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// The Townland of Killmacarril - Inspectors Report
An Bord Pleanála
The Townland of Killmacarril
1.0 APPEAL DETAILS
1.1 An Bord Pleanála Ref. No.: PL20.126871
1.2 Planning Authority: Roscommon County Council.
1.3 Planning Authority Ref. No.: 01/1077.
1.4 Applicant: Martin McAleese.
1.5 Nature of Application: Permission.
1.6 Planning Authority Decision: Grant subject to 11 no. conditions.
1.7 Location: Kilmacarril Townland, Cootehall, County Roscommon.
1.8 Description of Development: Erection of a single storey dwelling, garage, outbuildings, access road and associated site development works.
1.9 Appeal Type: Third Party (Friends of the Irish Environment) -v- Grant.
1.10 Observers: An Taisce.
2.0 SITE CONTEXT AND DEVELOPMENT DETAILS
2.1 Inspection Date
The appeal site was inspected on 23rd January, 2002, and a photographic survey of same is appended to this report.
2.2 Site Location and Description
The appeal site is located in the townland of Kilmacarril, approximately 3 kilometres north-west of Carrick-on-Shannon as the crow flies. The site is accessed via a Third Class Road (LP92) running to the east of Lough Eidin, from which branches an unclassified single track road which currently serves one other dwellinghouse which is of modern construction and located on a hilltop visible from the Third Class Road. This metalled road branches off in a south-west direction before terminating. The metalled road is approximately 500 metres in length from the Third Class Road to the point of termination. Thereafter, the proposed access route runs along the base of the hill upon which the proposed dwelling will be situated and then curves up the hill to a proposed parking area to the east of the dwellinghouse. The distance from the end of the metalled road to the proposed structures is approximately 250 metres. The appeal site is comprised of two fields, the smaller square-shaped field is at the crest of the hill and is bounded by hedgerows to the east, north and west. Within this field there is a ruin of the former dwelling, which is in a state of collapse and is overgrown with vegetation. The southern boundary of this small field and the northern boundary of the rectangular-shaped field to the south-east is formed by a mixture of trees and sparse hedgerow. The rectangular-shaped field slopes downward from the ruined house to the existing earth track, from which access is proposed. The east, south and western boundaries of the rectangular field are comprised of hedgerows. The appeal site appears to have been recently used for cattle grazing and there is evidence of a trial hole being dug in the slope of the rectangular field, presumably in connection with the proposed development. The proposed structures are located approximately 200 metres from the shore of Lough Eidin, on the crest of a hill which slopes away from the site to the north and west to the lakeshore. To the south the hill runs into a marshy valley which drains into Lough Eidin.
2.3 Description of Proposed Development
It is proposed to erect a four bedroom, single storey dwelling to a off-set T-shaped plan in a style that is respectful of vernacular and traditional architecture but which is contemporary in its layout, elevational features and detailing. The dwellinghouse (and the other structures) are located on the crest of the hill in the smaller of the two fields as previously described and the dwellinghouse faces both the north and western boundaries of the site. To the east of the dwellinghouse is a courtyard and further east is a single storey store/fuel and oil tank area, as well as a single storey garage. The dwelling, store and garage all have pitched roofs, while a small garden store structure is flat roofed. It should be noted that the existing ruins on the site appear to be retained but it appears that the existing hedgerow/tree belt (with the exception of the largest tree) dividing the two fields will be removed to accommodate the curving access road as per Drg. No. PP/01b. This drawing also indicates the location of the sewage treatment plant, which is approximately 45 metres from the dwellinghouse and also the percolation area located on the south-facing slope of the rectangular field.
3.0 PLANNING CONTEXT
3.1 Planning History
Ref. PL20.121715 relates to Planning Authority file Ref. 00/898, which was an application by Martin McAleese for a two-storey dwellinghouse, together with outbuildings, jetty and associated site development works, including the provision of a sewage treatment unit and percolation area, at a site adjacent to and north-west of the present dwelling site. In that case, the Planning Authority granted permission on 14th September, 2000, for the proposed works subject to 13 no. conditions. This decision was appealed to the Board by Friends of the Irish Environment (the Third Party Appellants in the present case) and An Taisce. By order dated 6th February, 2001, the Board overturned the Planning Authority decision and refused permission for the proposed development for three reasons. These reasons relate in summary to the visually obtrusive nature of the development which would contravene the Roscommon County Development Plan, the potential for ornithological and ecological damage associated with the jetty proposal and proximity of the proposed dwelling in contravention of the County Development Plan and also the unacceptable risk of pollution to the lake and to public health that would arise from the effluent treatment system.
3.2 Planning Authority Reports
A report by the Area Executive Engineer, dated 17th August, 2001, notes with respect to the septic tank/effluent tank system that the foul discharge pipe from the proposed house should avoid interference with the existing stone ruins as the drawings show this pipe undercutting the corner of one. With reference to access arrangements, this report states that the "existing private road accessing the site off public road LP No. 92, with condition that any large vehicles or heavy loads accessing or leaving site do so only via Cootehall Village (i.e. west end of LP 92) and not via Hartley Bridge (i.e. east end of LP 92)." With reference to the building design and amenity, the Area Executive Engineer's report states that the tops of the walls, roofing and chimneys will be to some extent visible from amenity waterway and recommends the reinforcement of existing hedgerows and trees with further native broadleaf species. With reference to piped services, the report states that details of the proposed necessary long lengths of piping to existing public watermain be in accordance with the Planning Authority's requirements. Under the general section, this report states that a Section 38 agreement will be required.
A report by the Chief Fire Officer is dated July 1998 and seeks compliance for the structures with the 1997 Building Regulations.
A report signed by the Senior Executive Engineer, dated 13th September, 2001, and by the County Engineer, dated 12th September, 2001, notes that the site is located at the highest point of the landholding which slopes up from the lakeshore and which is criss-crossed by indigenous hedgerows with young and semi-mature trees. The report notes that there are two ruins of stone buildings on the site and also notes that the proposed structures will be constructed of natural materials of stone, timber and natural slate. The report notes that the existing ruins will be retained and that the proposed structures will be located approximately 200 metres from the lakeshore.
The report notes that effluent disposal is by way of a proprietary treatment system and a percolation area and that SR6 tests carried out on site in 6 no. test holes recorded T-values between 27 and 71, with five test holes retaining T-values less than 60. The report notes that the water table was recorded at 1-85 metres. The report notes the refusal by the Board of the previous application as outlined in Section 3.1 above.
The report continues that Lough Endrin (presumably another name for Lough Eidin) is a designated National Heritage Area under the Wildlife (Amendments) Bill, 1999, and is on the navigation channel for the Shannon water. The report states that submissions have been received from An Taisce and the Area Engineer and notes that An Taisce sets out the broad terms of its recommendations for dealing with development of one-off housing in rural areas with particular regard to environmentally sensitive areas. The report notes that no objection to the proposed development has been raised by the Area Engineer and that a submission by Friends of the Irish Environment contained no substantial comment.
The report concludes that "the proposed development is in accordance with the proper planning and development of the area (including the preservation and improvement of the amenities thereof), the provisions of the County Development Plan and the matters referred to in subsection 2 of Section 26 of the Local Government (Planning & Development) Act, 1963, as amended. I consider therefore that permission should be granted subject to the conditions set out in the attached Schedule".
3.3 Decision Details
The County Manager's Order deciding to grant permission was issued on 13th September, 2001, subject to 11 no. conditions. The conditions are largely of a standard nature for development in a rural area and the first condition is a standard compliance with application documents condition. The second condition relates to the effluent treatment system and its functioning, while the third condition states that the dwelling shall be first occupied by the Applicant or by a member of his immediate family. The fourth condition sterilises the remainder of the site from non-agricultural development for a minimum period of ten years on foot of a Section 38 agreement. Condition No. 5 provides for full details of the construction of the proposed access road which are subject to the written agreement of the Planning Authority. Condition No. 6 relates to the routing of construction traffic accessing the site via Cootehall Village and not via Hartley Bridge. Condition No. 7 relates to the protection of road drainage and Condition No. 8 relates to the collection of surface water run-off from the proposed structures and the disposal of same to on-site soakpits/drains/adjacent watercourses. Condition No. 9 relates to the protection of existing trees and hedgerows, while Condition No. 10 requires a supplementary planting scheme to be drawn up and implemented in the first planting season following occupation of the proposed dwelling. Condition No. 11 relates to an appropriate service charge with respect to connection to the public watermain but this charge is not specified in the Schedule of conditions.
3.4 Development Plan Provisions
The Roscommon County Development Plan, 1993, is the statutory plan for the area and outlined below are relevant extracts from same:-
Analysis of Survey
The Environment - Development in the Countryside (P. 10)
There are long-standing pressures for new houses in the countryside It is important that any such developments in rural areas are in keeping with the rural character of the area and that those developments that are more appropriate to towns and villages are directed towards towns and villages in the county.
Agriculture remains the most important industry in the County and, notwithstanding the strengthening of its urban structure, Roscommon will continue to have a large rural population. New developments will therefore continue to be located in the countryside and the Plan's policies will determine the types of development which are acceptable along with the principles of location, siting and design to be applied.
The Environment - Residential Development in the Countryside (Pgs. 11/12)
The main problem areas related to rural housing are:
¬? uneconomic provision and demand for public services;
¬? urban generated housing, already discussed in Settlement Structure section;
¬? a build up of houses, leading to the loss of rural character;
¬? a build up of houses leading to pollution dangers; and
¬? a loss of visual amenity by individual rural houses being badly sited and inappropriately designed for their rural location.
The rural environment can be protected from the visually detrimental consequences of new housing by seeking high standards of siting and design so that each new house is integrated into its rural setting, and by avoiding new groupings of houses which lead to the problems of loss of visual amenity, pollution and eventually uneconomic service costs.
Housing Policy (P. 15)
¬? To ensure that housing proposals do not cause traffic or environmental problems or damage visual amenity.
People will continue to exercise choice to build individual houses in the countryside. The Plan's policy is to facilitate this by requiring that the houses are located, sited and designed to ensure that they do not have detrimental environmental or traffic safety effects. (P. 16)
Policy (P. 22)
¬? To conserve and preserve the important assets of the natural and built environment in the County.
¬? To seek high standards of design in all development proposals.
¬? To ensure that all developments in rural areas are in harmony with the surrounding environment in respect of use and appearance.
Objectives (Pgs. 22/23/24)
¬? To protect the Areas of Scientific Interest in the County listed in Schedule 8. (Lough Drumharlow is a designated Area of Scientific Interest noted for its ecological and ornithological value.)
¬? To ensure that development proposals in the area of the Shannon are generally located within existing centres, and to prohibit development proposals where they would be detrimental to visual or environmental amenity.
‚Ä¶Damaging, unsympathetic or visually obtrusive developments, such as sporadic housing, are to be particularly avoided in this (Shannon River) area.
Planning Control (P. 32)
The principles of planning control in rural areas are to facilitate appropriate rural developments whilst ensuring that they do not cause traffic or environmental problems including damage to visual amenity‚Ä¶
An essential characteristic of the rural policy is to ensure that each new development is individually located within its rural setting and, by good siting and design, harmonises with it. Residential development proposals should normally be for single houses only.
4.0 THIRD PARTY APPEAL
The appeal submitted by Friends of the Irish Environment relates in summary to six grounds of appeal:-
¬? The negative visual impact of the proposed development would be contrary to County Development Plan provisions.
¬? The proposed development, taken in conjunction with existing development along the shoreline of Lough Eidin, would constitute overdevelopment in a rural area contrary to Development Plan policies.
¬? 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.
¬? The proposed development, by means of its access, would constitute a traffic hazard.
¬? The proposed development would conflict with objectives of the County Development Plan in respect of protecting the ornithological and ecological importance of Lough Eidin.
¬? The rebuilding of the ruins on the site does not constitute exempted development under Section 4(1)(g) of the 1963 Act as stated by the Applicant.
With reference to the visual impact issue, the Appellant states that Lough Eidin, along with the Oakport Lough and Lough Key, form the Boyle River system which is a tributary of the River Shannon. The Appellant states that the Inspector's Report on the previous application at this location (PL20.121715) recognised the importance of Lough Eidin as part of the Shannon Navigation System and as an important gateway when commencing a river journey in a north-westerly direction from the cruising centre of Carrick-on-Shannon. The Appellant states that this river/lake network is the major natural tourism resource for County Roscommon as recognised by the Roscommon County Development Plan, 1993, the Roscommon County Draft Development Plan, 2000, the Brady Shipman Martin Lough Key Study Report, 1981, and the Draft Lough Key Plan, which is about to be ratified by the County Council.
The Appellant states that the proposed development contravenes several sections of the 1993 Development Plan - housing (page 14), transport (page 16), recreation, tourism and community facilities (page 25), water and sanitary services (page 13), environment (page 22), planning control policies (pages 32-37) and also septic tank installation standards (page 40). The Appellant states that it is an objective of the Development Plan to "ensure that development proposals in the area of the Shannon are generally located within existing centres, and to prohibit development proposals where they would be detrimental to visual or environmental amenity". The Appellant quotes from the Inspector's Report in respect of PL20.121715, where the Inspector notes the quoted section of the Development Plan above.
With reference to the planning history of the area, the Appellant states that the Board's decisions on appeals brought before it with respect to development on the shores of Lough Eidin have been consistent in its refusals and quotes six cases to substantiate this claim.
The Appellant states that the reduction in height and the improvement in the quality of design of the proposed dwelling has to be acknowledged, but the Appellant states that the visual impact of the proposed development has been reinforced by the increased height of the revised site location. The Appellant states that the site of the dwelling has been relocated to the summit of a Drumlin on the highest part of the farmland, on the crown of a hill, and that the cover letter with the application is incorrect to refer to the extensive use of backdrop of land as there can be no backdrop of land at this new and elevated location. The Appellant states that the proposed development is substantially higher than the previous proposal which was refused by the Board and states that the windows will be approximately 18 metres above the lakeshore level and that the development "will form an 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".
With reference to the issue of overdevelopment of the area, the Appellant queries the status of the Applicant and whether or not the Applicant is the owner or potential purchaser of the appeal site. The Appellant argues that the Applicant, Dr. Martin McAleese, is a dentist residing in Dublin and is married to President Mary McAleese. Accordingly, the Appellant argues that although family connections with the townlands of Ardglass and Carroward exist, the Applicant and the immediate family have no past connection or ties with the townland of Kilmacarril or any of the neighbouring townlands on the north-eastern side of the Boyle River/Lough Eidin. On this basis, the Appellant argues that the Applicant did not claim to be a farmer or hold farmland in submitting the planning application and does not, therefore, qualify for the "family member involved with running a farm" justification for rural housing. The Appellant argues that 27 acres of farmland in this area is not viable and queries whether future agricultural buildings will be required on the Applicant's land. The Appellant states that the purpose of acquiring the appeal site is its location in an area of high visual amenity adjacent and accessible to the shoreline of Lough Eidin and not for agricultural purposes. The Appellant refers to attachments to the appeal document relating to the sale of other properties in the area and argues that a grant of planning permission in the present instance would set an undesirable precedent for development around the lake which would adversely affect the sustainability of the land to support the agricultural community.
The Appellant states that the proposed development is heavily reliant on the existing hedgerow systems surrounding the site to screen the elevated development from Lough Eidin and encloses photographs to substantiate same. The Appellant argues that some of the screening has been removed and that the remainder is not sufficient to screen the proposed development from viewpoints around the lake. The Appellant attaches examples of developments on the lakeshore of Lough Eidin which were not appealed to the Board which demonstrate the radical alteration to the unspoilt character of the lakeshore area. The Appellant argues that the reliance on hedgerows to screen developments in the countryside is not appropriate as in all instances hedgerows have been removed to avail of lake views. In addition, the Appellant states that lakeshore developments invariably have jetties and moorings constructed on the lakeshore, usually without the benefit of planning permission.
With reference to sewage disposal, the Appellant states that the land in the area is characterised by poor drainage and that concerns about pollution reaching the lake/river was one of the grounds of the Board's previous decision in refusing the Applicant's proposal on the adjacent site. The Appellant gives references for seven recent grants of permission where visual inspection clearly indicates that the soil is totally unsuitable for septic tank percolation areas on page 7 on the appeal submission, including one, Ref. 01/391, where the septic tank percolation area is located in a turlough. The Appellant argues that the Applicant has failed to provide percolation tests to the standards of SR6:1991 and the EPA Wastewater Treatment System for Single Houses 2000. The Appellant states that the report submitted by the Applicant, which was carried out by Mr. Eugene Daly, is not the equivalent of SR6:1991 or the EPA's Wastewater Treatment Manual for Single Houses, 2000, and that a site visit by Friends of the Irish Environment noted ponding of water in three of the percolation test holes open at the site on 29th September, 2001, which did not soak away from the test holes over a three hour period. The Appellant states that this indicates that soakage is non-existent below the top soil layer and that a proper inspection in conformity with SR6:1991 and the EPA Wastewater Treatment Manual would have proved same. The Appellant states that the Applicant is not correct in stating that there are no watercourses located in the vicinity of the proposed area designated for the Biocycle wastewater treatment and disposal system and marks the course of a small stream that flows into the lake through the southern part of the site on Exhibit H attached to the appeal document. The Appellant concludes that the proposed wastewater treatment system, given the system of drains and ditches that define the small fields in the area, must constitute an unacceptable risk of pollution to the lake and risk to public health.
With reference to traffic hazard, the Appellant states that the local public road serving this area is seriously defective in both horizontal and vertical alignment and also in width, measuring only 2.8 metres in the townland of Drumsillagh. The Appellant adds that there is an inadequate and defective sightline at the existing junction of the entrance roadway with the local public road system L92 and that the road gradient on the entrance roadway at this junction is also defective. The Appellant accepts that this road junction may be adequate to serve one dwelling but that any further dwellings represents an unacceptable intensification of the use of the road and hence raises the potential level of traffic hazard associated with this junction.
With reference to the ornithological and ecological issues, the Appellant states that planning consent includes a provision for site development and landscape works which, presumably, given the required security measures, will have a significant adverse effect on this area of ornithological and ecological importance. The Appellant refers to the weakness of Condition No. 10, which requires a screen belt along the site boundaries and argues that site development work and landscaping covering 27 acres of the site will have an adverse impact on the ecology of the area, in particular, an area used by greenland white-fronted geese (see Exhibit J of the Appellant's submission). The Appellant argues that with the erection of a dwellinghouse much of the transformation of the 27 acre holding by landscaping or other works would constitute exempted development under the Planning Regulations.
With reference to the rebuilding of the ruins at the appeal site, the Appellant disagrees with the Applicant's suggestion that the refurbishment of the existing rooms on the site as outbuildings is exempted development under Section 4(1)(g) of the Local Government (Planning & Development) Act, 1963, as these works fall outside the scope of this legislation. The Appellant argues that the works to the ruins neither constitute maintenance, improvement, or alterations as specified by Section 4(1)(g) and that the proposed works would materially affect the appearance of the structures and render this appearance inconsistent with the existing character of the structures and their surroundings. The Appellant argues that 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 and the River Shannon. The Appellant argues that works to the derelict structures would disturb and unsettle the existing hedgerows and landscape at the location which would be contrary to the provisions of Condition No. 9 attached to the grant of permission. The Appellant refers to a D??chas letter, dated 10th January (Exhibit K), which notes that one of the ruins appeared on the first edition of the Ordnance Survey Map c. 1938 and advises to retain derelict buildings on site even if they are in disrepair. The Appellant states that to permit the Applicant to reconstruct these buildings as exempted development exceeds the intention of the legislation and is contrary to the advice of D??chas, The Heritage Service.
In conclusion, the Appellant states that the proposed development should be refused for reasons of Development Plan policy, public health, environmental protection and planning precedent. The Appellant quotes from a speaker at the National Planning Conference 2001, held by the Irish Planning Institute in relation to the unsustainability of urban-generated rural housing to which I draw the Board's attention.
5.0 OBSERVERS' SUBMISSION
An Taisce begin their observation by stating that "we consider that this application is unsustainable, fails to show 'need', breaches the Roscommon County Development Plan, fails to assimilate the implications of the previous An Bord Pleanála refusal, and creates the danger that permission would constitute a dangerous precedent". The Observer makes points regarding the Rural Renewal Scheme (RRS), sustainability, the issue of need, the Roscommon County Development Plan, 1993, the previous refusal by An Bord Pleanála and the issue of precedent.
With reference to the Rural Renewal Scheme, which provides for tax relief areas in the Upper Shannon region, the Observer states that no attempt has been made to link privilege of tax designation to broad quality standards. The Observer is of the opinion that the Upper Shannon region is now subject to particular development pressures and that the local planning regime is not well place to deliver balanced and integrated development. The Observer quotes from a document entitled 'Heritage Appraisal of the Pilot Rural Renewal Scheme for the Upper Shannon, 2001' by Tyldesley & Associates, produced by the Heritage Council, which states, in Section 9.5, that the Development Plan policy framework is inadequate to deal with the development pressures and the changes likely to be experienced in the Rural Renewal Scheme area and that the longer term cumulative effects of development will potentially damage the outstanding heritage on which the Rural Renewal Scheme area will depend in future for its sustainable tourism and economy. The Observer asks the Board to take a stringent stance in dealing with unsustainable development and states that in the present instance the main issue is sustainable development and that aesthetics is a minor and esoteric concern by comparison. With respect to this, the Observer states that the significant visual improvements that have been effected in the treatment of the site vis-?†-vis an earlier application from the same Applicant is simply inadequate. The Observer states that the Spatial Strategy Unit of the Department of the Environment highlighted that 36% of housing at a time of significant development is being built as one-off housing in the countryside.
With reference to the issue of sustainability, the Observer states that the proposed scheme is a one-off house and not a sensitive restoration of a vernacular building and that while the Applicant's landholding incorporates the remains of at least two houses, these have been ruinous since at least the early 20th century and relate to agricultural small holding divisions no longer applicable to the site. The Observer notes that the Applicant is not proposing to incorporate any of these houses into the dwelling and in any event the age, condition and sensitivity of these particular houses militates against the desirability of such an approach. The Observer considers that, in general, one-off housing in the countryside tends to be less sustainable than high density development to high design, environmental and social standards in brownfield, infill and backland sites in cities, towns and most relevantly, in villages. The Observer states that there are sound economic, social, environmental and transport related reasons for this preference. The Observer states that the proposed development runs counter to An Taisce's policy on one-off houses in the countryside (copy attached to the Observer submission) in the following respects:-
¬? New one-off housing should not generally be permitted.
¬? Where landscape or natural environment is of high quality or sensitivity, no development should be permitted.
¬? In other areas, new one-off housing should only be permitted for current local residents and for people who primarily work or intend to work on the land or from their dwelling. Furthermore, there must be a compelling social need which should be documented in writing for the attention of the Planning Authorities.
¬? The viability of alternatives, including building in nearby towns and villages, should be investigated and documented because in most cases the economic, social, health and even community infrastructure in the towns and villages is superior.
With reference to the issue of need, the Observer states that the Applicant is not local and there is no evidence of compelling social need. In addition, the Observer states that there is no information as to what agricultural management mechanism is proposed for the 27 acre holding or as to how a dwelling is required on this land in order to manage its agricultural use.
With reference to the provisions of the Roscommon County Development Plan, the Observer draws the Board's attention to page 22 of the 1993 County Development Plan, which states that it is an objective "to conserve and preserve the important assets of the natural and built environment in the County" and also to the Shannon policies and objectives as described in Section 6.10 on page 39 of the 2000 Draft Roscommon County Development Plan, which defines Lough Eidin as part of the Shannon system. The Observer also refers to page 24, paragraph 5 of the County Development Plan, 1993, which states that "damaging, unsympathetic or visually intrusive developments, such as sporadic housing, are to be particularly avoided in (the area along the shores of the Shannon and its lakes)". The Observer states that the proposed development is not part of a nucleated settlement and does not relate to any existing settlement and in that sense it is sporadic development. The Observer also refers to page 23 of the 1993 Development Plan and Section 6.10 of the Draft Development Plan, 2000, which states that it is an objective "to ensure that development proposals in the area of the Shannon are generally located within existing centres and to prohibit development proposals where they would be detrimental to visual or environmental amenity". The Observer argues that the proposed development is not located within existing centres and is clearly detrimental to both visual and environmental amenity. The Observer adds that the Planning Authority has recognised in Condition 3 that the application affects policies on: housing development in unserviced rural areas; development control in areas of high amenity value; and the protection of scenic views. The Observer feels that the Roscommon County Development Plan is deficient in applying standards of sustainable development and the statement on page 16 of the 1993 Plan, which states that "people will continue to exercise choice to build individual houses in the countryside. The Plan's policy is to facilitate this‚Ä¶" is a breach of the principles of sustainable development as laid out in the document entitled Sustainable Development - A Strategy for Ireland (1997) and the 2001 Local Agenda Guidelines for Local Authorities. The Observer argues, therefore, that for this reason the Board should treat the proposed development as contrary to the criteria of proper planning and sustainable development and proper planning and development.
With reference to the previous planning refusal by An Bord Pleanála, the Observer notes that the first reason of the refusal schedule defined the application site as "located in a remote, elevated and exposed rural area of high visual amenity in close proximity to the shores of Lough Eidin (Drumharlow)". The Observer states that while the site is not specifically designated as a high amenity area in Section 9 of the Roscommon County Development Plan, 1993, the previous Board decision warrants that it be considered as having a high amenity status. The Observer refers to the third reason of the refusal schedule, which states that the "ground conditions on the site, including the high water table as indicated by soil suitability tests" is still applicable notwithstanding the proposed relocation of both the house and the effluent treatment system and the provision of Condition No. 2 of the grant of permission. The Observer submits that the concerns stated by An Bord Pleanála about an "unacceptable risk of pollution to the lake" has not definitively been addressed".
With reference to the issue of precedent, the Observer states that the application would establish a precedent for other applications in the area generally and on adjoining lands, and in this respect the impact of the proposal in leading to the upgrading of what is currently a farm track access to the site and its potential to generate other development proposals with access from this upgraded road must be considered. The Observer notes that the Section 38 agreement proposed on foot of Condition No. 4 applied by the Planning Authority is not applicable to these other lands outside the Applicant's ownership which would be served by the upgrading of the farm track. The Observer submits that a grant of permission in this instance would be inconsistent with the Planning Authority's treatment of other applications for housing which have been refused in the immediate area on amenity grounds, for example, References 98/497, 96/401 and 95/492, which all cite visual impact or obtrusiveness as reasons justifying refusal on grounds of breaching the provisions of the Roscommon County Development Plan, 1993.
6.0 FIRST PARTY RESPONSE
The response from the Applicant has been prepared by McHugh Consultants, Chartered Town Planners and Development Consultants and follows the six grounds of appeal as put forward by the Friends of the Irish Environment in its structure.
With reference to the first ground of appeal which relates to the issue of visual impact, the First Party states that the previous Board refusal was for a two-storey structure located on a different part of the 27 acre farmholding in close proximity to the lakeshore. The First Party states that the current application for a single storey dwelling in a different position on the farmholding, which is well screened from the lakeshore and from adjoining public areas by a number of long established hedgerows and trees and is, therefore, not located in an exposed rural landscape of high visual amenity. In addition, the First Party states that the dwelling is not located in close proximity to the shore of Lough Eidin, being approximately 200 metres distant from the lakeshore and that the existing ruins on the landholding screen views of the site from the main channel of the lake. Accordingly, the First Party states that the first ground of appeal is without real substance or foundation.
The First Party acknowledges that it is an objective of the Roscommon County Development Plan, 1993, to prohibit development proposals where they would be detrimental to visual or environmental amenity and that this objective is reasonable. The First Party argues that the proposed development would not be visually obtrusive or environmentally damaging to amenity and would, therefore, not contravene materially this objective and not be contrary to the proper planning and development of the area. Further, the First Party states that the proposed development would not contravene the policies and objectives in relation to housing as set out on page 14 of the 1993 Plan as claimed by the Third Party Appellant, as the policies state that housing proposals shall not cause traffic or environmental problems or damage visual amenity and also that all new residential accommodation shall meet the necessary standards of health, convenience, sanitation and design. The First Party argues that the proposed development complies with these policies and that careful consideration was given to Development Plan standards in the preparation of the application. In addition, the First Party states that the Planning Authority, in assessing the submitted application, apply the appropriate policies for planning control and has also ensured by means of appropriate planning conditions that the proposed development will comply with the standards contained therein. In addition, the First Party argues that the proposed development does not contravene the policies and objectives for transport as set out on page 16 of the Development Plan, nor, as the character of the landscape would be maintained, does the proposed development have an adverse impact in terms of the policies and objectives in relation to recreation, tourism and community facilities as set down on page 25 of the 1993 County Development Plan.
The First Party states that the proposed development does not contravene the water and sanitary services objectives as set out on pages 18 and 19 of the County Development Plan as public potable water supply is available to serve the site and sewage treatment and disposal by Bio-cycle Ltd. is appropriate, as confirmed by Eugene Daly & Associates, Consulting Hydro geologists. The First Party adds that the proposed development would not materially conflict with the policies and objectives contained on page 22 of the Development Plan in relation to the environment as the proposed single storey structures would provide a high standard of layout and design and would be in harmony with the surrounding environment in respect of its use and appearance.
With reference to pages 32-37 of the Development Plan in relation to planning control in rural areas, the First Party states that the proposed development is in conformity with same as set out in the cover letter submitted with the planning application. With reference to environmental policies on page 23 of the plan, the First Party accepts that it is an objective to "ensure that development proposals in the area of the Shannon are generally located within existing centres, and to prohibit development proposals where they would be detrimental to visual or environmental amenity". However, the First Party states that it is important to note the word "generally" which demonstrates that there are circumstances in which development proposals will be acceptable in rural locations, provided that these are not detrimental to visual or environmental amenities. The First Party argues that the proposed development, which comprises a permanent family residence located on an existing farmholding where it is the Applicant's stated intention to maintain the tradition of farming on this 27 acre property is such a case. In addition, the First Party states that the proposed development has been carefully sited and designed by a qualified and experienced architect and located in a part of the site so as to ensure that the development would not be detrimental to visual or environmental amenity. The First Party does not accept that the proposed development would be damaging, unsympathetic or visually obtrusive in this particular location.
The First Party contends that the height of the development and its revised siting away from the shoreline of Lough Eidin would result in no material visual impact on this remote and scenic location. The First Party argues that the presence of ruined dwellings on the site is evidence of a long established settlement on this part of the landholding and the proposed development would not be inconsistent with the policy of conserving the natural environment and that it does not contravene the planning objective to prohibit development proposals in the area of the River Shannon where this would be detrimental to visual or environmental amenities.
With reference to the comments of Friends of the Irish Environment in relation to the planning history of the site, the First Party notes these comments but argues that previous refusals by the Board in the general area relate to small individual sites where either single dwellings were proposed or where groups of dwellings were applied for. The First Party argues that the application in the present instance is different to these previous refusal cases in that it is for a permanent year-round residence on a family farmholding in excess of 27 acres and should be considered in that light. The First Party argues that the granting of planning permission for the proposed development would not be inconsistent with the previous decisions of the Board in relation to speculative housing and holiday home developments in the vicinity of Lough Eidin and would, therefore, not create an undesirable precedent for future residential development. The First Party states that the Applicant is willing to enter into a Section 38 agreement to sterilise the remainder of the lands for further residential development.
With reference to the Third Party Appellant's contention that the proposed development would be an intrusive feature on the landscape by day and provide a beacon-like illumination at night, the First Party states that there is no evidence in support of this contention and states that the gap in the hedgerow shown on Photograph No. 1 presented by the Third Party Appellant is not relevant given the set back of the proposed dwelling (between 6.75 and 11 metres) and the First Party submits photomontages to support same. I draw the Board's attention to these photomontages which are attached to the appeal file and the Board should note that in views 1 and 2 the second version of each shows the proposed house with no additional screen planting on the boundary of the site, while the third shows the house with additional landscape screening using native planting species. The First Party makes the point that the photographs were taken on 24th October, 2001, one month later than the Third Party Appellants photographs, where the landscape cover is at its minimum in terms of leaf coverage. The First Party asks the Board to compare the photomontages with the views of the existing situation (the first photograph in views 1, 2 and 3) and agree that there is no basis for concluding that the development will, as the Third Party has asserted, form "an 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". The First Party states that the site was chosen in the interests of protecting the privacy of the Applicant by way of existing landscape screening and that it is the Applicant's intention to reinforce this screening in order to afford the necessary privacy for this family residence. The First Party states that the Applicant is willing to accept a condition requiring planting to fill the existing gap in the hedgerow on the north-west boundary of the site and to undertake this prior to the commencement of construction.
With reference to the second ground of appeal, which relates to the cumulative overdevelopment of a rural area contrary to Development Plan policies, the First Party responds that there is no factual basis for concluding that the proposed development would, either on its own, or together with other developments in the locality, give rise to excessive density of development in this area. The First Party points out that the proposed development is for a single storey family dwelling of 210 square metres and associated outbuildings of some 65 square metres located on the 27 acre farm. As such, the First Party states that the proposed development complies with advice contained on page 32 of the Development Plan, which states that it is "an essential characteristic of the rural policy to ensure that each new development is individually located within its rural setting and by good siting and design harmonises with it". The First Party states that Kilmacarril is not an area of significant development pressure and that page 5 of the Development Plan confirms that outside of pressure areas "the rural landscape can accommodate well sited individual houses". The First Party argues that the good design and siting of the proposed development will assimilate it into the receiving landscape and that the landholding is of sufficient size to accommodate the proposed development. The First Party points out that it is intended to retain and reinforce the existing hedgerow and tree screening on the site and also to retain existing ruins with potential for refurbishment of these for re-use as domestic outbuildings. The First Party states that the proposed development will not materially breach either the skyline or the existing tree and hedgerow landscape screening and that the existing hedgerows and trees will screen the proposed development from outside views, especially from Lough Eidin.
With reference to land ownership, the First Party confirms that the Applicant is the owner of the landholding and that the Third Party Appellant has raised this issue, which is not relevant to the present appeal. The First Party confirms that the Applicant purchased the lands from a Mr. James Morahan as an entire farmholding and there is no subdivision of an agricultural holding nor is there any intention to undertake such a process now or in the future. The First Party states that reference to PL20.123585 relates to a Fergal Morahan and that the surname is very common in this part of County Roscommon. The First Party confirms that all 27 acres were in the ownership of the Applicant when the previous planning application was made and there was no question as suggested by the Third Party Appellant of adding on acreage of farmland to the original site in the present instance.
The First Party states that the Applicant intends to maintain the tradition of farming the landholding, which would be in conformity with the provisions on page 37 of the Development Plan, where a new residence is acceptable where it is a replacement for an existing house or where it is for a farmer or a family member involved with the running of the farm. The First Party states that it is the policy of the Planning Authority to facilitate the provision of a residence on a significant agricultural landholding and that the present application qualifies in this respect.
With reference to the sale of other lands in the area, the First Party confirms that the Applicant was an unsuccessful underbidder with respect to lands at Carroward which were sold in excess of agricultural value. The First Party disputes the Third Party claim that the McAleese family have no past connection or ties with the townland of Kilmacarril and states that there are a number of familial ties, not only in the general area between Cootehall and Carrick-on-Shannon, but also in the immediate locality of the appeal site.
The First Party states that there are no proposals to carry out site development and landscaping works throughout the 27 acre landholding as contended by the Third Party Appellant and landscaping works relate to the proposed new dwelling and the access roadway between the main road and the house site.
With reference to Map No. 2 submitted by the Third Party Appellants, the First Party responds that a small part of the southern end of the hedgerow BC was removed to provide access for machinery to investigate the site of the previous planning application. The First Party states that the removal of hedgerow was minimal and that it is intended to reinforce existing landscape screening should the development be granted permission. With reference to hedgerow CD, the First Party states that the Applicant has not touched this hedgerow since the property was purchased and suggests that the adjoining landowner has carried out routine maintenance on the hedgerow. The First Party states that the ongoing maintenance of shared hedgerows in different land ownership is common practice and that it is the Applicant's intention to continue this practice and to maintain all existing mature trees within the landholding.
With reference to the sensitive nature of lakeshore sites as referred to by the Third Party Appellant, the First Party responds that the proposed development is located at the furthest practicable distance from the lakeshore and that there are no proposals for a jetty or associated boating infrastructure on the lakeshore as part of this application. Accordingly, the First Party states that all the examples contained in Exhibit G, Photographs 5-16 of the Third Party Appellant appeal have no relevance to the present case.
With reference to the third ground of appeal, which relates to the foul water treatment system, the First Party states that the initial site investigation works was by Pollution and Waste Services Ltd. to assess the site suitability for the use of the Biocycle wastewater treatment system. Thereafter, the First Party commissioned a further test from one of three experts nominated by Friends of the Irish Environment and a report by Eugene Daly & Associates was submitted to the Planning Authority as part of the planning application. The First Party states that that report mentions a stream which is located 150 metres from the nearest part of the proposed percolation area and that the Eugene Daly & Associates report indicates that following percolation tests the site at Kilmacarril is suitable for the disposal of effluent from the proposed wastewater treatment plant. The First Party states that neither groundwater quality or lake water are at risk from the proposed development and that the treatment system will comply with the recommendations contained in the EPA Guidelines for Treatment Systems for Single Houses in their entirety. The First Party draws the Board's attention to the desirability of a 50 metre separation from a percolation area to a lake indicated by Eugene Daly & Associates and points out that Lough Eidin is over 250 metres from the site of the proposed percolation area and, therefore, no risk to lakewater quality is anticipated. The First Party states that the Biocycle treatment and disposal system has an Agrement Certification (96/0033) issued by the National Standards Authority of Ireland. The First Party states that the Third Party Appellant has put forward no technical evidence to support the contention that the proposed development must constitute an unacceptable risk of pollution to the lake and risk to public health and asks the Board to note that Condition Nos. 1, 2 and 8 of the decision of the Planning Authority adequately deal with the public health interests and concerns. The First Party adds that in relation to Exhibit H submitted by the Third Party Appellant, part of the area marked as a watercourse (between field references .500 and .507) is not in fact a stream but a ditch.
With reference to the fourth ground of appeal, which relates to the issue of traffic hazard, the First Party states that the application was examined by the Area Engineer of Roscommon County Council and that there is no evidence to support the contention that the local public road serving the area is seriously defective, either in horizontal or in vertical alignment or width. The First Party notes that no engineering or traffic evidence has been put forward by the Third Party Appellant to substantiate this issue. The First Party is not aware that the author of the third party appeal submission, Mr. Peter Sweetman, has any professional qualifications in engineering, traffic and transport planning, architecture, landscape architecture, environmental planning, environmental science or any relevant discipline in relation to any of the grounds of appeal put forward by the Third Party Appellant. The First Party states that this should be given consideration when assessing what weight to be given to the detailed grounds of appeal contained in a submission by Friends of the Irish Environment. The First Party states that the proposed development of a single storey family residence would not give rise to any significant level of traffic and that the local county road network is sufficient to serve the proposed development. The First Party adds that Condition Nos. 5, 6 and 7 of the decision by Roscommon County Council adequately addresses and deals with matters relating to traffic safety and orderly development.
With reference to the fifth ground of appeal, which relates to the ornithological and ecological importance of Lough Eidin, the First Party states that while a previous application included a lakeside jetty and associated infrastructure, the present proposal does not. With reference to the previous development proposal, the First Party notes that the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands did not have an objection to the lakeside jetty and concluded that it would not have a significant negative impact on Lough Eidin Natural Heritage Area (No. 1643). The First Party states that the proposed NHA boundaries do not include the site where it is proposed to develop the dwelling and there are no lakeshore infrastructure facilities associated with the revised planning application. With reference to landscaping works, the First Party state that these relate to works around the dwelling and the access road into the property and not landscape works through the 27 acres of the site as stated by the Third Party Appellant. The First Party states that Condition Nos. 9 and 10 adequately deal with the protection and reinforcement of existing trees and hedgerows along the site boundaries.
With reference to the sixth ground of appeal, which relates to whether or not the rebuilding of the ruins on-site constitute exempted development, the First Party states that the proposal to retain the existing ruins is in accordance with the objectives of the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands and with the principles of sustainable development. The First Party states that the refurbishment work to the ruins is exempted development pursuant to Section 4(1)(g) of the Local Government (Planning & Development) Act, 1963, and the work therefore does not form part of the planning application since permission is not required. The First Party argues that the ruins have not lost their use as a house and that the exempted development provisions therefore apply.
The First Party argues that this issue has been discussed with An Taisce and is in line with their policy on the reuse of ruins which advocates and supports the adaptation and incorporation of vernacular buildings into contemporary development without compromising the character or intrinsic design quality of such traditional buildings. In addition, the First Party argues that these ruins, together with the existing trees and hedgerows, provide enclosure and shelter for the proposed new structures. The First Party notes that An Taisce has not appealed the decision of Roscommon County Council, whereas An Taisce appealed the previous planning application. The First Party states that on page 37 of the County Development Plan it is stated that a new house is acceptable in a rural area where it is a replacement for an existing house and that the presence of two ruins in the immediate vicinity of the location where it is proposed to build a new single storey dwelling, is a material consideration which the Board should consider in determining this appeal.
Thereafter, the First Party, on pages 16 and 17 of the response document, outlines a history of the application with respect to Friends of the Irish Environment and An Taisce's involvement, to which I draw the Board's attention. In addition, the First Party asks the Board to note that the Applicant has not appealed any of the conditions imposed by Roscommon County Council and is happy to accept these as part of a grant of planning permission. The First Party believes that every reasonable attempt has been made to overcome all of the reasons for refusal given by An Bord Pleanála in respect of the previous application and quotes Mr. Tony Lowes of Friends of the Irish Environment, who stated that the revised application has "gone a long, long way down the road to try and make this an acceptable development". The First Party concludes that the Applicant has local connections and desires a permanent residence on a farm in a rural area, which is a reasonable desire. The First Party states that the proposed development "would not be contrary to the proper planning and development of this area, including the preservation and improvement of the amenities thereof, having due regard to the provisions of the statutory Development Plan; and also that the proposals are generally in accordance with the principles for sustainable development as set out in the National Strategy for same".
7.0 PLANNING AUTHORITY RESPONSE
The Planning Authority has not responded to this appeal.
Having regard to the above, and having inspected the site and reviewed all documents on file, my assessment below is structured under the following headings:-
¬? The principle of development at this site (incorporates the second ground of the Third Party Appeal).
¬? Development Plan Provisions.
¬? The present proposal in comparison with the previously refused application (addresses the first, third and fifth grounds of the Third Party Appeal).
¬? Other relevant planning issues (addresses the fourth and sixth grounds of the Third Party Appeal).
With reference to the principle of development at this site, I am of the opinion that there is no justification in planning terms for the proposed development and that it breaches a core planning philosophy with respect to sporadic development in the countryside. I would draw the Board's attention to the National Sustainable Development Strategy issued by the Government in 1997, which recognises that demand for housing in the countryside from people working in cities and towns is generally unsustainable because:-
¬? Being separated from all other activities which the householder normally has resort to, such as work, shops, schools and entertainment, one-off housing is a large utiliser of energy;
¬? Most one-off houses are served by individual septic tanks, raising concerns for groundwater protection;
¬? There are increased roads and transport costs; and
¬? There is a negative impact in terms of the urban fabric of towns.
The Sustainable Development Strategy states that "there must be a presumption against urban-generated one-off rural housing adjacent to towns", but that Planning Authorities should be enabled to grant permission for dwellings for certain categories of person whose occupation requires them to be rurally based, thereby catering for genuine needs. As this is National Policy, the Board is obliged to have regard to the National Sustainable Development Strategy in reaching a decision in this case. One-off rural housing, by its potential for degrading water resources, visual amenity, rural environment and local road networks can seriously detract from the potential of rural areas to develop their agricultural, tourism and heritage resources.
I note that the Applicant states that it is intended to retain the appeal site for farm use and that the proposed dwelling would be a permanent family home. Notwithstanding this fact, I would comment that the Applicant has failed to demonstrate a need to locate a dwelling on this landholding. Clearly, the Applicant is not a farmer or at least has not stated so in the First Party response. A demonstrable need would be a farmer working the land on which the dwelling is proposed, or a close family member requiring to be rurally based to carry out work activities. I note also that the Applicant is not local, although there is evidence of familial ties with the area. In view of this, I do not believe that the Applicant has sufficiently demonstrated a need to locate a dwelling on this landholding nor demonstrated that if permission were granted that the occupant of the dwelling would be engaged in farming or a related activity that is locationally determined by the landholding.
The cumulative effect of one-off urban-generated housing in the rural areas is non-sustainable and should not be sanctioned by the Board. The cumulative impact of one-off housing in the countryside is a loss of visual and environmental amenity, uneconomic service provision, danger of groundwater pollution (having regard to the reliance on treatment systems rather than mains) and the gradual erosion of the character of rural areas. With reference to this issue of sustainability, I draw the Board's attention to the submission by An Taisce, which succinctly summarises the negative economic, social, environmental and transport-related impacts of one-off houses in the countryside. I would comment that there were several derelict cottages in the area capable of restoration which is recognised by the National Sustainable Strategy 1997 as a more sustainable alternative to building new housing in the countryside and I also note the proximity of the site to the village of Cootehall, where it is more desirable to concentrate development rather than blighting the countryside with sporadic development. I would further add that it will be necessary to construct approximately 250 metres of new access road to develop the site, which clearly underlines the existing undeveloped nature of the area and the undesirability of permitting development at the appeal site. I note that there are ruins of dwellinghouses on the appeal site but I do not believe that these constitute a valid precedent for new development on the site given that their use has been extinguished for a considerable period of time.
Regard must also be had to previous Board decisions in the area which have tended to refuse permission for sporadic housing development on several grounds including visual impact and environmental amenity. Regard must also be had to the issue of precedent and the granting of permission for this development which is contrary to stated government policy regarding sustainable development would create an undesirable precedent and encourage other applications in the area for similar developments. The cumulative effects of sporadic housing in the countryside have been outlined above and these effects are clearly undesirable in planning terms....
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