‘PLANNING could be much more difficult to obtain than when the original planning was granted.’
That was the dire warning made by Cllr Alan Coleman (Ind), chairman of the Western Committee of Cork County Council, regarding An Bord Pleanala’s decision not to grant Cork County Council permission to build a breakwater in Baltimore, because it is a special area of conservation. But so, too, is much of the West Cork coastline.
Cllr Coleman made the comment after councillors expressed their frustration that a major harbour project in Schull had not been submitted for consideration under the Rural Regeneration Fund.
In November, the councillors were told a €3m development plan, plus €3m in matching finance, from the Schull Harbour Development Company was not to be submitted because its planning permission was about to expire.
The project was submitted in 2018 and again in 2019, but it was not submitted for consideration under the 2020 scheme because even if it was approved, the County engineering department believed that construction would start in September 2022, just one month before planning expired.
This scenario was refuteda by the harbour company which produced an engineer’s report, stating the project would be substantially complete and could therefore continue in accordance with planning. The divisional county manager informed the councillors that the project had already received planning extensions and no further extensions could be granted.
Other issues with the proposed Schull development that would need to be addressed, according to the divisional county manager, included cost projections, an environmental impact statement, and the foreshore lease.
Many of the councillors appeared to be genuinely devastated by the Council’s position and issued strongly-worded statements criticising the local authority for not submitting the project in 2020.
Although the deadline for submissions passed at the start of December, councillors have continued to berate the administration.
Schull Cllr Katie Murphy (FG) expressed her ‘annoyance with Cork County Council and how they handled the Schull Harbour Development Project for the RRDF 2020.’
Cllr Danny Collins (Ind) said he was annoyed that the Council issued a statement to the media saying that a contractor would only be appointed four weeks before the planning permission expired.
He also took issue with the Council’s claim it had liaised and corresponded with the applicant from September through to November.
Cllr Collins said that, on September 14th, he personally requested that the Council’s administration would meet with representatives of the Schull company, but the company was only informed of the Council’s decision ‘a week or two before the application was submitted.’
The divisional manager, Clodagh Henehan, reiterated the engineering department’s belief that the project was not deliverable in the timeframe.
‘It is important to note,’ she added, ‘the county engineers have extensive experience and understanding of management and delivery of large-scale coastal projects.’
She said the Council was in regular contact with the organisation, but it also had other projects that needed to be prepared.
The manager said that the Council, as the lead partner, had a duty to ensure the project could be completed by the end of the planning expiration because anything short of that would put the Council ‘in a position of conflict with our planning legislation.
‘You need to respect planning legislation,’ she added, ‘that is the position of the management.’