Planning Cases

The Secretary,
The Planning Authority,
Cork County Council,
24 May 2007

Re: Planning Reference No: 071075
Date: 23/04/2007
Description: 51 dwellings comprising of: 16no. two storey semi-detached houses, 27no. terrace houses in 9no. two storey terraces of 3 houses, 8no. terrace houses in 2no. two storey terraces of 4 houses, 2no. semi-detached garages, small treatment system to include 1no. septic tank (effluent from same will discharge to public sewer) and all associated site and drainage works including access road off public road


Dear Sirs;

We wish to object to the above development on grounds of scenic importance, effluent disposal, water supply, and traffic.
Scenic Importance
Union Hall has undergone substantial development in recent years that with this and similar developments place it at risk from over development

The County Development Plan identifies this area as of scenic importance. Further, the planning history of this area has established its importance in scenic and amenity terms. Two Reports by An Bord Pleanala make this crystal clear:

'The planning authority recognize the quality and importance of this area for it's scenic virtues and picturesque landscape character. Justifiably, the Development Plans for this area have consistently designated the site and it's immediate hinterland, as scenic/sensitive landscapes, and the roads in the area are designated scenic routes.' [ABP130804]

'This harbour has a beautiful coastal panorama and an idyllic setting. It is one of the many inlets and bays along the West Cork coastline famous for it's outstanding beauty and thriving tourist trade. The landscape is gently sloping towards the water and the settlements take full advantage of the picturesque scenery.' [ABP 203230]

In the words of the many advertisements for the many properties which have been recently built:
'Union Hall is an unspoilt and a largely undiscovered location, a haven of peace and tranquillity above a picturesque harbour'.

Discover Ireland states that 'Fewer places offer an air of greater tranquility than this stretch of coastline and wooded parklands.' Many sales pitches highlight 'a place to get away from the hustle and bustle of City life'.

One visitor records:
"I heard a barn owl. Then a heron. A cow lowed, far in the distance. Suddenly a fish jumped. Kennedy said softly, "Remember this, how you feel and what you hear. When you're back home and stressed, close your eyes and come back here."

The area has been called the 'Garden of Carbery'. Poets and writers have found peace and tranquillity here, among them Sean O'Coileain, 'The Silver Tongue of Munster'. The description by the Rev. Murray in the last century remains true today:

"Cloudless sky and sparkling sea,
Cliff and shore and forest tree,
Glen and stream and mountain blue,
Burst at once upon the view.
The gay the beautiful, the grand
Blending over wave and land
'Till the eye can see no more
Than it hath is sweet Glandore"

The proposed development threatens the very core values of Union Hall on which its current and future prosperity rely. Developments like this current application should be refused to preserve these critical values for this and future generations.


Effluent disposal
The development should not discharge raw effluent into a system that has not the capacity to take it particularly given the sensitivity of the area. As was noted by An Bord Plenala previously:

Union Hall is served by a public sewerage system, which uses a septic tank for treatment. This system was completed prior to 1996. The Planning Authority does not raise any objection to connection to the public system per se but there are divergent views on how it could proceed. The report of the area engineer indicates that the public system cannot cope with the additional load generated by the development and it will be necessary to treat the effluent on site before being allowed into the present system. The senior engineer's report does not require pre treatment of foul effluent. Reference is made to future up grading of the system.


Water supply
According to the Inspector's Reports in one of the above cases, 'the public water supply serving Union Hall is at capacity and is not adequate to serve this development.' If the developer intends to drill bore holes and obtain his supply from the local aquifer, it will be necessary for the Local Authority to be assured that the recharge of this aquifer will be sufficient to ensure that the demand can be sustained. Predictions of decreased rainfall in summer (when this development will be at its maximum water demand) must be incorporated in this assessment.


Traffic
Not only will the proposed development generate substantial traffic on the local narrow sub standard roads, but will in fact create the very hustle and bustle visitors seek to avoid. Further, a by pass of the Village, which will become more crowded due to its relatively short 90 minute drive from Cork City, may well require this site for uptake.

The development plan makes reference to a "proposed road", which links one public road to another and which could serve as a relief road. Paragraph 7.1.10 on housing refers to "a link road will be necessary in Union Hall to provide for long-term development close to the village".


Conclusion
In conclusion, we would draw the Planning Authorities attention to the decision of An Bord Plenala in PL 04. 203230 and recommend the same decision in this case:

1. Having regard to its scale and size, and to the character of the landscape and the size of existing settlements in the area, it is considered that the proposed development would be unduly dominant and out of character in the landscape. It is considered that development of the scale proposed is not suitable for this location as stated in the current West Cork Development Plan (Chapter 7 Skibbereen area). It is considered that the provisions of the Development Plan are reasonable in this regard. The development would therefore be contrary to the proper planning and development of the area.

2. Having regard to the size, scale and limited scope of the village of Union Hall to accommodate additional tourism development as stated in the current West Cork Development Plan it is considered that the proposed development would be of excessive size and scale. The development would be out of character with the existing pattern of development in the village and would overload existing tourist and recreational amenities. The development would therefore be contrary to the proper planning and development of the area.

Yours, etc.,


Tony Lowes
Ballina Town Council, who produced FIE's letter at their March Council meeting, proceeded to approve the project in spite of the Appeals Board not having determined if an EIA is necessary and in spite of the Parks and Wildlife Service's request for an Ecological Assessment!

Presenting the bemused Councillors with a raft of faxes and an EIA Scoping Document that never mentions the Habitats Directive's Guidance Document on Assessments for designated areas, and even more astonishing never mentions the word 'sedimentation' - the bridge was approved. Can the author have ever been to the site?

Read our 2nd letter to the Councillors, and our letter demolishing the EIA Scoping Document to An Bord Pleanala. The Council is now desperately hoping to fast track contracts for a pedestrian bridge, with 900,000 of Tourist Board money - that is now so far removed from the location of the Arts Centre which it was supposed to support that it is virtually useless, and which can not help but irreparably damage Ireland's finest salmon river.

Ballina Town Council, who produced FIE's letter at their March Council meeting, proceeded to approve the project in spite of the Appeals Board not having determined if an EIA is necessary and in spite of the Parks and Wildlife Service's request for an Ecological Assessment!

Presenting the bemused Councillors with a raft of faxes and an EIA Scoping Document that never mentions the Habitats Directive's Guidance Document on Assessments for designated areas, and even more astonishing never mentions the word 'sedimentation' - the bridge was approved. Can the author have ever been to the site?

Read our 2nd letter to the Councillors, and our letter demolishing the EIA Scoping Document to An Bord Pleanala. The Council is now desperately hoping to fast track contracts for a pedestrian bridge, with 900,000 of Tourist Board money - that is now so far removed from the location of the Arts Centre which it was supposed to support that it is virtually useless, and which can not help but irreparably damage Ireland's finest salmon river.
We are at a lose to understand the Councillor's decision to proceed with the project before

(1) a determination by An Bord Pleanala of the need for an Environmental Impact Assessment and

(2) in the absence of an appropriate assessment as requested by the Department of the Environment on the day of your meeting.
Carmel Murphy, Town Clerk
And Cllr Peter Clarke, Tommy Cooke, Mary Kelly, Frances McAndrew, Padraig Moore, Michelle Mulherin, Johnnie O'Malley, Willie Nolan, Mark Winters
Ballina Town Council,
Arran Place,
Ballina,
Co. Mayo
13 April 2007


Pedestrian Bridge, Riverside Walkway, and Carpark on or adjacent to the River Moy SAC

Dear Ms. Murphy;

We acknowledge your letter of 29 March, 2007 in relation to the above and are grateful for your bringing our letter of 28 March 2007 to the attention of the members of the Council.

We are, however, at a lose to understand the Councillor's decision to proceed with the project before

(1) a determination by An Bord Pleanala of the need for an Environmental Impact Assessment and

(2) in the absence of an appropriate assessment as requested by the Department of the Environment on the day of your meeting.


(1) The need for an Environmental Impact Assessment

The Bridge, Walkway along the river-side and car-park are all clearly one project either in, on, or immediately adjacent to the SAC. The Habitats Directive as implemented in Irish Law requires that an Assessment be carried out and for purposes of the 1997 Habitats Regulations such Assessment is defined as meaning an Environmental Impact Assessment.

We have now examined the Scoping Document which was not available in the public files before your meeting of 28 March, 2007.

This document fails to mention the 'Assessment of plans and projects significantly affecting Natura 2000 sites Methodological guidance on the provisions of Article 6(3) and (4) of the Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC' but instead relies on 'EPA Guidance notes'. Given the status of the River Moy as an SAC, this is a fatal legal flaw in the Scoping Document.

Further the Scoping Document states that 'pollution is likely to arise as a result of the construction phase, but this would be temporary and would not be significant in terns of human beings'. It refers to 'Negative impacts on river, water quality, habitats, species and designated sites' and 'negative impact on water quality during construction phase.'

It continues to insist, however, that the impacts will be limited to 'a relatively short period' and are 'unlikely to remain for any significant period of time after the works are completed' and that the 'impacts are reversible'.

We are advised and we understand that the Parks and Wildlife Service is in accord that the key impact would be sedimentation. This would be released by the construction phase through the construction of the temporary rock groins, through the demolition of the river banks and the construction of the piers in the center and at the edge of the river. This impact would be significant on the listed interests of the SAC and would be irreversible.

The word sedimentation is nowhere mentioned in the Scoping Document. This entirely undermines the scientific credibility of this document.


2. The absence of an Ecological Assessment as requested by the Department of the Environment on the day of your meeting.

It is difficult to understand how the Council could, after having been made aware of the requirement for an Ecological Assessment by the Department of the Environment on the day of its vote, proceed nonetheless to approve the project in the absence of such an assessment.

The decision is based on a plan which can not be altered if the assessment determined that permanent significant negative impacts to protected habitats and species would occur.

The European Commission is bringing action against Ireland for assessing projects only after permission has been granted. The correct procedure is to assess the project first, making alternations in design or location, such as the protection rather than destruction of the banks of the River Moy and the elimination of a supporting pile within the river, etc., or indeed to reconsider the project altogether in the light of a negative assessment.

In these circumstances, we are respectfully requesting you as Councilors to rescind your decision to proceed with these projects until a Determination is made by An Bord Pleanala as to the requirement for an EIA and until an Ecological Assessment is completed and made available for public comment.

In view of reported comments by members of the Council of their difficulty in assessing the information placed before them for the first time immediately before the last vote (an 11 page scoping document, our fax, etc.) we would be grateful if you would circulate this letter in a timely fashion.

Yours, etc,



Tony Lowes

The Secretary,
An Bord Pleanála,

Re: Our Request for EIS for developments proposed to be carried out by Ballina Town Council with significant effects on the environment.

Dear Sirs;

We refer to our letters of 7 and 27 March 2007 and your reply of 9 March 2007 in which you state you will be dealing with the matter under section 50(b) of the Roads Act, 1993.

Unfortunately, a decision was taken by the Council to proceed with the pedestrian bridge element of this proposal in spite of a fax received from the Department of the Environment Development Control Section informing them that an Ecological Assessment must be undertaken of the project.


The Secretary,
An Bord Pleanála,
64 Marlborough Street,
Dublin 1.
13 April, 2007

Your refs: HD 36.HD0002 & JD 36.JD002

Re: Our Request for EIS for developments proposed to be carried out by Ballina Town Council with significant effects on the environment.


Dear Sirs;

We refer to our letters of 7 and 27 March 2007 and your reply of 9 March 2007 in which you state you will be dealing with the matter under section 50(b) of the Roads Act, 1993.

Unfortunately, a decision was taken by the Council to proceed with the pedestrian bridge element of this proposal in spite of a fax received from the Department of the Environment Development Control Section informing them that an Ecological Assessment must be undertaken of the project.

Further, a EIA Screening Document was produced at this meeting. We attach this document to this fax.

This document fails to mention the ' Assessment of plans and projects significantly affecting Natura 2000 sites Methodological guidance on the provisions of Article 6(3) and (4) of the Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC' but instead relies on 'EPA Guidance notes'.

Further the Scoping Document states that 'pollution is likely to arise as a result of the construction phase, but this would be temporary and would not be significant in terns of human beings'. It refers under 'Brief Assessments of Impacts, Flora and fauna' to 'Negative impacts on river, water quality, habitats, species and designated sites' and under water as 'negative impact on water quality during construction phase.'

It continues to insist, however, that the impacts will be limited to 'a relatively short period' and are 'unlikely to remain for any significant period of time after the works are completed' and that the 'impacts are reversible'.

We are advised that the key issue would be sedimentation. This word is nowhere used in the Screening Document.

Sedimentation would be released by the construction phase through the construction of the temporary rock groins, through the demolition of the river banks and the construction of the piers in the center and at the edge of the river. This impact would be significant and would be irreversible.

Two questions arise:

1) Is such an assessment appropriate? The Bridge, Walkway along the river-side and car-park are all clearly one project either in, on, or immediately adjacent to the SAC. The Habitats Directive as implemented in Irish Law requires that an Assessment be carried out and for purposes of the 1997 Habitats Regulations, such Assessment is defined as meaning an Environmental Impact Assessment and the Department of the Environment is wrong in law in requiring only an Ecological Assessment.

2) Is it in fact legal to have made this decision, given that the decision was based on a plan which can not be altered if the assessment determined that permanent significant negative impacts to protected habitats and species would occur?

We understand the European Commission is bringing action against Ireland for assessing projects only after permission has been granted. The correct procedure is to assess the project first, making alternations in design or location, such as the protection rather than destruction of the banks and the elimination of a supporting pile within the river, etc., or indeed to reconsider the project altogether in the light of a negative assessment.

In these circumstances, we would be most grateful for your urgent attention to this matter.

Yours, etc.,


Tony Lowes

FIE is warning Ballina Town Council of possible legal action if they proceed tonight to vote on the proposed footbridge over the River Moy. An Bord Pleanala agreed on March 9 to consider the group's request for a determination if the project requires an Environmental Impact Assessment. FIE has said that as of close of business last night, no reply had been received by the Appeals Board from the Council.

Further information received by FIE indicates that

' the tender documents for the bridge and design prepared by Ryan Hanley and Co., Galway give the length of the proposed bridge not as 75 metres but 125 metres which requires an EIS under the Roads Act, 1993, as amended,
' that Ballina Town Council has failed to provide the reasons for not requiring an EIS as required under the Planning and Development Regulations 2006 which require them to 'make the decision, including the main reasons and consideration on which the decision is based, available for inspection or purchase',
' the National Parks and Wildlife Service have not been informed of this project in spite of it being in an SAC,
' The construction of the bridge will not only require a pier in the middle of the River Moy but the construction of temporary rock armour approximately 30 metres into the River Moy. Even if the project is considered to be sub-threshold for an EIS, this will result in a significant impact on the qualifying interest of the SAC which requires assessment.

Read our letter.
And our original Press Release.

FIE is warning Ballina Town Council of possible legal action if they proceed tonight to vote on the proposed footbridge over the River Moy. An Bord Pleanala agreed on March 9 to consider the group's request for a determination if the project requires an Environmental Impact Assessment. FIE has said that as of close of business last night, no reply had been received by the Appeals Board from the Council.

Further information received by FIE indicates that

' the tender documents for the bridge and design prepared by Ryan Hanley and Co., Galway give the length of the proposed bridge not as 75 metres but 125 metres which requires an EIS under the Roads Act, 1993, as amended,
' that Ballina Town Council has failed to provide the reasons for not requiring an EIS as required under the Planning and Development Regulations 2006 which require them to 'make the decision, including the main reasons and consideration on which the decision is based, available for inspection or purchase',
' the National Parks and Wildlife Service have not been informed of this project in spite of it being in an SAC,
' The construction of the bridge will not only require a pier in the middle of the River Moy but the construction of temporary rock armour approximately 30 metres into the River Moy. Even if the project is considered to be sub-threshold for an EIS, this will result in a significant impact on the qualifying interest of the SAC which requires assessment.

Read our letter.
And our original Press Release.