Achill island structure likely to be demolished

 

A STONEHENGE-LIKE structure built on Achill Island by developer Joe McNamara must be demolished if An Bord Pleanála finds it was built without planning permission, the High Court ruled yesterday.

Mayo County Council had argued before the court that Mr McNamara’s application to An Bord Pleanála aimed at having the structure declared exempt from planning permission requirements could not succeed and was “a delaying tactic”.

Mr Justice Brian McGovern agreed Mr McNamara’s application was “utterly hopeless” and was made simply “to delay the inevitable.” In an affidavit by an architect acting on Mr McNamara’s behalf, the court was told the intended use of the structure was “primarily as an ornamental garden sited on agricultural lands”.

Mayo County Council, which contends the structure is unauthorised development, secured orders from Mr Justice McGovern compelling the developer, if An Bord Pleanála rules the structure is not exempted development, to demolish it and restore the site to its original state under the supervision of an ecologist and an archaeologist.

The council previously told the court it had particular concerns about the structure because of its proximity to an area of special conservation on Achill.

Mr McNamara (41), with addresses at Achill Island, Co Mayo, and Salthill, Co Galway, has claimed the structure – consisting of a ring with 30 large columns with tapping stones placed on top – did not require planning permission because it was exempted development within the meaning of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001. The board is due to make a decision on that application in the coming months.

Mr McNamara, who is working in the UK, was not in court . Senior counsel Pat Butler, for the council, told the judge an affidavit sworn by an architect acting for Mr McNamara had stated the intended use of the structure was “primarily as an ornamental garden sited on agricultural lands.”

While a garden may be exempted development, Mr McNamara’s development contained structures that required planning permission, counsel argued.

Counsel said Mr McNamara’s application to An Bord Pleanála has no prospect of success and was “a delaying tactic.”

Patrick Keane, a solicitor acting for Mr McNamara, said the council’s proceedings aimed at demolishing the structure should be put on hold until the board had made its decision.

Mr Justice McGovern said he would make the orders sought by the council against Mr McNamara but would stay the orders pending the decision of An Bord Pleanála.

Last year, Mr McNamara was jailed for three days after being found in contempt of a court order requiring him to immediately cease work on the project.

He previously came to public attention when he drove a cement lorry emblazoned with the words “Anglo” and “toxic bank” at the gates of Leinster House.

He was later acquitted of charges of criminal damage and dangerous driving in connection with that incident.