Galetech lose housing appeal
An Bord Pleanala has delivered a scathing rebuke while overturning a decision to grant planning to a housing development in Cavan Town, describing plans as “unimaginative and substandard”, and not even meriting a request for further information.
Galetech Sustainable Living was granted planning permission by Cavan County Council to build 26 new homes near Cavan Town centre, amid controversy over how planning was lodged, in August 2021, ahead of a proposed rezoning of the land.
Under the new County Development Plan 2022-2028, the site at Aughnaskerry, next to Gaelscoil Bhreifne and overlooking Killymooney Lough, was changed from 'Residential' use to 'Amenity and Open Space'.
But, as the plans were lodged ahead of the new CDP taking effect, previous zoning still applied.
Gaeltech sought to demolish an existing two-storey derelict dwelling house and garage and erect 26 three-bed, semi-detached units on the 1.33 hectare site. The development included 12 dormer style semi-detached dwellings with basement and 14 more two-storey semi-detached units, but this was later reduced to 24 units.
Submissions were made to Cavan County Council at the time highlighting concerns over the visual impact of the proposed development, with a petition of over 200 signatures from local residents lodged.
The council approved planning in May 2022 with 33 conditions attached, relating to surface and ground water pollution; consultation with Inland Fisheries; an Invasive Species Management Plan; and agreements with Irish Water.
Objections were made by Friends of Killymooney Lough group, Friends of the Irish Environment, Eithne and Seán Gurhy, and Gareth Talbot, and they carried forward their appeals to An Bord Pleanala.
The site was visited by Bord inspector Stephanie Farrington in April of this year.
A suite of documentation including architectural and engineering drawings; a design statement; preliminary construction and demolition plans; and visual and natura impact statements, were submitted on behalf of Gaeltech in support of the application.
The Council also submitted documentation it received by way of Further Information during the planning process. That included revised architectural and engineering drawings; ecological appraisal; safety audits; street lighting report; and boundary treatment specifications.
In its representation to Cavan County Council, An Taisce said that the cumulative impact assessment in the NIS was “insufficent” and recommended a badger and squirrel survey, noting that Killymooney Lough is an “important biodiversity area”; while Inland Fisheries raised concerns in relation to on-going maintenance of privately run wastewater treatment plants and pumping stations, and contended that Ardkeen Pumping Station has “insufficient” capacity to cater for further large scale development in the area.
A total of five third party observations were submitted during the initial public consultation period and a further three submitted in respect of the applicant’s response to further information.
The 67 page inspector's report concluded that any pollution-generated, surface water run-off during site preparation and construction would “directly affect the habitat” of protected species if mitigation measures were not taken.
“I consider that otter may be disturbed during the construction phase, due to noise and activity in proximity to the existing drainage [ditches] on site and Lough Killymooney,” said the inspector, although considering the NIS mitigation measures set out to be “robust”.
Her reasons for recommending that the Bord refuse planning were based on the fact that the majority of the appeal site is now zoned for 'Amenity and Open Space' purposes within the Cavan County Development Plan, incorporating a Local Area Plan for Cavan Town 2022-2028.
“The development would contravene materially the zoning objectives pertaining to the majority of the site as set out,” said Ms Farrington, who signed off on her report in June 2023.
“The development is therefore considered contrary to the provisions of the Cavan County Development Plan 2022-2028 and the proper planning and sustainable development of the area.”
The Bord upheld the recommendation of its inspector. It further noted that it considered the proposed development in the context of best practice guidance from the Department to be a “poor design concept” and that the layout was “unimaginative and substandard in its form” by failing to have regard to the site's locational context.
“While ordinarily this would warrant further consideration and a request for further information, in this instance given the substantive reason for refusal above, it was decided not to pursue this mater under the current appeal.”