Hotelier’s site permission rejected a third time

AN BORD Pleanála has unanimously overruled the local authority and refused permission for an “integrated tourism and leisure development” including golfing facilities at Palmerstown Demesne in Co Kildare.

It is the third time in less than 10 years that the planning board has turned down hotelier Jim Mansfield for such a development at this location. In a decision described by An Taisce as “very significant and comprehensive”, the board overruled Kildare County Council’s approval of the scheme on a number of grounds, including that sewage issues “would be prejudicial to public health”.

The proposed development, with a gross floor area of 67,358.5sq metres (725,047sq ft), was to have included a hotel with 170 bedrooms and 26 suites, 46 “golf lodges”, 105 town houses, eight retail units and parking for 615 cars.

An Bord Pleanála noted the scheme would ultimately be connected to the Osberstown sewage treatment plant, which discharges into the river Liffey upstream of a major source of drinking water for the greater Dublin area. Given the plant was already operating beyond its design capacity, it said the proposed development would be premature pending an expansion of this plant’s capacity and would, therefore, be “prejudicial to public health”.

A proposed temporary onsite effluent treatment and disposal system “would represent a disorderly approach to development and would pose an unacceptable risk of pollution of groundwater and indirectly of nearby sensitive surface waters”. The board considered that the proposed hotel, located adjacent to an existing golf clubhouse and within view of Palmerstown House, “would, by reason of its design, scale and excessive bulk . . . seriously injure the visual amenities of the area”.

The board also ruled that “golf lodges” within the historic demesne landscape “would unacceptably erode the integrity of the landscape and detract from its quality”, contrary to architectural heritage protection guidelines.

Such development would also “run contrary to the policies of the Kildare County Development Plan” to control development of housing in rural areas and “would, therefore, be contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area”.

An Bord Pleanála’s decision was welcomed yesterday by An Taisce’s heritage officer, Ian Lumley, who said it represented a “major endorsement of An Taisce’s public interest role in strategic planning, environmental and heritage protection”.

He added that the ruling also “reflects the continuing role of An Bord Pleanála in overturning major local authority decisions on a wide number of major grounds. The question must be asked: why are so many local authority decisions so badly wrong?”

On two previous occasions, An Taisce successfully appealed against decisions by Kildare County Council to approve earlier schemes by Mr Mansfield’s company, Bridford Developments Ltd, to develop a Citywest-style resort at Palmerstown Demesne.

The 732-acre demesne is located on the N7, opposite the village of Johnstown 3km northeast of Naas. It was acquired by Mr Mansfield for €12.7 million in 2001 and has a golf course and driving range.

Irish Times, Thursday, 4 March 2010

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