Harney exempted Phoenix Park plan

Mon, May 18, 2009, 01:00

PLANNING PERMISSION for two 50-bed community nursing units in the Phoenix Park in Dublin was bypassed by ministerial order in 2006.

Minister for Health Mary Harney made three orders in July and August 2006 exempting the development at St Mary’s Hospital, off Acres Road in Phoenix Park, from the need for planning permission. The whole of Phoenix Park is a designated national monument and legislation conserving its landscape, nature and biodiversity dates from 1925.

Ms Harney used a provision in the 2000 Planning and Development Act which effectively exempts a State authority from the need for planning permission by reason of an accident or by reason of an emergency.

The Department of Health said the Minister’s action was based on her department’s “emergency response to the accident and emergency crisis at the time”.

The community nursing units at St Mary’s Hospital are used primarily for care of the elderly, as a step-down facility for acute hospitals. They have been operational since May 2008 and, according to the Health Service Executive, have “added increased long-stay capacity for older persons within north Dublin”.

A new day hospital was also built alongside the new facilities but a spokesman for the Minister said she had not exempted herself under section 181(2)(a) of the Planning and Development Act 2000 in respect of this building.

He said, however, that “she did sign an order in respect of the two new 50-bed community nursing units in July/August 2006 as part of the emergency response to the accident and emergency crisis at the time and in order to fast track these developments”.

Section 181(2)(a) of the Planning and Development Act provides: “Where development is proposed to be carried out by or on behalf of a Minister of the Government . . . by reason of an accident or an emergency . . . the requirements of [planning] regulations shall not apply”. The spokesman said the relevant regulation that would have normally applied was Part 9 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001. “There are no plans at present for any further use of this provision.”