THREAT TO LISMORE'S HERITAGE

 

DERVLA MURPHY,

Sir, - Over the decades many of my friends, Irish and foreign, have congratulated me on being lucky enough to live in Lismore, Co Waterford, a town of exceptional charm with more then 1300 years of history behind it.

But Lismore's designation as a heritage town has not prevented a number of banal housing developments around the edges, undertaken without any regard for our "heritage". And now a proposal to build two bungalows in a garden in South Mall garden is threatening the integrity of that Georgian street. Moreover, the granting of planning permission for even two bungalows would set a dangerous precedent, making it much more difficult for the local council to refuse permission for further building in town centre gardens.

The two bungalows are not needed to relieve a housing shortage. One over-ambitious development of "exclusive" homes resulted a few months ago in the sale of 14 surplus dwellings to a housing association, though the local council has ample land on which to build its own "social housing". Another development has come to an abrupt halt because the first four houses attracted no buyers during the past year. Both developments have hideously degraded the approaches to Lismore and proved the inadequacy of the 1996 Lismore Development Plan, now being revised.

Perhaps alarmed by the recent rapid erosion of Lismore's special character, An Taisce informed Waterford County Council on March 20th that the town centre "warranted consideration as an Architectural Conservation Area under the Planning Act 1999". However, development in a South Mall garden need not be a crude intrusion on that Georgian street, as those opposed to the bungalows have pointed out: "We accept the principle that the garden of Greycroft may properly be developed, but only as infill development, so that the streetscape is maintained, the building line preserved, and that the form, height and aspect match the adjoining properties".

Housing developments don't have to be ugly, but we are now allowing a tawdry homogeneity to deface every corner of the Republic. This, apart from any other considerations, is bad for business. Tourists don't come to Ireland for the climate or the food, for opera houses or art galleries. If they find themselves driving on EU-standard motorways through mangled landscapes from one crassly developed town to another, they won't come back. And they will warn their friends to avoid a country whose planners have sacrificed beauty for quick bucks. - - Yours, etc.,

DERVLA MURPHY,

Lismore,

Co Waterford.