Sligo councillors approve housing development near Neolithic monuments

Residents say project could exacerbate flooding issues in a nearby estate and cause traffic issues

Councillors in Co Sligo have approved a controversial 74-unit housing development in an area near two Neolithic monuments known as Cairns Hill.

The material contravention of the county development plan to facilitate the project, designed by architect and television presenter Hugh Wallace’s company Douglas Wallace for Novot Holdings, was approved on Monday by 14 council members, with two voting against and one abstaining.

Several councillors said they could not in conscience vote against the development on the strategic land reserve given the difficulties many people were having finding housing.

The Sligo Neolithic Landscapes group, which noted that the county’s passage tomb landscape is expected to be placed on Ireland’s tentative list of Unesco world heritage sites later this month, expressed disappointment at the outcome.


Residents had warned that the project could exacerbate flooding issues in a nearby estate and cause traffic issues locally. They said an appeal to An Bord Pleanála was being considered as it was now “the only avenue” open to them.

Mayor of Sligo Tom MacSharry, who opposed the decision, appealed to councillors not to be “influenced by developers with fancy celebrity architects” and said the issue could end up in the High Court as the concerns of residents had not been addressed.

He urged colleagues to remember the “absolute disaster” the Lissadell House case was for the council, which lost a protracted legal battle over a public right of way with the owners of the property in the Supreme Court in 2013.

Council chief executive Martin Lydon said Sligo had been identified as a regional growth centre, but there were only 12 properties available to rent there on There was, he said, “a need to be real” about the housing shortage and no certainty that Sligo would appear on the tentative Unesco heritage list.

Senior planner Frank Moylan told Cllr MacSharry that no flood risk assessment had been done in relation to this site as none was needed. Mr Moylan said the site in question was 480m from the closest cairn.

Cllr Gerard Mullaney of Fine Gael, who supported the material contravention of the 2017-2023 development plan, said it was an extremely difficult decision as they had to balance the need for housing with the concerns of locals.

Cllr Thomas Healy of Sinn Féin, who supported the development, said he believed An Bord Pleanála would have “the final say” on the issue.

Cllr Marie Casserly said she would not feel right responding to the many pleas that come in from “desperate people about their housing needs” if she voted against developing homes. Cllr Gino O’Boyle of People Before Profit said Sligo was “at death’s door” when it came to housing and that councillors needed “to be realistic” about the issue. He voted in favour of the project.

Marese McDonagh

Marese McDonagh

Marese McDonagh, a contributor to The Irish Times, reports from the northwest of Ireland