A planning application to build a 92-unit residential development at Bessborough in Blackrock has been refused by Cork City Council.
The planning application is the second submitted by landowners MWB Two Ltd seeking to build a residential development on the site, and is the second to be refused.
The latest planning application, refused by Cork City Council on Friday, included 43 one-bed units, 30 two-bed units and 18 three-bed units as well as a creche, parking facilities and bike storage.
The proposed development would have comprised of two stepped buildings, ranging in height from five to eight stories.
While the reasons for the City Council’s refusal of the application have not yet been published, the previous application by MWB Two Ltd was ultimately refused by An Bórd Pleanála due to legacy issues with the previous use of the Bessborough Estate as a mother and baby home.
Between 1922 and 1998, the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, ran a mother and baby home at Bessborough.
Following an Oral Hearing last year, An Bord Pleanála turned down the application by MWB Two Ltd for a Strategic Housing Development of 179 residential units at the Bessborough site, stating that it was not satisfied that the site was not previously used as a children’s burial ground.
Regarding the application refused by Cork City Council last week, two mother and baby home support groups made submissions in opposition to the development.
The Bessborough Mother and Baby Home Support Group submitted that the burial places of 859 children that died at Bessborough are unknown to this day, and that “until a full independent investigation is carried out to determine the truth there should be no further construction on the grounds”.
A submission from the Cork Survivors and Supporters Alliance said that while the group is not opposed to “appropriate and sensitive development of the site”, the proposed development would risk dispersal, damage or degradation of remains potentially buried throughout Bessborough lands.
In a statement to The Echo, MWB Two Ltd said that the refusal by City Council to grant planning permission is not related to the “much-publicised legacy issues concerning Bessborough House”.
“This decision is regrettable and does not reflect the quality of the application for the proposed development, which has been meticulously planned and designed with a focus on social and affordable housing units, and which is also guided by the core principles of sustainability and accessibility,” the company said.
MWB Two Ltd said that it intends to appeal the decision to An Bord Pleanála.
Sinn Féin TD for Cork South Central, Donnchadh Ó’Laoghaire, said that regardless of the reasoning for refusing the planning application, it is the “right outcome” for families who still do not know where remains are.
“Obviously I am very conscious of the housing crisis, and I’m keen to support housing where possible and elsewhere in the southeast of the city, but the circumstances here are very particular,” he said.
“As we know there are hundreds of children whose remains, their location remains unknown. Many of their siblings and relatives are alive and wondering, and don’t know where their remains are. Until such time as we can properly establish beyond all doubt that they are not buried at some part of the Bessborough site, then I don’t think it’s appropriate for development to happen,” he added.