Developers appeal refusal for planning permission at Bessborough

MWB Two Ltd seeking permission to build apartments at former mother and baby home

The company behind a controversial development on the grounds of a former mother and baby home in Cork has lodged an appeal against a decision by Cork City Council to refuse planning permission for an apartment complex.

MWB Two Ltd confirmed yesterday that it had lodged an appeal to An Bord Pleanála regarding Cork City Council's decision to turn down its application to build 67 apartments at its proposed Gateway View development at Bessborough in Blackrock in Cork.

The council refused planning permission on February 2nd for the 67 apartments as part of a proposed development on a 3.7 acre site on the grounds of the former mother and baby home. MWB Two Ltd lodged its appeal on March 1st and a decision is due on the appeal by July 5th.

Cork City Council said in February when refusing planning permission that it was doing so on two grounds, including that the proposed development would contravene the city’s development plan, which zoned the area for landscape preservation.

The council also said the Gateway View development would contravene the city’s development plan, in particular due to its scale which would materially go against the site-specific zoning objective to reinstate the historic landscape of the Bessborough House estate.

Cork City Council said it was also refusing the application on the basis that it was part of a dual application by MWB Two Ltd, where the company was also applying directly to An Bord Pleanála for a further 179 apartments under a Strategic Housing Development initiative.

The council said that because the application for 67 apartments was part of this dual application by MWB Two Ltd, it would be premature to grant planning, pending the decision of An Bord Pleanála on the 179 apartment complex, which is due later this month.

The proposed development by MWB Two Ltd has led to controversy as it has emerged from the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes that 923 infants born at, or associated with, Bessborough died between 1922 and its closure as a mother and baby home in 1998.

But the Commission could only find burial records for 64 infants, prompting a campaign group, Cork Survivors and Supporters Alliance to call for a proper examination of the grounds to see if it contains the remains of the other 859 infants whose burial places remain unknown.

In a detailed submission to Cork City Council on the MWB Two Ltd planning application for Gateway View, the CSSA said the southerly parts of two blocks of the proposed development would be located on an area marked as the Children’s Burial Ground on a 1950 Ordnance Survey map.

And the campaign group also pointed out that a third block in the MWB Two Ltd proposal would directly overlook the site which is to the east of a small graveyard where some 25 nuns from the order which owned and Bessborough are buried.

“The proposed development of the site of Bessborough mother and baby home, as well as the dignified treatment of unmarked burial grounds on the site of Bessborough, is a matter of significant national and local concern,” said the group in its submission.

The CSSA said in its submission to Cork City Council that it was not opposed to “appropriate and sensitive development of the site” but the proposed development on the Children’s Burial Ground was “entirely unsuitable”.