Objections to Dublin rugby school erecting ball-stopping nets
The proposed netting described as ‘ugly’, ‘oppressive’ and of ‘negative visual impact’
A fee-paying school run by the Congregation of the Holy Spirit, St Michael’s regularly appears in the latter stages of the Leinster Schools Senior Cup. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
A row over balls landing in gardens next to a well-known Dublin 4 rugby school has reached the State’s planning body with local residents describing a proposal aimed at addressing the problem as “oppressive”.
St Michael’s College, a fee-paying secondary school on Ailesbury Road, was last month granted permission by Dublin City Council to erect a ball-stopping net 12m in height and 24m in width behind a playing pitch on its grounds.
The structure is proposed to replace an existing retractable net which is 8m high and 18m wide.
The college deemed the change necessary in its original planning application on “health and safety” grounds to avoid stray balls landing in adjoining premises. However, a number of neighbours living behind the existing nets on Ailesbury Road have opposed the expansion and a formal objection has been lodged with An Bord Pleanála.
The objection, prepared by the O’Connell Mahon architectural firm on behalf of a neighbour, alleges that the pitch in question is being used for senior rugby teams and hurling practice despite being designated for junior use only.
An earlier submission to Dublin City Council notes that “hurling sliotars” and rugby balls have “from time to time” been found in a lane dividing the St Michael’s fields from nearby houses, as well as in gardens.
The architects go on to complain about the “inappropriate intensification of use” of the pitch over and above existing permissions. They promise to provide corroborating evidence from other neighbours on the holding of senior rugby and hurling training sessions.
Other concerns in submissions include that adult kicking practice towards the north goal exceeds “the force and height of activity normally associated with junior use”, and that the planned expansion fails to address the “dangers” associated with use for hurling practice.
There is also a grievance over interruption to the “vista” of the Dublin mountains from the protected structure on Ailesbury Road, the property at the centre of objections. The replacement netting is further described as being “ugly”, “oppressive” and of “negative visual impact”.
Objectors accuse the school of using a new planning application to renege on an existing agreement to keep the nets retracted outside of game times, which was only “reluctantly accepted” by neighbours in the first place.
The area in question is not specifically referred to as being a junior level pitch by either Dublin City Council or St Michael’s College in planning documents, and the latter attributes the failure to retract nets outside of game times to “technical issues”.
In a conservation report completed into the case, the council denies that a “formal relationship” exists between houses on Ailesbury Road and the Dublin mountains, and holds that the netting “will not impact on views . . . of the protected structures”. A final decision is not expected to be reached by An Bord Pleanála for some months.