Decisions due on major Cork city housing development projects

An Bord Pleanála is set to make a number of significant decisions on Cork planning applications. Sarah O’Dwyer takes a closer look at the details
Decisions due on major Cork city housing development projects

St Kevin’s hospital building and site, on the grounds of the former Our Lady’s Mental Hospital in Shanakiel.

A DECISION is due to be made by the end of this month on a controversial development in a Cork city suburb.

A strategic housing development (SHD) comprising 179 residential units in three apartment blocks, ranging in height from five to seven stories is proposed for lands at Bessborough by MWB Two Ltd.

It’s proposed that 88 of those apartments would be one-bedroom, 85 would be two-bed and six would be three-bed. Step-down housing and facilities for the elderly are included in this proposal.

A decision from An Bord Pleanála is due by March 30.

It comes following a separate proposal from the same developers for the same overall development and site which was submitted via Cork City Council’s planning department.

MWB Two Ltd had planned to build 67 apartments in a fourth apartment block, as part of the same development, but submitted the application separately.

Asked why they chose to submit two separate proposals for the site to two bodies, the group said it was “for planning procedural reasons”.

That development was refused by City Hall in February.

According to Council documentation: “The proposed development consists of an eight-storey apartment block that has been designed as part of a larger development that is subject to a separate consent process.

“It is considered that the proposed development cannot be permitted in isolation, due to its scale, relationship to the Historic Landscape in which it sits and its physical detachment.

“Development of the kind proposed, therefore would be premature pending the determination by the competent authority of the separate Strategic Housing Development application on the adjoining lands.”

The local authority’s planning department also refused the proposal on the basis that: “The proposed development would materially contravene a development objective indicated in the Cork City Development Plan 2015-2021 for the zoning of the land for Landscape Preservation Zone with the objective to preserve and enhance the special landscape and visual character of landscape preservation zones, and would materially contravene the Site Specific Objective SE4 associated with this zoning, as residential development is precluded on this part of the lands to the south and east of Bessboro House, the proposed development would not reinstate the historic landscape and by reason of its height and scale would fail to protect the landscape assets set out in SE4, specifically the Historic Landscape in which it is located.”

Following the decision, a spokesperson for the developers said: “MWB Two Ltd. notes the decision by Cork City Council in relation to its proposed Gateway View development and will take the time to review the Council’s decision.”

In November 2020, the two site notices were erected at Ballinure, Blackrock, both from developers MWB Two Ltd — one for the SHD and the other for the 67 units through Cork City Council.

At the time, in a statement released to The Echo, MWB Two Ltd confirmed that “the proposed ‘Gateway View’ development will be directed towards the private rental market and will also include serviced step-down accommodation for the elderly.

“The overall development will be sensitively designed and landscaped throughout, creating an inclusive community feel,” the statement added.

The Cork Survivors and Supporters Alliance raised concerns that “part of the developer’s land includes a portion of the area identified as the Childrens’ Burial Ground on a 1949/1950 OSI map” related to lands of the former mother and baby home at Bessborough.

However, MWB Two Ltd said that this is not the case.

“We are very conscious of the historical concerns and sensitivities around the Bessborough Mother and Baby Home.

“However, while the proposed development sits on a parcel of land associated with the former Bessborough Estate, there are no recorded archaeological sites or built heritage features within the site,” a spokesperson told The Echo.

“We have engaged experts in the areas of archaeological conservation and heritage in order to approach this development in the most sensitive manner possible.

“Their report concluded that there is no evidence to suggest that the proposed development site contains any undocumented burials associated with the former Mother and Baby Home”.

Separately, two other Cork-based SHDs are currently with An Bord Pleanála. A decision on the 1,002 apartments at the Former Ford Distribution Site, fronting on to Centre Park Road, Marquee Road and Monahan Road, is due on April 22.

Meanwhile, a decision on the 266 residential units — 46 houses and 220 apartments — on the former St. Kevin’s Hospital Grounds, Shanakiel, is due on April 16.

Plans for the site outline proposals for 46 townhouses arranged in eleven two-storey blocks.

Fifty-four ground floor, two-bed duplex apartments, with 36 three-bed and 18 four-bed duplex townhouses above, arranged in seven three-storey blocks, and 52 walk-up apartments — 11 one-bed and 41 two-bed — arranged in three four-storey blocks are also included in the application.

The former St Kevin’s Hospital itself is set to be stabilised, conserved and renovated to provide 60 apartments.

The former hospital will also house the creche, while the former chapel building will host the new Office Enterprise centre.

Almost 3,000 sq m of the former hospital buildings are to be demolished, including the former two-storey St Dympna’s Hospital block and the former Doctors House.

A play area to the immediate east of St Kevin’s Hospital is also included, as are 241 car parking spaces and 563 bicycle spaces.

Sinn Féin TD Thomas Gould said that while the proposals were welcome, some questions about the development, including tenure mix, road infrastructure and public transport access remain.

However, he continued: “The development of St Kevin’s site has the possibility to transform this section of the city.

“It could be a positive and beneficial development that would bring infrastructure and investment to the Northside.”

A spokesperson for the LDA said: “The LDA development on the St.Kevin’s Hospital site offers the opportunity to deliver 266 sustainable homes, of various sizes, west of Cork City Centre.

“The focus of the LDA will be to maximise the provision of affordable housing on the site.

“The development will also include childcare facilities, open spaces and an office enterprise centre, which can stimulate employment in the area and help support continued home-working, helping to support a work life balance for families.”

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