RE: Development: Permission for single storey dwelling house, single storey garage and outbuildings, associated site development and landscape works, including provision of sewage treatment unit and percolation area and paving of approximately 500 metre access way from 240 metres west of existing junction of County Road No. L 92 to the proposed new dwelling, site development and landscape works; all on lands at Kilmacarrill Townland, Cootehall, County Roscommon.


Planning Authority: Roscommon County Council

Planning Authority Reference Number: 01/1077

Date of Decision: 13 September, 2001

Developer: Martin McAleese

Location: Kilmacarrill, Cootehall, Co. Roscommon



The Secretary,

An Bord Pleanala,

Floor 3 Blocks 6 & 7,

Irish Life Centre,

Lower Abbey Street,

Dublin 1.

10 October, 2001 By Registered Post

Dear Sirs;


We wish to appeal against this grant of planning permission. The grounds of our appeal are as follows:


1. The site of the development is located in a remote, elevated and exposed rural landscape of very high visual amenity adjacent to the shoreline of Lough Eidin (Drumharlow). It is an objective of Roscommon County Council as set out in the current Roscommon County Development Plan 1993 to prohibit development proposals where they would be detrimental to the visual or environmental amenity from the River Shannon. The proposed development will be visually obtrusive and will materially contravene this objective.


2. Taken in conjunction with existing developments along the shoreline of Lough Eidin, the proposed development would give rise to excessive density of development in a rural area of very high scenic amenity value, lacking certain public services and community facilities, and would contravene the policy of the Planning Authority as expressed in the current Roscommon County Development Plan to direct residential development to serviced centres.


3. Having regard to the sloping nature of the site and lands towards the river/lake, the ground conditions on the site, the density of the adjacent ditches/drains, the presence on the site of a watercourse issuing into Lough Eidin (Drumharlow), it is considered that notwithstanding the proposed use of a proprietary treatment system the development would constitute an unacceptable risk of pollution to the lake and would be prejudicial to public health.


4. It is considered that the proposed development would endanger public safety by reason of traffic hazard, because of the additional traffic generated by the proposed development, on a narrow substandard network of local roads linking the site of the proposed development with either Carrick-on-Shannon and/or Cootehall/National Primary Route N4.


5. The proposed development is located adjacent to the shore of Lough Eidin (Drumharlow). It is an objective of the planning authority as expressed in the Roscommon County Development Plan 1993 and of the Minister for Arts, Heritage, the Gaelteachta and the Islands as expressed in the designation of a Natural Heritage Area under the Wildlife (Amendment( Act 2000 to protect this area of ornithological and ecological importance. Having regard to the location of the proposed development and the wording of the planning permission in relation to site development and landscaping it is considered that the proposed development would conflict with this objective..


6. The applicant's contention that the rebuilding of the ruins on the site is exempted development under S.4.(1)(g) of the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act, 1963 exceeds the intention of the legislation and is contrary to the recommendation of Duchas, the Heritage Service.


The detailed grounds of our appeal are presented in an Annex to this appeal and supporting maps, photographs, and photographic surveys are presented as Exhibits "A" to "K". We would be grateful if the documents submitted in colour are copied in colour for any circulation.


ANNEX


To the appeal to An Bord Pleanala against Roscommon County Council Planning Permission 01/1077

1. The site of the development is located in a remote, elevated and exposed rural landscape of very high visual amenity adjacent to the shoreline of Lough Eidin (Drumharlow). It is an objective of Roscommon County Council as set out in the current Roscommon County Development Plan 1993 to prohibit development proposals where they would be detrimental to the visual or environmental amenity from the River Shannon. The proposed development will be visually obtrusive and will materially contravene this objective.


1.1 Planning Policy

We attach herewith Map No. 1 copy Ordinance Survey map of Ireland Discovery Series, No. 33, scale 1/50,000 [Exhibit "A"]. This indicates the location of the proposed development in relation to the adjacent landscape in counties Roscommon and Leitrim. The site is shown approximately located on the eastern shoreline of Lough Eidin (Drumharlow) in the Townland of Kilmacarrill and marked A on said map.


Lough Eidin (Drumharlow) is one of the three lakes on the Boyle River System, which is a tributary of the River Shannon. The other two lakes are Oakport Lough and Lough Key, both shown on this map. The distance between Lough Eidin (Drumharlow) and Lough Key is three miles. Lough Eidin (Drumharlow) is the gateway to Lough Key and the Lough Key Forest Park for all water borne traffic travelling from the River Shannon and the Lough Erne systems.


This was recognised by your Board's Inspector in recommending refusal of the previous application at this location on 18 January, 2001 [PL 20. 121715]:


"Lough Eidin, forming part of the Shannon navigation system, is a significant natural asset to County Roscommon, albeit that it is not within a designated area of high amenity on the Plan. I would consider it to be a particularly important gateway to this river system when commencing a river journey in a north-westerly direction from the cruising centre of Carrick-on-Shannon."


This river/lake network is the major natural tourism resource of County Roscommon and is recognised as such by the following publications:


¬? Roscommon County Development Plan 1993

¬? Roscommon County Draft Development Plan 2000

¬? Brady Shipman Martin Lough Key Study Report, 1981

¬? Draft Lough Key Plan 3448 commissioned by Roscommon County Council to supercede the Lough Key Study Report 1981. This is intended to constitute an annex to the Roscommon Development Plan 2000 and is due to be ratified by the local authority during the course of this appeal.


We would specifically suggest that this development consent is a contravention of the Roscommon Development Plan 1993 sections on Development Strategy, specifically:


¬? Housing, Policy and Objectives, [Vol. 1 p. 14]

¬? Transport, Policy and Objectives [Vol. 1 p. 16]

¬? Recreation, Tourism, and Community Facilities - Policy and Objectives [Vol. 1 p. 25]

¬? Water and Sanitary Services, Policy and Objectives [Vol. 1, p. 13]

¬? The Environment, Aims, Policy and Objectives, [Vol. 1, p. 22]

¬? Planning Control, specifically the Policy for Planning Control in Rural Areas [Vol. 1, pp. 32-37]

¬? Standards, specifically the section on Septic Tank Installations [Vol. 1, p. 40]


It is an Objective of the Development Plan:


"To ensure that development proposals in the area of the Shannon are generally located within existing centers, and to prohibit development proposals where they would be detrimental to visual or environmental amenity."


Your Inspector noted in this regard in recommending refusal for the previous development at this location [PL 20/121715]:


"The policies of the Plan include the conservation and preservation of important assets of the natural environment in the County and the requirement that all developments in rural areas are in harmony with the surrounding environment in respect of use and appearance. Furthermore, it is a specific objective to prohibit development proposals in the area of the Shannon where they would be detrimental to visual or environmental amenity. It is a requirement that damaging, unsympathetic or visually obtrusive developments be particularly avoided in the Shannon area."


The Inspector concluded:


Given the development's scale and inappropriate siting on elevated land in close proximity to the shoreline of Lough Eidin, it is my opinion that it would be visually damaging in this remote and scenic location. I consider that the imposition of the proposed structures at this location could not reasonably be regarded as being compatible with the policy of conserving the natural environment and, in my opinion, it unequivocally contravenes the planning objectives to prohibit development proposals in the area of the Shannon where they would be detrimental to visual or environmental amenity."



1.2 Planning History

While the local authority has suggested limited permissions have been granted on the shore of Lough Eidin, including the previous application at this location, the Board's decisions on appeals brought before it have been consistent in its refusals, according to the above Inspector's Report:


"PL 20. 107577: Reasons for refusal included reference to the proposal in the context of the development plan objectives for the Shannon area and the impact on Drumharlow as an area of scientific interest.


20/5/69930: Outline permission refused for a house in this townland to the north of the current appeal site.


20/5/68712: Refusal at Drumsillagh at the north-eastern end of the lake.


20/5/68119: Outline permission refused for Drumsillagj


20/5/64984: Outline permission for two refused at Drumsillagh


20/5/37358: Outline permission refused for two bungalows at Powellshill."


The Inspector concluded by recommending refusal on the grounds of planning history:


"I consider that the granting of permission for the proposed development would be inconsistent with the decisions of the Board relating to developments in the vicinity of Lough Eidin and would create an undesirable precedent for further residential development."



1.3 The revised location

While the proposal is reduced in height and the quality of the design is dramatically improved, the visual impact of the development has been reinforced by the increased height of the revised site location.


The development is no longer located on what the applicant called the "optimum location" on the site as previously stated to the Board. ["Response by the Applicant to the Third Party Appeals", 14 November 2000, PL 20/121715].


Since that application, the site of the dwelling has been relocated to the summit of a dumlin on highest part of the farmland. It is noted as "crown of hill" on the drawings supplied in connection with the proposed sewage treatments and percolation area [Design Proposal for a Wastewater Treatment System, Biocycle Ltd. p. 15; and Environmental Assessment Report, Pollution and Waste Services Ltd. p. 21]. In this regard we attach photograph No. 1 showing the lands and site viewed from the lake, from a position located im- Mediately North of Inishatirra Island. [Exhibit "B"]


We would suggest that this development is now in fact located on the highest contour line above the lake. It is, therefore, hard to determine any grounds whatsoever for the applicant's agent now to suggest that with this current and elevated location "extensive use is made of backdrop of land" [Applicant's agent's letter of 11 July, 2001, p. 5] as there can be no backdrop of land at this new and elevated location.


We therefore conclude that the new proposal is substantially higher than the proposal refused by your Order of January 6, 2001, notwithstanding the revised design, and suggest the windows will be approximately 18 metres above the lakeshore level and that the development will form a inescapable and intrusive feature on the landscape by day and provide a beacon-like illumination at night over a wide area of the River Shannon and Lough Eidin (Drumharlow).



2. Taken in conjunction with existing developments along the shoreline of Lough Eidin, the proposed development would give rise to excessive density of development in a rural area of very high scenic amenity value, lacking certain public services and community facilities, and would contravene the policy of the Planning Authority as expressed in the current Roscommon County Development Plan to direct residential development to serviced centres.



2.1 Applicant's interest in the land/property

The applicant gives his interest in the land as follows:

"State interest in land/property, i.e. Owner/Leaseholder/perspective buyer."

The reply is given as "owner". This was also the information supplied on the previous application at this location by the applicant refused by Order of your Board on 6 February, 2001.


The applicant gives the folio of the relevant property they own as Folio 36169 in the "Grant of Easements/Wayleaves" dated 4 October 2000 and furnished to your Board in the previous planning application at this site [Exhibit "C"1]. A title search on 11 September, 2001, shows the title for the relevant Folio 36169 remains in the ownership of Mr. Morahan [Exhibit "C"2].


While this may be due to the delays in Land Registry, it would be surprising if a property valued in excess of £200,000 was not purchased subject to the availability of planning permission. This would suggest that the correct reply on the application form was not "owner" but "perspective buyer".


Further, if the subject lands are or were part of the holdings of a Mr. Morahan, what relationship do these lands have to the appeal Friends of the Irish Environment lodged against a grant of permission for a Mr. Morahan for a single storey dwelling in this area [PL 20.123585]? This application was deemed withdrawn by your Board on 11 April, 2001. We understand that there is a current application before Roscommon County Council in the same name in this Townland.


With respect, we would suggest that further information about the interest of the applicant in the lands and the sub-division of an agricultural holding, if any, might assist in the fair determination of this application.


2.2 Status of the applicant

The applicant suggests [Applicant's agents letter of 11 July, 2001, p. 5] that the proposed Development is consistent with the policy of the Development Plan in that it is "for a farmer or for a family member involved with the running of the farm".


The applicant is Dr. Martin McAleese, Aras An Uachtarain, Phoenix Park, Dublin 8. The applicant is a dentist by profession. The applicant is married to President Mary McAleese. Dr. Martin and President Mary McAleese have previously sought planning permission to develop a house on a small site of 1.7 hectares on these lands. (Roscommon PD 00/898) This application was refused permission by An Bord Pleanala dated February 6, 2001 [PL 20. 121715]. The applicant has now added acreage of farmland to the original site referring in his application to the interest in farming of the applicant.


Much is made by the applicant of family connections with the townlands of Ardglass and Carroward, both of which are highlighted on the attached Map No. 1 [Exhibit "A"]. Her grandfather and father resided in both townlands and she returns to her father's dwelling at Carroward to the present day.


In this regard, we draw the Board's attention to the sale by public auction of the agricultural lands surrounding her dwelling at Carroward. These were comprised of a 25 acre non-residential good quality farmland belonging to the late John McGreevy. Neither the applicant nor the President made any attempt to purchase this land which was sold at agricultural value.


President Mary McAleese and her im- Mediate family have no past connection or ties with the townland of Kilmacarrill or any of these neighbouring townlands on the north eastern side of the Boyle River / Lough Eidin (Drumharlow). The railway together with the National Primary Road N4 and the river/lake system provided significant historical barriers to travel between townlands such as Carroward and Kilmacarrill.


We note the claims in the planning applications of a connection with Cootehall Village. This is understandable given that Ardglass Townland is in the parish of Cootehall, in spite of the geographical barriers. Cootehall Village is, in fact, identified as a development node in the Draft Lough Key Plan 3448 and is ideally suited to accommodate development such as that proposed by the applicant.


We would respectfully make the following points in relation to the "family member involved with the running of the farm" and the viability of this holding in terms of agricultural land use:


The applicant did not claim to be a farmer or hold farmland with the original application. The applicant is not a farmer by profession not does he hold a herd number. There are no farm buildings on this alleged 27 acre farm at present. Will this development consent give rise to the future establishment of agricultural buildings, etc, on the applicant's land?


This land is of poor quality by any agricultural standards and is mainly covered by heavy rush growth. It is well known that, notwithstanding the County's average agricultural holding of 27 acres, farmland of this quality and small acreage is not a viable proposition in this area.


The permission for site development and landscaping "throughout the lands at Kilmacarrill" does not accord with the use of the land for farming purposes.


We would respectfully suggest that these lands are in the process of being sold or have been sold to the applicant for development purposes solely because they are located in a place of high visual amenity adjacent and accessible to the shoreline of Lough Eidin (Drumharlow) and its navigable waters.


The effect of subdivision of existent farms into smaller holdings for development purposes has very serious implications for the visual and environmental amenity value of Lough Eidin (Drumharlow). We attach herewith a sample of the advertisements for such properties, which are currently for sale on Lough Eidin in the townlands of Drumsillagh and Cleaheen [Exhibit "E"]. We have referenced these as U, V, and W and indicate their locations on the Map No. 3 [Exhibit "D"]. This area of County Roscommon qualifies for tax relief, further encouraging development.


Poor quality agricultural lands such as these are presently selling in North Roscommon from between £1,800 and £2,500 per acre. The price the applicant has negotiated for these lands is indicated by the guidelines for other properties in the area [Exhibit "E"].


Other lakeshore lands in the vicinity are also for sale referenced X and Y on Map 3 [Exhibit "D"]. The guide prices for the above mentioned properties are far in access of agricultural value and clearly indicate a trend to capitalise on the scenic amenity value of the lake and indicate the level of development pressure in this area. A grant of Planning Permission to the applicant for this proposed development will set a precedent for development around this lake which will adversely effect the sustainable ability of the land to support the agricultural community.



2.3 Hedgerow considerations

The proposed development is heavily reliant on the existing hedgerow systems surrounding the site to screen the elevated development from Lough Eidin (Drumharlow).


We attach herewith Map No. 2, copy Ordnance Survey sheet, scale 1/2500 [Exhibit "F"]. The hedgerow along the im- Mediate North Western site boundary (Ref. A - B on the said Map) is particularly weakly structured and low in height and is incapable of screening the proposed development from Lough Eidin (Drumharlow). This is especially true from the part of the lake north of a line drawn between the northern shore of Inishatirra Island and the southern point of Davis Island. In this regard we attach herewith Photograph No. 2 [Exhibit "B"] indicating lake views taken from the site through the said north-western boundary (summer time view).


Part of the im- Mediate site boundary to the south west of the proposed development has been removed. (Map No. 2; B - C). The proposed development will be visible through this boundary from Lough Eidin (Drumharlow) especially from that part of the lake to the south and east of Inishatirra Island.


We have noted that the hedgerow along the im- Mediate south eastern site boundary (Map No. 2; C - D) has been broken down with a mechanical digger by the applicant since the grant of development consent by the local authority on 13 September, 2001. The few mature trees in this boundary have been destroyed. Similar decimation has occurred to part of the boundary hedgerow marked C - E on said map. (See Photographs No. 3 and 4, Exhibit "B")


The applicant's agent assured the planning authority in the previous application that that development would be "well screened by the existing hedges and trees" [Applicant's agent's Response by the Applicant to Two Third Party Appeals, 14 November, 2000]. Yet this hedgerow too has also been adversely impacted. It is clear that the applicant has very little regard for the existing hedgerows on the site or their significance in the local environment.


The sensitive nature of these lakeshore sites was noted by the Board's Inspector in recommending refusing of the previous application at this location on January 18, 2001:


"The lake is significantly unspoiled and this is significant to water based travel. Remote shore line locations, such as that which is proposed, are particularly sensitive and new development can radically alter the unspoiled character of such an area where inappropriate siting and design occur and where there is disturbance to the shoreline itself."


We attach herewith [Exhibit "G"] photographs No. 5 to 16 inclusive of various developments which have been authorised by Roscommon County Council in recent years along the lakeshore of Lough Eidin (Drumharlow) and not appealed to your Board which demonstrate radical alteration to the unspoiled character of this area.


We have marked these photographs' numbers onto Map No. 3 [Exhibit "D"]. In each instance Roscommon County Council relied heavily on the retention and augmentation of the existing indigenous hedgerows to screen the individual developments from the lake in their grant of planning. This control policy has been a total failure in that in all instances hedgerow has been removed to avail of lake views.


We note also that most of these developments have led to further development in the form of jetties/moorings along the lakeshore for which we can find no corresponding development consent. In this regard, we would respectfully request your Board to inspect the planning register for the area around Lough Eidin (Drumharlow) to assess the development pressure that forms the background to this application.



3. Having regard to the sloping nature of the site and lands towards the river/lake, the ground conditions on the site, the density of the adjacent ditches/drains, the presence on the site of a watercourse issuing into Lough Eidin (Drumharlow), it is considered that notwithstanding the proposed use of a proprietary treatment system the development would constitute an unacceptable risk of pollution to the lake and would be prejudicial to public health.


This area of northern Roscommon is characterised by poor land drainage. The proposed site is located on approximately 27 acres of poor quality farmland along the eastern shore of Lough Eidin (Drumharlow). These farmlands are heavily covered with rush growth and are sub-divided into small FIElds by ditches/drains with poorly structured indigenous whitethorn hedgerows. Concerns about pollution reaching the lake/river were one of the grounds of the Board's decision in refusing the applicant on this holding previously.


In both of Friends of the Irish Environment's previous recent appeals in this im- Mediate area of north Roscommon [ABP PL 20.125559 and ABP PL 20.126481] the matter of drainage has been an essential element. We drew the Board's attention to seven recent intrusive developments given consent by Roscommon County Council where visual inspection clearly indicates that the soil is totally unsuitable for septic tank percolation areas: 99/681, 99/682, 00/909, 00/910, 01/20, 99/681, and 99/682. This is not a simple oversight but an administrative pattern which permits development consent without suitable assessment.


Of particular note is a bungalow with septic tank percolation area under construction which is located in a turlough in the townland of Knockacorha [01/391]. This dramatic example of a breakdown in planning control was granted after several previous refusals on the grounds of inadequate site lines at other locations on the family's holdings. It is clear, however, that the planning authority failed to carry out even a simple visual assessment of the site which would have identified said turlough.


In the present case the applicant failed to provide percolation tests to the standards of SR6 1991 and the EPA 2000 and these were accepted by the local authority.


Our Inspector's visit to the site took place on 9 June, 2001, the day after the promoters of a proprietory treatment system had opened an excavation pit and dug trial holes. All were still extant on the site and several percolation test holes still contained water, although there had been no significant rainfall since the test.


The soil profile is circa 300 mm of top soil on clay silt of 6 to 8 feet. There is no appreciable drainage under the top soil. This soil is classified as Association 27 and defined by the consultant Eugene Daly in his report [Assessment of the Results of Percolation Tests and the Potential Impact (Water) of a Proposed Development at Kilmacarrill, County Roscommon]:


"These are heavy textured generally poorly drained, drumlin soils".


The Board's Inspector on the previous application at this site noted:


"The ground conditions were heavy underfoot at the time of inspection and there was extensive growth of rushes throughout. The extent of rushes, together with the evidence of surface water runoff, would indicate that the site has poor natural drainage." [Inspector's Report 2.2, 20.121715]


The present site of the percolation area has similar characteristics. The developer's agent's argument that there were "favourable ground conditions found on the site" [Applicant's agent's letter to the planning authority of 11 July, 2001, p. 3] is not supported by the Board's own Inspector's examination in the previous application in January 2001 or by the report made to us of a site inspection undertaken on 29th September, 2001. This inspection noted the following:


1) "The applicant's lands are covered in heavy rush growth. Adjoining farm lands are also covered in rush growth. There is extensive rush growth on the site of the percolation area.

2) There is a high density of ditches/drains on the applicant's lands.

3) There is clear visual evidence of animal poaching of the land during the summer months.


Heavy rainfall fell on this area during the afternoon of the 29th September. The water ponded all over the lands in cow pats and poached areas, etc. Water also ponded in three of the percolation test holes still open at the site of the proposed percolation area. This water did not soak away from the test holes over a three hour period, clearly indicating that soakage is non-existent below the top soil layer."


Disturbed at the state of the percolation tests holes and excavation pit on our Inspector's site visit of June 9, 2001, Friends of the Irish Environment requested a further percolation test by an independent body. This was not performed. Instead, a Mr Eugene Daly assessed the existing test. His report [Assessment of the Results of Percolation Tests and the Potential Impact (Water) of a Proposed Development at Kilmacarrill, County Roscommon] made it quite clear that the tests which had been performed did not conform to the test procedure of SR6 of 1991 and the EPA 2000.


He states the test is "almost identical" to SR6. He explains the manner in which the test is not identical and does not conform to the official procedures by stating that it is "more appropriate for the site to take the starting point at 150 mm below ground level where the topsoil level is quite thick."


This is at variance with the standards set which require requires a "300 mm square percolation test hole to be excavated to a depth of 400 mm below the invert of the proposed distribution pipe". The time is taken for the water to fall from a "height of 300 mm to 200 mm above the base of the test hole". [Wastewater Treatment Manuals, Treatment Systems for Single Houses, EPA, p. 25, emphasis added.]


We have been unable to find any justification for not following the procedures set down in SR 6 of 1991 and by the EPA's Wastewater Treatment Manuals, Treatment Systems for Single Houses. We would respectfully request the Board to seek further information as to why it was "more appropriate" to take the starting point in the top soil at 150 mm below the surface rather than from 300 mm above the base of the test hole as required by the published Guidelines. We would again request tests to be done by a suitably qualified independent party to adhere to the standards of SR 6 of 1991 and EPA 2000.


If the applicant's agent had completed the simple percolation test in accordance with SR6 of 1991 and EPA 2000 this information would have been available to the planning authority.


Finally, the Environmental Assessment Report states "There are no watercourses located in the vicinity of the proposed area designated for the BioCycle Wastewater treatment and disposal system". The developer's agent also states that "there are no watercourses in the vicinity of the selected site" [Applicant's agent's letter of 11 July, 2001, p. 3].


It is not until we examine the report prepared at the request of the Friends of the Irish Environment by Eugene Daly [Assessment of the Results of Percolation Tests and the Potential Impact (Water) of a Proposed Development at Kilmacarrill, County Roscommon] that we are made aware on the first page that "A small, south-westerly flowing, stream flows into the lake through the southern part of the site".


We attach a copy of the relevant part of the applicant's site map which shows this watercourse marked clearly with feathered arrows which we have coloured yellow [Exhibit H]. This watercourse is also the Townland boundary. We have also coloured yellow the drain running from the FIEld beneath the proposed site of the percolation area to this watercourse. In fact the ditches which form the boundaries of the FIEld marked 1.477 which is the site of the percolation area and the neighbouring FIEld 1.119 join a network of drains which are collected in this watercourse which in turn exits directly into Lough Eidin (Drumharlow).


Thus it is difficult to understand the applicant's agent's contention that the "sewage treatment plant and associated percolation area which is in a part of the site does not slope towards the lake or to any existing water course" [Applicant's letter of 11 July, 2001, p. 3] given the stream that his own expert records.


This watercourse is clearly marked on the "Location Plan III" which is reproduced on page 13 of the Design Proposal for a Wastewater Treatment System, Biocycle Ltd. and on page 19 of the Environmental Assessment Report, Pollution and Waste Services Ltd. Taken in combination with the drains and ditches which define the small FIElds in the area and notwithstanding the proposed use of a proprietary treatment system, the development must constitute an unacceptable risk of pollution to the lake and risk to public health.



4. It is considered that the proposed development would endanger public safety by reason of traffic hazard, because of the additional traffic generated by the proposed development, on a narrow substandard network of local roads linking the site of the proposed development with either Carrick-on-Shannon and/or Cootehall/National Primary Route N4.


The local public road serving this area is seriously defective in both horizontal and vertical alignment and width. This road measures 2.80 metres in width in the townland of Drumsillagh.


There is an inadequate and defective sightline at the existing junction of the entrance roadway with the Local Public road system L92. There is an inadequate and defective road gradient on the entrance roadway at this junction.


These site lines are clearly inadequate in both directions. While this is understandable and acceptable to serve a single landowner as at present, the development of a road off the existing access road within the townland to serve three landowners [see Road Improvement Application Form, Exhibit "I"] is an unacceptable intensification. While it is not clear from the evidence supplied to the local authority that we are aware of, this road appears to be intended to serve not only subject application but the application deemed withdrawn by your board in April 2001 [PL 20. 123585] and the application currently before the local authority.


We would draw the Board's attention to a development of nine holiday homes in Cleaheen Townland [Map No. 3, near "W"], where the site entrance has become notorious as a lethal "blind" junction, an especially serious matter where visitors to the area may not be accustomed to the local traffic patterns. This development also intrudes on the River Shannon and it is difficult to understand the planning authority's rationale in permitting any development at this location.


The entrance to private lands from County Road L92 and the general nature of the roads in this area can not sustain the level of traffic that this development will generate of itself and through its precedent value.



5. The proposed development is located adjacent to the shore of Lough Eidin (Drumharlow). It is an objective of the planning authority as expressed in the Roscommon County Development Plan 1993 and of the Minister for Arts, Heritage, the Gaelteachta and the Islands as expressed in the designation of a Natural Heritage Area under the Wildlife (Amendment( Act 2000 to protect this area of ornithological and ecological importance. Having regard to the location of the proposed development and the wording of the planning permission in relation to site development and landscaping it is considered that the proposed development would conflict with this objective.


The site and lands of this proposed development are completely exposed along the shoreline of Lough Eidin (Drumharlow) from a security aspect given the status of the applicant. While planning permission is rightly concerned with the use of land and not an individual applicant, security measures to protect a head of state at this location will have to address the site's exposure along the lakeshore and it is difficult to see how the necessary measures can fail to have a significant adverse affect on this area of ornithological and ecological importance.


We respectfully draw the Board's attention to the fact that there are two separate site development and landscaping clauses contained in this permission.


The first is the site development and landscaping works "associated" with the "dwelling house, garage, and outbuildings." The second is "Site Development and Landscape works; at all Kilmacarrill Townland, Cootehall, Co. Roscommon".


The punctuation is unusual but the meaning is clear. The final words of the development consent authorise site development and landscaping works throughout the 27 acres of the site. There are no conditions attached to this site development and landscaping clause beyond condition 10 which is a standard clause requiring a screen belt along the site boundaries.


Given the extent of this clause, we are at a loss to understand the applicant's agent's claim in his submission to the local authority that:


"there is no associated lakeshore development included in this revised planning application so that development proposal could not in any real sense have any material impact upon the ecology or natural environment of the area." [Applicant's agent's letter to the planning authority of 11 July, 2001, p. 4]


Is it credible to suggest that a grant of permission for site development work and landscaping covering 27 acres in some way protects the delicate ecology of the lakeshore and the applicant's natural desire to access this amenity?


What site work is proposed? Given the extent of the transformation that the standard suburban one-off bungalow can and does create within its curtiledge, to extend this permission to cover the full extent of the 27 acres adjoining an area in which "are used by a flock of Greenland white-fronted geese" does not seem credible. [Site Synopsis, Lough Drumharlow, Natural Heritage Area Site Code 001643, Exhibit "J"]


In this context, we note the Inspector's comments recommending refusal for the previous application on this site:


"The proposed lawn and the planting of evergreen shrub varieties of escalonia and laurel would conflict with the form and character of the FIEld and hedgerow pattern and would be incongruous in this setting." (Visual Impact, Inspector's Report PL 20.121715]


27 acres of such site development and landscaping would dwarf a simple lawn and a few evergreen shrubs, which, if any cover is to be provided, must be planted at such an exposed location.


In one of our recent appeals against a decision of this local authority on a particularly incongruous and intrusive bungalow [PL 20. 125559] we noted:


"Poorly sited dwellings in the countryside erode rural amenities through disruption of the surface character and traditional local FIEld patterns, the absence of effective landscaping, intrusive surfaced car parking, often extensive artificial gardens extending to ornamentation and even fountains as well as the inevitable incremental additions such as sheds, telecommunications infrastructure, etc. which can greatly increase the impact of a simple dwelling."


All of this regularly takes place as exempt under the planning regulations. What then does this condition imply in the right of the applicant to transform this unspoiled rural 27 acre area on the shore of Drumharlow? If nothing else, it erodes entirely the planning authorities contention that an "adequate landholding" somehow mitigates an intrusive development.


6. The applicant's contention that the rebuilding of the ruins on the site is exempted development under S.4.(1)(g) of the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act, 1963 exceeds the intention of the legislation and is contrary to the recommendation of Duchas, the Heritage Service.


S.4.(1)(g) of the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act, 1963 states:


"Development consisting of the carrying out of works for the maintenance, improvement, or other alteration of any structure being works which effect only the interior of the structure or which do not materially affect the external appearance of the structure so as to render such appearance inconsistent with the character of the structure or of neighbouring structures."


The applicant's agent suggests that the proposed refurbishment of the existing ruins on the site as "outbuildings" is exempted development by reference to this section of the 1963 Act.


This raises three questions:

¬? Is the proposal to reconstruct these roofless derelict ruins as outbuildings covered by this exemption?

¬? What effect will the proposal to reconstruct these buildings have on the existing conditions of the permission and the im- Mediate environment?

¬? How does the proposal to reconstruct these dwellings accord with the recommendations of Duchas made in connection with the previous application at this location?


6.1 Extent of S 4.(1)(g)

This section of the Act is described in Sullivan and Shepard as a "liberal but dangerous source of exemption" [Irish Planning Law and Practice, O'Sullivan and Sheppard, Butterworths, 10.304] The authors continue to explain that "its intention is presumably to allow ordinary small scale works of maintenance, improvement, or alteration". The authors suggest that a planning authority take "great care before certifying the exempted status of any development to being in accordance with this section".


Clearly the proposal does not fall within the definition of "maintenance" of these roofless ruins. Equally the roofing, flooring, new windows, doors, etc. exceed the ambit of the term "improvement", which relates to steel shutters, ramps, replacement glazed mahogany doors, etc. The roofing, flooring, new windows, doors, etc of an existing ruin also go far beyond "alterations". If the roofing, flooring, new windows, doors, etc of a derelict ruin is permitted as exempted development, planning control would be open to widespread and systematic abuse at the site of every ruin in the countryside.


6.2 The effect of the proposed exemption

The proposed works will materially effect the existing external appearance of the structure and render such appearances inconsistent with the existing character of the structures and their surroundings.


The change in visual appearance from a derelict ruin to a functioning outbuilding on the skyline at the summit of a hill will inevitably increase the visual impact of a development which is already inescapable and intrusive when viewed from Lough Eidin/Drumharlow and the River Shannon.


The renovations of such derelict structures will disturb and unsettle the indigenous hedgerows and therefore the landscape at this location which it is a condition of the planning permission to maintain in the interest of visual amenity (Condition 9).


6.3 Recommendations of Duchas, the Heritage Service

In a submission made to your Board by Duchas, the Heritage Service of the Minister for the Arts, Heritage, Gaeltachta and the Islands on 10 January, 2001, [Exhibit "K"] the applicant's stated intention to demolish these ruins was addressed and the Government's policy outlined:


"Where it is proposed to develop sites containing existing vernacular buildings we normally request that these be retained, even if they are in disrepair."


In this case, the Duchas submission noted that one of these ruins appears on the First Edition of the Ordinance Survey Map c.1838.


In support of their recommendation, the submission quotes the ratification by the General Assembly of the International Council on Monuments and Sites of the 'ICOMOS Charter on the Built Vernacular heritage' in October 1999. The Charter describes the built vernacular heritage as important as '…the fundamental expression of the culture of a community, of its relationship with its territory and, at the same time, the expression of the world's cultural diversity…'


To permit the applicant to reconstruct these buildings as exempt development exceeds the intention of the legislation and is also contrary to the policy of the Minister as expressed through Duchas, the Heritage Service, to your Board on 10 January, 2001.




7. Conclusion

While accepting that the applicant has attempted a "fundamental reevaluation of the environmental capabilities of this particular property" to meet the reasons for refusal of the Board in your Order of 6 February, 2001, we suggest that each reason for refusal remains one that for reasons of Development Plan Policy, public health, environmental protection, and planning precedent the Board must clearly refuse.


Our survey of lakeside developments in relation to hedgerows conditions [Exhibit "G"] also highlights the unauthorised jetties which are proliferating in this area and demonstrates the pressure of development in the area of Lough Eidin/Drumharlow. This application has attracted public interest in the present and will do so in the future. Precedent will be established. We urge your Board to apply fair and reasonable standards and to do justice, and let justice be seen to be done.


We leave the final words to Brendan McGrath, Clare Senior Executive Planner, speaking at the National Planning Conference 2001 held by the Irish Planning Institute. He said:


"Recent research carried out by the National Spatial Strategy Unit shows that over the past five years over one in three new houses have been built as single houses in the countryside and that 18,000 of the 50,000 homes built last year were one-offs.


What is going on? It is an extraordinary situation given the Government Policy in the last five years. There is a clear statement against urban generated housing in the document "Sustainable Development: A Strategy for Ireland" published by the Department of Local Government in 1997. In 1999 Density Guidelines were introduced to promote higher residential development densities. The same year the serviced land initiative was launched. This initiative provides a subsidy for the servicing of the urban and suburban land for residential development.


Is it possible to reconcile a Government committed to compact sustainable development with the ongoing growth of dispersed rural housing?


I believe not."


ANNEX ENDS
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