lay power lines underground

EirGrid has brought a High Court challenge against Laois County Council's policy that all future power lines over 400kv going through the county must be put underground.

In its proceedings EirGrid Plc claims the policy, adopted by the Council last October, make it impossible for the semi state to fulfil its function to develop, maintain and operate a safe secure, economic and reliable electricity transmission system in the county.

Today the court heard that EirGrid, which has operated Ireland's electricity transmission system since 2006, has major concerns in regards to the cost and environmental implications involved if all lines over 400kv in Co Laois have to be put underground.

In its proceedings, the company argues the Council erred in law by adopting the policy, which it claims is contrary and inconsistent with a number of national plans policies, strategies including the National spatial strategy, regional planning guidelines and the objectives of the County Development Plan.

The policy is included as part of the Laois County Development Plan for 2011-2017.

Read the article @ The Irish Examiner

Over 100 more properties listed on Nama website

THE SPAWELL leisure centre in Templeogue, Dublin 16, an office building in the Gasworks in Belfast and the Vantage Business Park site near London are amongst 105 new properties listed by Nama on its website yesterday.

The majority of properties – 58 – named are in Northern Ireland and include an office building in the Gasworks in Belfast as well as a number of pubs.

Thirty-eight properties are in the south of Ireland, and nine are in London. In Dublin, pubs on Dawson Street, Mount Street Lower and South Great George’s Street are in receivership but none is yet for sale.

The new information includes all properties which were subject to enforcement action by October 31st. These include 57 to which receivers were appointed during October; receivers had already been appointed to 48 other properties prior to acquisition of the loans by Nama in October.

Read the article @ The Irish Times

Opposition grows to Dublin sewage plant

OPPOSITION IS mounting across north Co Dublin to plans for a new €500 million regional sewage plant to serve up to 700,000 people in Dublin city and county, as well as parts of Meath and Kildare.

Nine sites, all in Fingal, have been selected as potential locations for the plant, which would be second in size only to the Ringsend sewage works.

The closing date for public submissions on the proposed locations is tomorrow. Reclaim Fingal, an alliance of opposition groups from each of the targeted communities, said it intended to present about 10,000 submissions against the proposal to Fingal County Council.

Read the article @ The Irish Times

Retail space guidelines introduced, says Hogan

MINISTER FOR the Environment Phil Hogan has insisted draft guidelines to relax the floor space limits on retail premises in Dublin and other major cities have been introduced in negotiation with the EU-IMF troika.

Fianna Fáil environment spokesman Niall Collins had called on the Minister to acknowledge that the EU-IMF deal “did not specifically provide for an increase in that cap” on floor space.

“It provided for a study,” he said, warning that any change in the regulations to allow more space for retail premises “would squeeze the smaller retailers in town centres”.

Mr Hogan said: “When the EU and IMF ask you to carry out a study, they do so with a particular purpose in mind.”

Read the article @ The Irish Times

‘Local retail centre’ shot down in councillors’ unanimous vote

PLANS for a "local retail centre" in Cork’s western suburbs have been shot down after councillors voted unanimously against rezoning.

All 27 councillors who attended Monday night’s council meeting voted against the recommendation of planners to rezone the site off the Melbourne Road to facilitate the development.

The project at a site near the Rossbrook estate and the former Tennis Village faced opposition from RGDATA and local business owners.

Several local shop owners at the meeting applauded after the vote.

The issue came before councillors after planners assessed a planning application by Melbourne Management, associated with developers Michael and John O’Flynn, to change uses of eight business, enterprise and light industrial units at the former Melbourne Business Centre, to provide a 4,500 square-foot local retail centre, with off-licence and four other shops.

It is understood that TescoExpress was lined up as the intended anchor for the larger unit of the proposed retail centre.

The project was aimed at serving the large CIT student catchment in the area and its extensive purpose-built student accommodation.

Read the article @ The Irish Examiner

‘Local retail centre’ shot down in councillors’ unanimous vote

PLANS for a "local retail centre" in Cork’s western suburbs have been shot down after councillors voted unanimously against rezoning.

All 27 councillors who attended Monday night’s council meeting voted against the recommendation of planners to rezone the site off the Melbourne Road to facilitate the development.

The project at a site near the Rossbrook estate and the former Tennis Village faced opposition from RGDATA and local business owners.

Several local shop owners at the meeting applauded after the vote.

The issue came before councillors after planners assessed a planning application by Melbourne Management, associated with developers Michael and John O’Flynn, to change uses of eight business, enterprise and light industrial units at the former Melbourne Business Centre, to provide a 4,500 square-foot local retail centre, with off-licence and four other shops.

It is understood that TescoExpress was lined up as the intended anchor for the larger unit of the proposed retail centre.

The project was aimed at serving the large CIT student catchment in the area and its extensive purpose-built student accommodation.

Read the article @ The Irish Examiner

Clash over medical centre

A GROUP of Killarney pharmacists has lodged yet another objection to a local GP-led healthcare centre.

An appeal has been submitted to An Bord Pleanála by pharmacists opposing the change of use of two blocks at the Killarney Primary Care Centre (KPCC) for a medical centre and the subdivision of a ground floor unit to accommodate a pharmacy/café and medical centre.

GPs claimed yesterday that planning objections will stop the roll-out of additional healthcare facilities planned for the KPCC, at the Reeks Gateway.

One of the GPs, Dr Gary Stack, said: "We view this latest development as an attempt by vested interests to thwart the provision of modern-day medical care.

"Due to time considerations in the planning process, it will now be a minimum of another four months before we can progress our plans to add essential services like an x-ray unit, physiotherapy, podiatry and occupational therapy, as well as facilities for visiting consultants."

KPCC employs 59 people at the one-stop premises, which combines five GP practices and a pharmacy and caters for an estimated 25,000 patients.

Read the article @ The Irish Examiner

Wednesday 30 November 2011

Sisters of Charity claim lands targeted by city council

THE IMPOSITION of more restrictive conditions on development of certain lands in the new development plan for Dublin appears “targeted” at lands owned by religious institutions, the Sisters of Charity have claimed before the Commercial Court.

Dublin City Council has failed to give any rational reason why the restrictive Z15 zoning designation was imposed on property totalling 108 acres owned by the order and not on certain other lands, the order’s counsel, Brian Murray SC, argued.

The order claims the Z15 designation means future uses such as housing development are not open for planning consideration with consequent adverse implications for their property rights and ability to sell land to fund their activities.

Mr Murray said his client wanted to know why the council believed the lands zoned Z15 – including open space lands adjoining the order’s convent and schools in Sandymount – should be zoned in a restrictive way compared with other open space lands.

The council contended the Z15 zoning, entitled “Community and Institutional Resource Lands (Education, Recreation, Community, Green Infrastructure and Health)” was in the common good and for the benefit of the community and neighbourhood but this did not meet the requirement to provide “clear categorisation”, justification and “clear rational evidence” before subjecting lands to such a restrictive zoning, he argued.

Read the article @ The Irish Times

Christmas markets in docklands

Dublin’s docklands is to get a third Christmas market from tomorrow when 40 stalls start trading in the redbrick former railway station facing onto the city quays beside the Convention Centre and PwC offices. The Christmas market continues until January 22nd when arrangements will be made to run an urban market there on a daily basis.

Read the details @ The Irish Times

McNamara behind mysterious 'Achill-henge'

THE MAN who was arrested after he drove a cement mixer against the gates of Leinster House is responsible for a Stonehenge-type structure on a hilltop on Achill Island.

Developer Joe McNamara had been before the High Court in Dublin on Monday, where he gave undertakings demanded by Mayo County Council that he would cease unauthorised road construction in an area of scenic value on Achill Island. It was not explained what exactly he was doing.

Now it has emerged that Mr McNamara is behind the clandestine project on the hilltop. Construction appeared to continue over the weekend, often in fading light, with locals oblivious as to what was being built.

Read the article @ The Irish Times

Minister casts doubt on plan to demolish protected shops

PLANS TO demolish a pair of historical buildings in Ennistymon, Co Clare, to make room for a roundabout on the road to Lahinch would be “contrary to the thrust” of the 2000 Planning Act, Clare County Council was told.

Minister for Heritage Jimmy Deenihan said his department had advised the council that any proposal to demolish and rebuild the protected structures at Blake’s Corner, set back from the current building line, would “require strong justification”.

In a written reply to Michael McNamara TD (Labour), he said it would also require “a robust and detailed methodology that demonstrated that such an approach is both feasible and appropriate without any further loss of character than is absolutely necessary”.

The two mid-19th century buildings, with Liscannor-slated roofs and original shopfronts, were listed by the county council as protected structures several years ago after featuring in books on Irish vernacular architecture and posters of historical shopfronts.

Mr Deenihan said his department had also advised the council that “if the envisaged removal and set back were to proceed, a sustainable and suitable new use would have to be found for both structures” that took into account a potential increase in traffic.

Read the article @ The Irish Times

Cork Port to resubmit plans for terminal

THE Port of Cork is preparing to resubmit a planning application for a scaled-down container terminal in Ringaskiddy which the company hopes will be fully operational by 2020.
Port of Cork officials say they hope to submit the planning application under the Strategic Infrastructure Act, which means the decision will be made by Bord Pleanála, rather than Cork County Council.

Port officials have already started pre-planning consultations with Bord Pleanála and are also talking with various interest groups around the harbour in the hope of ironing out any problems in advance of submitting the application.

The new plan is significantly scaled back from one which was rejected two years ago by the appeals body.

That plan focussed on building a €220 million container terminal at the Oysterbank in Ringaskiddy.

Now the port authority is planning to develop the container point in Ringaskiddy on the eastern and western sides of the basin.

It will be only half the size of the original plan and will involve substantially less land reclamation than would have been needed to develop the Oysterbank site.

Read the article @ The Irish Examiner

Oral hearing on incinerator only way to solve 'stalemate'

REOPENING AN oral hearing by An Bord Pleanála into a planned €160 million twin incinerator project for Cork is the only way an existing “stalemate” over waste disposal in the area can be resolved, according to a senior executive with the firm behind the project.

Indaver Ireland commercial director Jackie Keaney said Indaver had reluctantly opted to seek judicial review of An Bord Pleanála’s decision of June 2011 to refuse planning permission for its twin incinerators at Ringaskiddy, but it felt it had no other option.

Indaver, she said, believed the board made its decision without taking account of crucial new information regarding Cork County Council’s waste strategy that came to light 12 months prior to the board making its final decision.

“That new information was that Cork County Council was exiting the waste market, that its MBT facility was terminated and that the council’s landfill site at Bottlehill would not proceed, and it was all signalled as far back as July 2010,” she said, adding Indaver was anxious this information was available to the board and twice wrote to it, but still does not know whether the information was provided to the board’s inspector.

Read the article @ The Irish Times

Galway port plan will have to be redrawn

GALWAY Harbour Company will have to redraw its plans for a €200 million deepwater port, due to a failure to secure necessary approvals for preliminary investigations.

The ambitious plan, which intended to build on the success of the Volvo Ocean Race stopover, was due to have been submitted directly to the planning appeals board some months ago under the Strategic Infrastructure Act.

However, the harbour company was advised that site investigation works for the application were conducted without first securing full approval for a foreshore licence from the Department of the Environment.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is said to have been informed of the setback, which is expected to delay submission of a planning application to An Bord Pleanála until the middle of next year.

Read the article @ The Irish Times

Friday 25 November 2011

Flagship DIT site to proceed if planning granted

THE FLAGSHIP regeneration project for the 30-hectare Grangegorman site in Dublin’s north inner city will definitely go ahead if the project gets planning permission, a Bord Pleanála hearing was told yesterday.

Michael Hand, chief executive of the Grangegorman Development Agency, told the planning hearing much had been said about the recent decision of the Government to postpone funding for the project.

But Mr Hand said exchequer funding for the redevelopment would amount to 20 per cent of the development, and quoted Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn to the effect that the “Government is committed to the long-term funding of this project”.

In the meantime he said there were “multiple” avenues of funding that could be tapped to begin the project, which included the relocation of constituent colleges of Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT); establishing a range of Health Service Executive healthcare facilities on site; and creating a new urban quarter.

Read the article @ The Irish Times

Tesco loses appeal on Penneys plans

TESCO HAS lost its appeal against the proposed multi-million development by Penneys in O'Connell Street, Sligo, including its current store and the former TSB Bank together with portion of car park at rear of its its current premises.

Bod Pleanala has informed the parties of its decision, with 20 conditions attached. Five conditions describe development levies which must be prepaid or (usually) paid in phased payments by Penneys to Sligo Borough Council, totalling just short of 1.5 million euro. These include Condition No 17 which imposes a levy of 1.22 million euro "in respect of car parking facilities benefitting development in the area of the planning authority."

Prior to the commencement of development Penneys has to submit and agree proposals with Sligo Borough Council planners to cater for people with disabilities, including wheelchair accessability.

The recent ruling also confirms that a separate pedestrian access route from Wine Street car park to Johnston Court and Tesco shall be maintained at a width of 1.5 metres at all times.

Other conditions signed off by An Bord Pleanala include requirement for a a demolition management plan, in line with 2006 ''best practice'' Irish guideines, including details of waste to be generated during site clearance.

Penneys plan a new store of 52,000 square feet across two storeys fronting O'Connell Street, rising to four storeys over a basement story at the rear of extended site.

Tesco lodged its appeal with Pleanala last summer, citing almost one dozen grounds of objection after Sligo Borough Council had granted permission on June 9th last. Tesco objections included the need for a new Master Plan in the vicinity due to the changed ecoomic climate, possible major negative impact on traders in the area - it even suggested that Penneys was engaged in "premature and piecemeal" development - loss of car parking spaces and relocation of these would have severe impact on Tesco, both in access terms and in visibility terms.

The appeal also complained of the potential for anti-social behaviour in the space between the completed Tesco and Penneys Store. Tesco also said that the development posed a threat to the existing jobs in its own store in the Arcade.

Board Pleanala has now ruled that Penneys proposal complied in particular with the Centre Block Master Plan, which, it noted, includes "the provision of bulk service access from the west and the provision of multi storey car parking.

Read the article @ Sligo Today

Fears over gas terminal project

KERRY County Council is seeking a meeting with Taoiseach Enda Kenny to discuss ongoing delays with plans for a €500 million gas terminal project on the Shannon Estuary.

The project proposed by Shannon LNG (Liquid Natural Gas), which dates to 2006 and which has already been granted planning permission, has been beset by hurdles.

The Commissioner for Energy Regulation (CER) has told Shannon LNG it will have to pay a €10m tariff per year towards the operation and maintenance of gas interconnectors with Britain, but the company is refusing, saying it will not use the interconnectors.

Up to 350 jobs would be created in Tarbert during the build and there would be 50 jobs on completion.

The company plans to import liquefied natural gas by tanker to the terminal where it will be stored in huge tanks. A 30km pipeline will transport the gas to the national grid.

Read the article @ The Irish Examiner

City ‘must improve its flood defences’

TWO years after large parts of the city were submerged by some of the worst flooding the country has even seen, Cork still has not implemented adequate flood prevention measures, it has been claimed.
Cork Chamber has called on the various stakeholders to "urgently address the key issues required to restore public confidence" that the city is adequately protected.

The chamber said it was concerned by the length of time being taken to identify and implement measures necessary to safeguard and protect against future major flooding.

Conor Healy, its chief executive, called for:

* Completion of repairs to the quay walls damaged during the 2009 devastation.

* Completion of the current Lee Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and management modelling study and report, including the presentation and costing of the recommended measures for future flood protection.

* Preparation of a detailed implementation plan including prioritisation of works based on an informed cost/ benefit analysis."

"The severe flooding event in November 2009 highlighted Cork’s liability to severe flooding and the significant risks posed to the residential and business communities of the city and affected areas of the lower Lee catchment," Mr Healy said. "The chamber proposes the Government should put in place the necessary funding for the required package of flood defences to protect Cork city from future flood events.

"The provision of such infrastructural funding is a worthwhile investment in the context of the losses after the November 2009 flood event."

A warning system such as Cork County Council’s Bandon Flood Early Warning System should be put in place in Cork city, he said.

"We urge member companies to undertake a review of their own flood protection measures.

"Cork Chamber urges all of those charged with the responsibility for protecting the city to redouble their efforts to restore the confidence of the business community that sufficient action has been taken to investigate the causes and prevent the same thing happening again. We hope the local authorities will update people and businesses on the state of preparedness for flooding."

On November 19, 2009, millions of tonnes of water were released by the ESB from its Inniscarra dam above Cork city, engulfing vast swathes of the city centre and causing an estimated €100 million damage.

A civic emergency had to be declared as 80,000 people — half the city’s population — were left without drinking water.

Read the article @ The Irish Examiner

Hogan defends shopping centre sizes

DRAFT GUIDELINES for the size of new shopping centres that were published yesterday do not represent the death knell of smaller towns and village centres, Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan has insisted.

They follow a commitment by the Government to give consideration to removing existing limits on the size of new superstores and out-of-town shopping centres as part of the EU-IMF bailout agreed last year.

The main aspects of the draft guidelines published by Mr Hogan yesterday are:

- A rise in the size of allowable retail floorspace from 3,500sq m to 4,000sq m in the Dublin area; A rise in the size of allowable retail floorspace from 3,000sq m to 3,500sq m in the regional cities of Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford;

- The retail warehouse floorspace cap is to be maintained at 6,000sq m, but with exemptions allowed in the numerous National Spatial Strategy gateway cities and towns;

- Petrol filling station shop floorspace cap is to be maintained at 100sq m irrespective of location.

- Elsewhere in the State, the limit remains at 3,000sq m.

Commenting on the new draft guidelines yesterday, a spokesman for Mr Hogan pointed out that the previous limit in the Dublin area, that of 3,500sq m, applied to the Greater Dublin Area – a geographical area including parts of Dublin, Meath, Kildare and Wicklow. However, he said the new guidelines would increase the size to 4,000sq m only in Dublin. In Meath, Kildare and Wicklow, the proposed cap is to be 3,000sq m. “That is actually a drop in the allowable size in Meath, Kildare and Wicklow,” he said.

Read the article @ The Irish Times

Nama to put 750 homes on market in new year

THE NATIONAL Asset Management Agency is planning to press ahead with controversial plans to put 750 homes on the market early next year as part of a negative equity protection scheme.

The agency does not need Government approval to proceed, but says it “wants to bring all relevant stakeholders into the process”.

Informed sources say Nama is finalising plans on how the scheme will operate with special mortgages available through three banks, AIB, Bank of Ireland and Permanent TSB.

While it is piloting the sale of 750 homes, the agency has signalled that it would like to sell up to 5,000 homes. The plan created controversy after former minister for housing Willie Penrose expressed concern it was contrary to Government policy and could artificially inflate the property market before it hits the bottom.

The scheme works by waiving 20 per cent of the purchase price of a home if its value continues to fall over the next five years.

Read the article @ The Irish Times

Sligo Borough Council wants some of NAMA housing stock

1978 WAS globally known as 'the year of the three Popes' and it looks like 2011 will be known, in Ireland anyway, as 'the year of the three Ministers for Housing.'

Indeed so many houses were built in the past decade the case could be argued for even having three Ministers in post at the one time.

However, when the latest Minister is appointed, he/she will finding waiting a Motion from Sligo Borough Council to reflect the fact that over six hundred people are officially homeless in the Borough.

Considering a report from the Borough Council's Housing Officer at this week's November General Purposes meeting, it also emerged only eight houses have been acquired currently in the long-term leasing scheme, which was recently introduced as national policy.

Read the article @ Sligo Today

Monday 21 November 2011

Green light for €80m town centre

THE planning appeals body has given the green light to a new €80m town centre development for Carlow town.

An Bord Pleanala made its decision on the application by Donnybrook Property Investments Ltd for the site.

The approval is a positive sign in tough economic times and is set to create hundreds of jobs once it gets under way.

Penneys is currently situated at the site at Hanover, which was once a thriving shopping centre, but became run down and saw many businesses close in recent years.

But Carlow County Council believes the development will help to entice shoppers into the heart of the town, back from the outskirts where Tesco is located in the Fairgreen centre.

Read the full article @ The Irish Independent

Urban regeneration: Council buys Limerick Opera shopping centre site from Nama

LIMERICK CITY Council has bought the site of the proposed Opera shopping centre in Limerick city centre from the National Asset Management Agency.

The property was bought at the peak of the boom for €110 million in a joint venture deal between Anglo Irish Bank’s private banking division and Regeneration Developments, which is owned by developers Jerry O’Reilly, Terry Sweeney and David Courtney, former owners of retailer Superquinn.

Frequently cited as one of the most excessive property deals of the boom, the site was returned to the market in September at a price of €12.5 million.

Read the article @ The Irish Times

First stage of €240m Eirgrid tender closes

STATE AGENCY Eirgrid is in the final stages of tendering for consultants and engineers to work on the first phase of a €240 million investment in the Republic’s key electricity network in the west of Ireland.

Eirgrid is an independent entity that manages the national grid and network that transmits electricity from power plants to the distribution system. Another State company, the ESB, owns the grid.

It is evaluating tenders from bidders interested in contracts for the initial engineering, environmental, technical and public consultation work on the project.

Read the article @ The Irish Times

Friday 18 November 2011

Clontarf locals reject flood proposal

Any of the proposals originally put to Dublin City Council for flood defences in Clontarf, other than the one eventually selected by the council, would be acceptable to the local residential and businesses associations.

The associations have said that they would be in favour of an option that would see the level of the seawall raised along with the promenade footpath. Instead the council has chosen to raise a grass embankment between the road and promenade.

A spokeswoman for the residents association said today that both options provide the same level of flood defence and that both were presented to the council by the Dutch engineering firm who presented four options to the council.

Read the article @ The Irish Times

Redesigned flood defences for Clontarf

Redesigned plans for flood defences to protect Clontarf from the sea are being presented by Dublin City Council to residents in a series of briefings.

The council plans to lower the height of the planned defences from the maximum of 2.75m permitted by An Bord Pleanála to a maximum of 2.17m. Residents remain opposed to their construction on the grounds that they would ruin the local amenity and the views of Dublin Bay.

Read the article @ The Irish Times

Thursday 17 November 2011

Building of houses 'at a standstill'

NEW house building has come to a standstill in many counties.

According to statistics from the Department of Environment -- based on figures submitted by Homebond -- in 15 counties in September, no new house registrations were recorded.

The figures show that for the entire year to the end of September, Homebond has recorded no new house registrations in Leitrim and Longford, while Cavan recorded only one. Monaghan, Roscommon and Westmeath each recorded three.

Registrations are lodged with Homebond when work commences on new homes.

The department figures show that no new house registrations were recorded in Carlow, Cavan, Clare, Kerry, Longford, Mayo, Monaghan, Wicklow, Westmeath, Roscommon, Offaly, Laois, Leitrim, Louth and Waterford during September.

Read the article @ The Irish Independent

Councillors sign off on €90m regeneration plan

A REVISED €90 million regeneration plan for one of Cork’s most disadvantaged areas has been adopted, paving the way for the construction of hundreds of new council homes.
But the new Northwest Regeneration Masterplan for Knocknaheeny, Hollyhill and parts of Churchfield will need "considerable and consistent" state funding over many years to be fully realised.

City manager Tim Lucey said despite the difficult economic conditions, the council is in a strong position to secure the required funding after adopting the plan before the year end.

The masterplan will be submitted to the Department of Environment for funding.

Read the article @ The Irish Examiner

Monday 14 November 2011

New site for DIT faces the axe in cutbacks

THE Government is axing a planned new college for Dublin Institute of Technology on the site of the old Grangegorman hospital.

It will be among a series of projects cut as part of drastic changes to the capital spending programme up to 2016.

Among them are five rail projects on which the State has already spent more than €225m.

Iarnrod Eireann and the Railway Procurement Agency (RPA) spent the money planning and designing underground railway systems and Luas light-rail projects for Dublin, which were expected to cost more than €5bn to build.

Read the article at

Corrib gas rights watchdog removed

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL and Front Line Defenders have withdrawn their human rights observer appointed to monitor policing at the Corrib gas project in north Mayo, on completion of her six-month term of duty.

Australian observer Sarah Bassiuoni spent her last day as observer on the project on Friday, when Shell to Sea staged a demonstration at the Corrib gas pipeline work site at Aughoose and later outside the refinery at Ballinaboy.

Read the article @ The Irish Times

No liberty to remove holy statue

THE REMOVAL of a large Christian statue from over the main entrance to the Killarney Community Hospital was done without planning permission, planning authorities have ruled.

The statue was removed and, after a storm of criticism, placed alongside the hospital at ground level.

The removal in March 2010, without community consultation, caused uproar. The Bishop of Kerry publicly questioned health and safety reasons put forward by the hospital’s health managers.

At one stage there was a threat of a march on the hospital. The Killarney Soroptimists women’s group called on the hospital to replace the statue.

Read the article @ The Irish Times

Paragraph dropped from review on hospital location

THE FINAL report of a review of controversial plans for the Children’s Hospital of Ireland – commissioned last May by Minister for Health Dr James Reilly – dropped a paragraph saying a greenfield site would be “the ideal location” for the project.

The review endorsed plans to provide the 585-bed facility on the Mater hospital site in Dublin. A 14-day oral hearing by An Bord Pleanála on the scheme concluded last week, and it is expected the appeals board will issue its decision early next year.

The review panel’s chairman, Jonathan Erskine, told fellow members he had removed the relevant paragraph because of his concern that, if it was included, “the response will simply be that there is such an ideal site, and the issue will open up again”.

Read the article @ The Irish Times

Costs to State for scrapped metro project to top €150m

TRANSPORT: THE DECISION not to proceed with the Metro North rail project as part of the 2012-2016 capital investment programme will cost the State more than €150 million, including compensation to the project bidders.

Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar yesterday confirmed that Dublin’s cross-city Luas line would be the only “big ticket” project to go ahead in the next five years, with the Metro and Dart Underground postponed indefinitely.

The Department of Transport will spend €4,646 million on capital projects over the next five years, a cut of €1,045 million on the National Recovery Plan figures published just one year ago.

Read the article @ The Irish Times

Final cost of Corrib Gas project set to be close to €3 billion

THE FINAL cost of the controversial Corrib Gas project is now set to be close to €3 billion and it may be late 2014 before gas is finally flowing from the field.

The revised cost estimate emerges from documents just filed with the companies office here by Shell EP Ireland Ltd.

The accounts show the total outlay on the project to the end of December 2010 was €2.16 billion.

Read the article @ The Irish Times

Wednesday 9 November 2011

Paying for water

THE FLOODS last month may have prompted the knee-jerk response that Ireland has a surfeit of water, so why should the Government charge for it?

It must be recognised, however, that treating water for human consumption is an expensive business and that much of the water we use is wasted – primarily because it is perceived as a “free” resource. Just as many people discovered the value of recycling when charges were imposed on household waste, charges for water consumption should – at least in theory – provide a real incentive for conservation, in line with a broader definition of the “polluter pays” principle.

But what the Government is planning to do is to impose a flat-rate levy on all households, irrespective of whether they use water wisely or profligately. Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan argues that this is necessary in the short term to raise extra revenue pending the installation of water meters in every one of Ireland’s 1.4 million homes – a mammoth task that could take several years. It is also likely to run into opposition from those who see water charges as a form of “double taxation”; the Socialist Party has pledged to lead a “mass campaign of civil disobedience” against any water charges and, one may presume, the installation of meters.

An assessment of our water sector by PricewaterhouseCoopers found that there were no consistent policies, no standards, no consumer protection and no economic regulation as well as fragmented leadership, poor co-ordination and duplication of management. But it also highlighted some strengths, notably the fact that local authorities are accountable, close to their consumer base and can mobilise resources in time of need. One wonders what the Government’s plan to replace them with a central body, Irish Water, will mean in terms of rapid response to local emergencies.

Writing in The Irish Times last August, the ESRI’s Richard Tol argued correctly that a flat water charge would be unfair and, once introduced, it “may be with us for a long time”. Rather than relying on Irish Water, “a company that does not yet exist”, to oversee the installation of water meters at an overall cost of more than €1 billion, Tol made a modest proposal that householders could have meters installed much more cheaply themselves and recoup their investment by getting vouchers for free water.

Given the parlous state of the public finances, this proposal is surely worth considering.

Irish Times

Any salvation for Cork church?

With a renewed interest in the English Market next door, the possible linking of the church with the market is being explored

IF A building like Princes Street Church was in a city such as Boston, it’s unlikely it would be hidden behind locked gates with paint peeling off its walls. Few other tourist cities would choose to conceal stunning early 18th-century windows behind an unsightly false partition, or hide entirely a semi-circular 300-year-old-gallery with original staircase, which until recently was visited only by flocks of pigeons. But such is our sometimes cavalier attitude towards heritage in Ireland, that Princes Street Church, probably one of the most historically important religious buildings in Cork city, remains in a poor state of repair with time running out for a long-term solution to its problems.

Ask most Cork people where the city’s sole Unitarian church is located and many would struggle to tell you. The church, located beside the Princes Street entrance to the English Market, is one of the oldest religious buildings still serving its original purpose.

The church was completed in 1717, as the Unitarian congregation in the city outgrew its original premises near South Main Street. It became known as the “New Meeting House” and was one of the first buildings to be built on reclaimed marsh to the east of the medieval walls of Cork. At the time it would have stood out architecturally until the city’s expansion caught up with it.

It is older than the newly revamped Triskel Christchurch, and took around five years to construct, as hard rock and rubble had to be brought into the area to secure the foundations and reclaim the land.

“It was one of the first buildings built outside the old medieval city walls,” says Cork Unitarian Fritz Spengeman, who has offered to show me around. “In the 1690s the old medieval walls were breached during the Williamite wars and after the destruction of large portions of those city walls, people began to build to the east and to the west. This was one of the first buildings along the eastern marsh.”

Originally the pulpit was on the west wall facing east and a pillar, door and gate stood perfectly in line from there to the street outside. Now, the interior is in a poor state, with parts of the gallery panelling missing, and a 1970s portioned ceiling giving the main hall a somewhat suppressed feeling. Dividing interior walls were installed 100 years ago, as the congregation got smaller and the gallery and adjoining wings were no longer needed.

The stairs leading to the gallery is in poor repair and hidden behind a material partition. At the top though is surely one of the most authentic early 18th-century rooms left in Cork city, with huge exposed beams detailing robust Cork craftsmanship. In one corner two chairs are kept amid piles of dusty boxes and Christmas decorations. These two ornate chairs are thought to have come from the previous Unitarian church, which would mean they were made sometime in the 1600s.

Downstairs, there is no pulpit anymore as the ornate original was removed at some point in the past 30 years. Where it went or who took it are unclear. Yet, despite the obvious need for refurbishment, the building is utterly historic and charming. Windows are of an unusual oval shape and the back door leads directly onto the back wall of the English Market. Outside, where the clink of cutlery on plates from the Farmgate restaurant can be heard, is a four-foot high wall in one corner. This, I’m told, was a public toilet circa 1700. The exterior of the building to one side contains the original rubble wall construction.

Fritz Spengeman, and 20 members of the Unitarian church left in Cork, are now hoping to finally put in place a financial master plan for the complete refurbishment of the church. But the building has been at a crossroads before.

Inside the main hall, a report from a Cork newspaper in 1958 hangs on one wall. It has a picture of the inside of the church with the headline stating “Church to be a supermarket”. Mrs Marjory Thompson of Blackrock Road is pictured sitting in the pews, and described as the only remaining Unitarian left in the city at that time. The paper reported that a grocery chain which was planning to convert it into a supermarket had bought the church. Thankfully, the plan never went ahead as the building was listed.

Once Mrs Thompson left the city, the building saw little Unitarian activity until the 1990s, when a small group, including Fritz Spengeman, resumed weekly services. To earn its keep, from time to time the building is let out to local groups, and used for a variety of events, from experimental rock concerts to craft fairs. Some essential works have been carried out through the assistance of Cork City Council, Cork City Planning Office and the Heritage Council. The pigeons have been evicted and much of the rising damp in the walls has been treated.

With renewed interest in the English Market next door, following the recent visit of Queen Elizabeth II, a link-up between the church and the market is one of the possibilities being explored.

“We have a small congregation here. Since 2003 we have spent about €330,000 on this place and have done a lot of work,” explains Fritz. “Many of the windows were broken and we had serious damp problems. We have a place secure to the elements now.”

Members of the Unitarian church are in talks with Cork City Council and hope that a plan can be arrived at before Christmas. As yet, no wealthy benefactor has come forward to foot the bill; the final cost of complete restoration is likely to be seven figures. But, if nothing is done, a link back to Cork city at the start of its development is in danger of being lost.

Irish Times

NRA to unveil tunnel plan by January

THE National Roads Authority (NRA) has said it will announce its preferred option for a multi-million euro upgrade of the Jack Lynch Tunnel /Dunkettle roundabout junction by the new year or early January.

Last summer, the NRA held a public display at the Radisson Blu hotel in Little Island at which its engineers exhibited five options to upgrade what is the busiest road junction outside Dublin.

The main Dublin-Cork N8, the N25 to Wexford and the N28 to Ringaskiddy port all converge on the junction.

The NRA has repeatedly stated the junction is at capacity and needs to be upgraded urgently.

The authority has previously objected to a number of projects in the area, including O’Flynn Construction’s 1,000-plus house plan for Dunkettle — on the grounds the extra traffic it would generate would put too much pressure on the junction.

NRA spokesman Sean O’Neill said the authority was continuing to have discussions about the upgrade with Cork City Council and Cork County Council.

"We expect to make public our preferred design in December of January," Mr O’Neill said.

One of the five upgrade options could cost €100 million.

Meanwhile, a developer who wants to build a park-and-ride facility a few hundred metres from the tunnel may face an uphill battle to get planning permission for the facility as a result of the junction reconfiguration

The developer has applied to Cork County Council for outline permission for the facility on land he owns near the former Ibis Hotel, which is now a gaelscoil,

However, it is possible that his land might be subsumed under compulsory purchase orders for a series of new slip roads which may be created in the area as part of the junction upgrade.

A couple of years ago the NRA successfully objected to plans by Iarnród Éireann to build a park and ride at Dunkettle on the grounds that it might need the earmarked land to upgrade the junction.

Mr O’Neill said as far as the NRA was concerned until the preferred option was chosen "it was paramount to protect the functionality of the interchange".

Irish Examiner

Dublin suburb sites for sale at reduced prices

Two top-class redevelopment sites in the north and south Dublin suburbs are to be offered for sale at a fraction of their original valuations, writes JACK FAGAN

Wesley Rothwell, of CB Richard Ellis, is quoting a guide price of €1.5 million for the former Shandon Bakery Mill at Phibsborough in Dublin 7, and €795,000 for the site of the former Classic Cinema at Harold’s Cross Road in Dublin 6W.

The Harold’s Cross plot of 0.12 of a hectare (0.3 of an acre) should be first to sell because of its pivotal location in a densely populated area. The cinema has already been demolished and the odds are that the site will be used for a mixed development to include a retail element as well as either offices or apartments.

It would obviously appeal to either Aldi or Lidl if it had more on-site car parking space (the two German discounters seldom settle for a site of less than an acre).

However, it may well appeal to Tesco Express or Marks Spencer, given its location in an affluent area. The vendors are Capel Developments, who are also selling the former Sunday World site in the centre of Terenure village. It bought the 0.46 of a hectare site at the height of the property market for €18.3 million. The valuation has since slipped to €5 million.

The Phibsborough site, which extends to 0.65 of a hectare (1.6 acres), is also located immediately beside a busy junction, Cross Guns Bridge. It has 150 metres of frontage onto the Royal Canal. The property includes a number of derelict inter-connecting buildings, the largest a cut-stone former mill, as well as a tower building.

The sale has been called by Kavanagh Fennell, receivers to Stateford, who were refused planning permission by An Bord Pleanála for a high-rise mixed development varying from 2 to 13 storeys and comprising mainly residential units.

Rothwell said a series of feasibility studies have shown that there was potential to develop a medium-density residential scheme with a capacity of 33 to 45 homes and including a mixture of houses and duplex units.

Irish Times

Warning of delay in flood defences

CONSTRUCTION OF vital flood defences to protect Clontarf from the sea could be delayed by up to eight years, Dublin City Council has warned.

The council has had planning permission from An Bord Pleanála to build flood defences up to 2.75m high since 2008.

It has now agreed to reduce the height of the protective embankment to a maximum of 2.17m.

The cost of the project, including the construction of a new watermain is estimated at €9.8 million, which would be jointly funded by the Office of Public Works (OPW) and the Department of Environment. A contractor has been appointed and is ready to start work.

The council said it has been warned by the OPW that funding may be withdrawn if the project is not confirmed by the end of this year.

The reduction in height followed objections from residents and business people in Clontarf who said the defences, which would run along a 3km stretch of the promenade, would ruin the local amenity and the views of Dublin Bay.

The combined residents and business associations were last Friday presented with the proposals for the reductions in height which would see the grass covered mound vary in height from a minimum of .45m to 2.17m along the bay. In the previously approved scheme the minimum height was .85m while the maximum was 2.75m.

Residents and businesses said the reductions were inadequate and that they would continue to fight against the project.

The embankment would create a “muggers and rapist’s paradise” and would be an act of “national sabotage” local independent councillor Niall Ring told a city council meeting last night.

Executive manager with the council Tom Leahy said it was not possible to make the defences any lower and still provide protection to properties in Clontarf. “There is no point in investing in defences which do not protect people.” If they council did go ahead with the revised scheme now and had to restart the design and planning process, flood defences for Clontarf which was at “daily risk of flooding” could be delayed for up to eight years Mr Leahy said.

“It could require six to eight years to get back to where we are now, even if there is a willingness on the part of the two funding agencies to fund a complete abandonment of the current project and a total redesign.” Construction of the defences, which would take two years is due to start in the new year. If it did not progress at this stage Mr Leahy said, the OPW had indicated that funding was likely to be withdrawn.

“Dublin City Council has been informed that funding is available in 2011 from OPW and that this funding may not be available subsequently due to review of all Government Capital funding.” Councillors last night agreed to reconsider the issue next month following public consultation on the new heights.

Separately Mr Leahy last night told councillors that the rainfall which resulted in extreme flooding in Dublin two weeks ago “considerably exceeded” Met Éireann forecasts.

Some 95mm of rain fell over a 24 hour period on October 24th. Met Éireann had issued severe weather alerts, updated during the day, which predicted rainfall of 40mm to 70mm over two days, he said.

Referring to reports that the fire brigade had to be called to operate a flood gate on the river Dodder near Lansdowne Road because the key could not be found to open it Mr Leahy said the lock had malfunctioned but that it was a tidal gate which operates automatically if there is tidal, rather than rain, flooding.

Irish Times

Monday 7 November 2011


A new book has been published which is of value to anyone with an interest in Dublin's planning.

Dublin’s Future: New Visions for Ireland’s Capital City is the first book to look at the future of Ireland’s most important city from a variety of perspectives. It recognises that the future of Ireland’s economic engine is about much more than the provision of infrastructure and colours on a development plan, but that a huge range of interests and activities have a role to play in making Dublin not only the best city in Ireland, but also the best city for Ireland.

The book identifies different ‘Dublins’, some concerned with economic success, some concerned with quality of life, all interlinked and interwoven in the complex fabric of a modern city.

Dublin’s Future suggests that the city now needs managers from diverse backgrounds, not necessarily commerce or engineering; that Dublin’s managers should have a proven urban ethos; and that we should even consider hiring a manager, not from the internal ranks of local authorities, but perhaps even from another country.

Contributors to Dublin’s Future are recognised authorities in their fields. They cross sectors of age, sectors of private and public, profit and non-profit, and each and every one has something interesting to say about the future of Dublin.

The book is published by The Liffey Press and costs €19.95.

Sunday 6 November 2011

Clontarf locals reject flood proposals

DUBLIN CITY Council’s proposals to reduce the height of the planned Clontarf flood defences are inadequate and unacceptable, local residents and business people have said.

The council two weeks ago undertook to examine the possibility of lowering proposed flood defences by half a metre, following opposition to its plans to construct an embankment of up to 2.75 metres tall over a 3km stretch of the Dublin Bay promenade.

Council officials had told residents at a meeting on October 21st that it did not know whether it would be possible to reduce the height of the An Bord Pleanála-approved flood defences and still provide protection to Clontarf from flooding.

The council yesterday returned with proposals which residents said would result in reductions of an average of one foot over the length of the scheme and no reductions at key locations such as the Clontarf baths.

“Their suggested amendments to the project in no way go far enough for us to accept it,” Deirdre Tobin, chairwoman of the residents’ association said. “We have been mandated by the people to fight this project in its current format and we will continue to do so.”

Chairman of the Clontarf Business Association Gus O’Hara said the council had ignored the will of the people “and in doing so displayed a lack of sensitivity to the area, the people and the local economy there”.

The council has had permission to build flood defences up to 2.75 metres high since 2008, but is only now seeking to construct the scheme, expected to cost €9.7 million. Work had been due to begin next year.

The scheme was designed to prevent further flood damage along the seafront and to carry a new arterial water main. The area was hit by an “extreme tidal event” in February 2002 and a less severe one in October 2004.

The council yesterday said it would not comment on the new proposals ahead of their presentation to councillors on Monday night.

Irish Times

'Fatal legal flaw' possible in children's hospital plan

THE DEPARTMENT of Health failed to comply with an EU requirement for a strategic environmental assessment of the proposed national children’s hospital in Dublin, An Bord Pleanála has been told.

In a submission to the board’s oral hearing on the hospital, the Heritage Council said the department’s failure to carry out the assessment could be a “fatal legal flaw” in the planning process.

The council, a statutory body, said much of the conflict over the hospital’s proposed height and bulk resulted from this failure by the department to assess the environmental implications before deciding in May 2006 to go ahead with the €650 million project.

An Bord Pleanála is holding oral hearings into the plan to build the 16-storey hospital on a two-hectare site on the grounds of the Mater hospital. It is due to be completed in 2016.

The National Children’s Hospital Development Board says an environmental report on Dublin City Council’s 2008 Mountjoy/ Phibsboro local area plan, which covered the Mater site, was adequate to fulfil an EU directive’s requirement for a strategic environmental assessment.

However Colm Murray, the Heritage Council’s architecture officer, said the directive, which was transposed into Irish law in 2004, related to “all decisions in respect of plans and programmes that may have an environmental effect”, such as the proposed hospital.

It also required an examination of alternatives. “Without real alternatives, there is no scope for choice or judgment and the environmental impact process is pointless and flawed”, he said in a submission to the oral hearing. This could be “a fatal legal flaw in the decision-making process”.

The fact that an environmental report was done on the Mountjoy/ Phibsboro local area plan, published in March 2008, was insufficient, as “the prior decision of government [to locate the hospital on the Mater site] prevented the generation of alternatives”.

An Bord Pleanála’s minutes of pre-planning consultations with the applicants record them as saying the decision to locate the hospital on the Mater site “was based on medical policy more so than planning policy and [they] acknowledged that it could be a contentious matter”.

Mr Murray said the Heritage Council “is of the view that the integrity and authenticity of Dublin as a candidate [Unesco] World Heritage Site ought to be a major material consideration in this planning decision”, because the 16-storey hospital would have negative impacts.

He noted that conservation architect Paul Arnold had conceded that “the adverse impact on St George’s Church [in nearby Hardwicke Place] will be high” and there would also be “identifiable adverse impacts” on North Great George’s Street and O’Connell Street.

An Taisce, in its submission to An Bord Pleanála’s oral hearing, drew attention to two alternatives that were not considered – a €102 million expansion plan for Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin and a publicly owned site between St James’s Hospital and Heuston Station. The latter site, it said, “offers more than double the footprint compared to the existing proposal” and was also “substantially co-located with a major adult teaching hospital, requiring only a 90m link to St James’s” as well as adequate space for expansion.

Lawyer James Nix, who appeared for An Taisce, also argued there was a failure to observe the EU’s strategic environmental assessment directive (SEA) and this “continues to the present day”, with the decision to opt for the Mater site “taken as a fait accompli” in the Mountjoy/Phibsboro local area plan.

“In effect, the failure to meet the SEA begins in 2006 and persists into the arms of An Bord Pleanála,” Mr Nix said. “Indeed, looking at what took place over these five years, the decision-making process is compromised by the very mischief that the SEA directive seeks to avoid.

“By failing to ascertain and study alternatives, we witness an unshakeable faith that the decision must be right in the first place. This cannot be the process, and is indeed the last thing the framers and those adopting the [SEA] directive . . . intended.”

Irish Times

Friday 4 November 2011

Lines and the law

Agricultural consultant and valuer Richard Collins says landowners with genuine cases for compensation for powerlines on their property should turn to arbitration. In response, Eirgrid emphasises the benefits of electrical infrastructure, and says independent arbitration is available for any dispute.

THE ESB/Eirgrid proposal to construct a large high-voltage electric powerline between Dunmanway and Clashavoon in Co Cork (about 50 km) is causing much concern to the landowners whose land will be traversed. There can be little doubt that the erection of such powerlines and pylons will reduce the value of farms along its route.

Pressure from landowners over many years about damage done by road schemes and gas pipelines eventually resulted in reasonably satisfactory levels of compensation for farm devaluation. Not so, however, in the case of powerlines and pylons.

The Entitlement to Compensation: The Electricity (Supply) Act of 1927 gave considerable powers to the ESB, but did not provide for proper compensation payments to landowners for powerlines and pylons on their land. This was legally challenged by Gormley in a landmark court case (ESB v Gormley, 1985). In the Supreme Court judgement, the judge described the right to acquire a wayleave or easement over land to facilitate the construction of powerlines, pylons and masts, as a "burdensome right over land". This opened the door, and resulted in a provision in the Electricity (Supply) (Amendment) Act 1985 for full compensation to landowners for damage done by electric powerlines, poles and pylons. There is now an undisputed entitlement to full compensation for damage to property as a result of these structures.

However, poorly focused efforts by landowners mean that the ESB still steadfastly hold that no such devaluation exists, and landowners remain unpaid for property devaluation.

Why is there a resistance to powerlines? Powerlines and pylons are a visual eyesore and, like any eyesore, cause a devaluation of the property on which they are erected. More importantly, however, there is now a very strong perception that they are a health risk, and this adds further to the property devaluation. Wayleaves and easements taken by the ESB/Eirgrid for the erection of powerlines are registered on the landowner’s property deeds. What most landowners do not realise is that the power given to the ESB/Eirgrid by the various ESB Acts also entitles them to enter any part of a landowner’s property to erect the powerline and afterwards carry out inspections and maintenance, and in emergencies, prior notice does not have to be given. This can have serious animal disturbance and disease implications. Helicopter flights over the powerlines for inspections are a regular occurrence, and can seriously disturb animals, particularly horses.

The combination of the eyesore, the perceived health risk, the burden on title and the access rights, constitutes a significant devaluation of property and appropriate compensation should be paid to landowners for this devaluation.

What are landowners paid? ESB/Eirgrid generally limit compensation payments to crop loss resulting from the construction works. In recent times, there may also be a so-called "facility payment" for co-operation with the pylon construction. However, there is an absolute and total resistance to an acceptance that these structures and rights devalue property, and accordingly, landowners are not paid compensation for same. By nature, landowners are generally co-operative, and will accept crop loss compensation and allow the works continue. It is only when a landowner may wish to sell his farm or erect a dwelling house or farm building that he realises his or her mistake.

The extent of devaluation: No two situations are the same. Clearly, the erection of a low voltage powerline across one corner of a very large holding, several hundred metres from the dwelling house and farm buildings, will not cause the same level of devaluation as a high voltage powerline with a number of pylons in close proximity to the dwelling house, through the centre of a small or medium-sized holding. This latter situation could be so serious as to ruin a potential farm sale, because intensive farmers and bloodstock owners would have no interest in acquiring such land, with the problems referred to above. In the former situation, the level of devaluation is likely to be insignificant, and generally would not justify a reference to arbitration for compensation.

What can landowners do? To disrupt or prevent the erection of powerlines is illegal. ESB/Eirgrid will absolutely refuse, except in extremely exceptional circumstances, to put powerlines underground — and there is no law to compel them to do so. Major protests aimed at having powerlines put underground have seldom been successful, and have generally been a wasted effort. The only realistic route for landowners is to pursue the matter by demanding appropriate compensation.

There is provision in the legislation for compensation for property devaluation, and if ESB/Eirgrid refuse to acknowledge genuine devaluation (as they invariably will), the landowner can have the matter determined by an independent property arbitrator whose decision is binding on both parties.

Landowners with genuine cases should not be afraid of the arbitration process. However, the case must be realistic, worthwhile, and must be properly prepared.

There is little point going before a property arbitrator without evidence and professional expertise to support the case. There is now real evidence that land with large powerlines has been selling at much lower prices than similar land without such structures.

It is not advisable to break the law, while there is a mechanism to get fair play within the law. The threat of having to pay legal costs should not deter landowners, because it is slight, in the right circumstances. As in all such matters, good and reliable legal and valuation advice should be sought at the outset.

Farmer discussion groups are now emerging as a useful forum for having the pros and cons of major issues debated. Large scale protests have been tried throughout the country, but do not appear to have achieved any worthwhile success, mainly because they have been aimed in either illegal or unachievable directions. In the final analysis, such actions are only a distraction from the really worthwhile opportunities that exist for getting fair compensation for property devaluation.

Experience: Having been involved in trying to get compensation for landowners for the past several years, my experience informs me that satisfactory results can be achieved if the approach is correct. The official ESB/Eirgrid position is that they will comply with the entitlement, as covered by the Gormley Supreme Court judgement, but as powerlines do not devalue a property, the compensation for same will always be zero, and if landowners think otherwise, they should go to arbitration. Unfortunately, this then frightens landowners, and the relevant compensation is foregone.

Despite the Gormley success in the Supreme Court, ESB/Eirgrid have succeeded in getting powerlines erected throughout the country, without having to concede that there is devaluation of property.

This has been achieved by powerful and professional management and PR work. Farmers should try the same approach.

Richard Collins is an agricultural consultant and valuer and can be contacted at FBA House, Fermoy, Co Cork

Irish Examiner