Developers behind apartment plans at Bessborough ‘happy to conduct further site investigation'

Developers behind apartment plans at Bessborough ‘happy to conduct further site investigation'

On oral hearing into plans for part of the estate at Bessborough is underway. Picture: Denis Scannell

The developers behind plans for apartments and a crèche on a former mother and baby home estate in Cork have told An Bord Pleanála (ABP) at an oral hearing that they are happy to a conduct further site investigation to best ascertain the presence or absence of human remains on the site of the intended development.

In November last year, MWB Two Ltd lodged a planning application with ABP for 179-apartments in three blocks and a crèche on privately owned land on the former Bessborough estate.

An Bord Pleanála opted to hold an oral hearing, which commenced virtually today, amid concerns about potential burials on the site of the intended development.

'Conscious of historical concerns' 

Part of the developer's strategic housing development (SHD) site overlaps an area marked on historic OSI maps as ‘children's burial ground’.

However, in their response, the developers state that the belief that the area is a potential burial ground is “based entirely on a fundamental misunderstanding of the OSI maps”.

They say the marking of ‘children’s burial ground’ on the OSI maps in fact refers to the rectangular area just north of the folly and within the circular surround of the folly.

MWB Two Ltd say they are “very conscious of the historical concerns and sensitivities regarding the Bessborough Mother and Baby Home”.

“The company has engaged experts in the areas of archaeological conservation and heritage in order to approach the development in the most sensitive manner possible.

“The experts’ 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,” a statement issued on behalf of MWB Two Ltd said.

Further investigations 

While the developers say the area marked for development is “very unlikely” to be a burial ground, they say they are “happy to conduct further site investigation” in the hopes of “reassuring stakeholders”.

The investigation would only seek to identify the presence of modern human remains but “shall not exhume them”.

Such further investigations would be informed by the methods used in the forensic archaeological investigation of Sean Ross Abbey Burial Ground, the developers stated.

In their response, the developers also stated that they are willing to fund an appropriate memorial “in consultation with stakeholders”, which would be open to the public.

A separate application lodged with Cork City Council to build 67 apartments on lands at Bessborough, from the same developer as part of the same overall development, was refused earlier this year.

MWB Two Ltd appealed this decision with ABP and a ruling is pending.

Today's hearing 

The oral hearing is specifically in relation to the application submitted to An Bord Pleanála under the SHD process.

The hearing is expected to last a day and a half.

Later on, observers will make their submissions to An Bord Pleanála.

Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman, Cork City Councillors and survivor groups are among those who the board will hear from.

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