FF TD objects to development after reports of archaeological finds

Report suggests Beechpark is the site of a rare, early medieval settlement

A Fianna Fáil TD is among a number of objectors to plans to demolish the south Dublin home of former taoiseach Liam Cosgrave to make way for a large housing development after reports of significant archaeological finds on the site.

Dublin South-West TD, John Lahart, as well as two residents' groups, have lodged an appeal against the decision of South Dublin County Council to grant planning permission to Ardstone Homes to demolish Beechpark – the former residence of Mr Cosgrave who died in 2017 – and to carry out enabling works on the 5.2 hectare estate on Scholarstown Road in Knocklyon.

Opponents claim any development of the site is premature given investigations of the lands suggest Beechpark is a significant site in archaeological terms and a full post-excavation analysis and report is not due to be completed until the end of February 2020.

Excavations to date have indicated Beechpark is the site of a rare, early medieval settlement or cemetery.

A report by archaeological experts acting for Ardstone Homes under a licence issued by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, revealed that the partial remains of 83 bodies were discovered at the property over a five-month period between November 2018 and March 2019.

They included 49 adults, 16 juveniles, two infants and two newborn babies while the age of others have still to be determined.

Three distinct phases

The report said there appeared to be three distinct phases of historic activity with the two earliest periods likely to date from between 400 and 1200AD and the final period in the Anglo Norman period 1200-1600.

Tests on a human bone found at the site dated it as from 617-688 AD.

Mr Lahart claimed “significant observations” made by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht in the first phase of the planning application were “considerably diluted” at a later stage.

In his appeal, which he said was on behalf of local residents, Mr Lahart claimed there were conflicting accounts concerning the significance of the archaeological discoveries at Beechpark.

“These discrepancies can only be fully clarified through an independent review of the findings . . . given the nature and scale of what the applicant ultimately intends to do with the site from a residential development point of view,” said Mr Lahart.

“There is a substantial fear that a very significant archaeological discovery has been made that will be wiped out by development.”

Mr Lahart said it was likely that Ardstone Homes would seek to apply through the strategic housing development process to develop the site.

The Fianna Fáil TD said plans suggested the firm wanted to build 650 units, mostly apartments on the site, of which 500 were intended to be build-to-rent.

Mr Lahart said it was unusual for a strategic housing development to be split in a way where planning permission was being sought from the local council for one aspect of the project and from An Bord Pleanála for the residential element.

Dargle Woods Residents Association has accused Ardstone Homes of adopting a piecemeal approach to the development of the site which it claimed represented “bad planning”.

Eoin Ó Donnchadha, a specialist in early medieval Ireland, has called on the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan, to take steps to protect the site by granting it the status of a national monument.

“No further works in relation to private residential development should be permitted on the site,” he added.

A ruling on the appeal by An Bord Pleanála is due by December 17th.