Developers unsuccessful in their appeal of refusal for apartments at Bessborough site

Developers unsuccessful in their appeal of refusal for apartments at Bessborough site

An Bord Pleanála (ABP) has upheld Cork City Council’s decision to turn down a plan for an eight-storey apartment building on lands of the former Bessborough Mother and Baby Home. Picture: Dan Linehan

“Delighted and relieved” – that’s how one member of the Cork Survivors and Supporters Alliance described feeling after learning that An Bord Pleanála (ABP) has upheld Cork City Council’s decision to turn down a plan for an eight-storey apartment building on lands of the former Bessborough Mother and Baby Home.

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

This application, which was discussed at an oral hearing, was refused by the planning board back in May.

It formed part of an overall plan to construct a total of 246 apartments as well as a crèche on the land, with an application submitted to Cork City Council for the additional 67 apartments.

In February Cork City Council refused to grant planning permission to the developers – a decision which they appealed.

However, MWB Two Ltd have been unsuccessful in their bid to overturn the verdict.

In making its decision the planning board said the majority of the site in question is in a Landscape Preservation Zone where there is a presumption against development unless it achieves certain site-specific objectives.

ABP also stated that, having regard to the refusal of the SHD planning application, it was considered that a grant of permission for the eight-storey apartment block on its own by reason of its location, height and scale “would result in a haphazard form of development which would result in an isolated apartment block in a protected landscape."

The overall development had come under sustained criticism as part of the site overlaps an area marked on historic OSI maps as ‘children's burial ground’.

Speaking to The Echo, Maureen Considine of the Cork Survivors and Supporters Alliance said members were greatly relieved to hear that the council’s decision had not been overturned.

She said it is now vital that the State intervenes and acquires the site.

“We still really need the State to intervene and take possession of that land and turn it into a registered cemetery which would have the same legal protections and practical protections as any other cemetery."

Labour Local Area Rep Peter Horgan said he was also glad to hear the news that the council’s decision had not been overturned.

"The overwhelming testimony expressed at the recent oral hearing was one that sought to honour the memory of those who passed through Bessborough.

“I am glad this second application has the same decision as the first now.

“We need to pause and reflect now on what Bessborough means to families of those who passed through there,” he said.

Independent Cork city councillor and historian Kieran McCarthy also welcomed ABP’s decision.

“This is great news; apart from a possible judicial review by the developer, the legal planning processes have now been gone through- it is clear that the potential of babies buried beneath parts of the grounds has seriously hindered future development,” he said.

“More and more the process is leading to the need for State intervention on the future of Bessborough and other Mother and Baby Home sites.

"I agree with the survivor’s group that parts of the Bessborough land should be CPO’d and an appropriate commemoration parkland be created.

“Similar thinking should be applied to other Mother and Baby Home sites across the country”.

Developers MWB Two Ltd said they would not be giving a statement at this time. 

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