President's hilltop house site `visually damaging'

 

The site chosen by the President, Mrs McAleese, and her family for a lakeside home in Co Roscommon was the crucial factor underlying An Bord Pleanala's decision to reject their plans, it was revealed yesterday.

Mr Kevin Moore, the planning inspector who dealt with the case, concluded that building a house close to the top of a hill within 65 metres of Lough Eidin's shore would be "highly obtrusive and visually damaging" to the area's scenic character.

In his 22-page report to the appeals board, Mr Moore said the driveway would be "an elevated scar across an open field", as would the pathway to a jetty, and landscaping would not screen them or the house.

Dr Martin McAleese had sought permission for a two-storey house, outbuildings, car parking, a jetty and a small sewage treatment plant. An Taisce and Friends of the Irish Environment appealed against it.

FIE inspected the wrong site, but Mr Moore said the issues of principle it raised were valid.

The development "could not reasonably be regarded as being compatible with the policy of conserving the natural environment and . . . unequivocally contravenes the planning objective to prohibit development proposals in the area of the Shannon where they would be detrimental".

He said the use of the house and jetty "is likely to result in significant disturbance to and displacement of fauna, particularly migratory bird species".

He considered the disposal of final effluent to a percolation area near Lough Eidin would be a pollution risk to the lake.

Mr Moore also complained about the neo-traditional design, saying tiles on the roof instead of slate, uPVC windows and downpipes and a uPVC "Georgian townhouse-type doorway" would undermine its character. His report pointed to An Bord Pleanala's record of refusing permission for individual houses close to Lough Eidin's shore since 1976. In 1999 it turned down plans for 29 holiday homes in the area.

Apart from making no reference to the house design, the board's refusal for visual obtrusiveness, ecological impact and risk of pollution closely followed Mr Moore's recommendations. The report, which forms the major part of the board's file on the case released yesterday, noted that the site formed part of a 27.5 acre holding. It did not suggest an alternative site.