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No crematorium without breach of planning

INTEREST in hotting up about the proposed development of competing crematoriums in Clarecastle and Shannon, which will be the subject of two separate yet inter-linked proposals at next Monday’s Clare County Council meeting.

The two largest parties, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, and at least one independent, will have to unite to support a material contravention, which would facilitate the development of the Clarecastle crematorium.

Anything less than 21 votes in favour of the proposed material contravention of the Ennis and Environs Development Plan would constitute a major setback to Fenloe Properties’ plans to construct a crematorium unit, memorial gardens, and cemetery at Kildysart Road, Ballaghfadda, Ennis.

It is expected that Fianna Fáil will propose and support the Fenloe Properties development en bloc, which totals 12 votes. Fine Gael has yet to decide on its party position and is due to meet to consider these two proposals over the weekend or on Monday. A meeting of the new technical group of independents, including Sinn Féin Councillor Mike McKee, is also scheduled for Monday.

A local undertaker is concerned that if the Clarecastle crematorium and graveyard goes ahead, it will lead to privatisation and will eventually close down businesses. Imelda Kennedy, of Kennedy’s Funeral Home, said other undertakers shared her concerns.

“We are in favour of the crematorium in Shannon going ahead, as planning has been granted. We have received concerns from an engineer about possible flooding issues affecting the proposed Clarecastle graveyard,” she said.

She said the undertakers would be requesting their local councillor to vote against the material contravention.

The proposed sale of Clare County Council-owned land at Illaunamanagh, Shannon to Jim Cranwell, for a sum of €140,000 will be debated and voted on by councillors before they consider the material contravention.

A simple majority of one vote would be enough to sanction the sale of this land to the new developer.

It seems these two crematoriums would be in conflict with each other judging by a recent submission by the Clare Association of An Taisce to the council, concerning the Clarecastle site.

Questioning if the Shannon crematorium is still an option, An Taisce also asked if there is sufficient demand to have two crematoriums in the region – one in Clarecastle and one in Ballinasloe, which was granted planning permission by An Bord Pleanála.

Fine Gael’s Paul Murphy, who is the councillor living closest to the Ballaghfadda site, is still keeping an open mind on the issue and expects he will have detailed discussions about the issue of crematoriums in Clare with his seven party colleagues before the local authority meeting.

Ennis Fine Gael Councillor Johnny Flynn is also keeping an open mind about the Clarecastle proposal and was non-committal in advance of the party meeting, when contacted on Wednesday.

However, Councillor Tom McNamara (FF) said he understood that his party colleagues would support the material contravention, which would facilitate a further consideration of the planning process.

Councillor Claire Colleran-Molloy (FF) said that her party colleagues hadn’t met formally or made a final decision on the Clarecastle crematorium. While Ms Colleran-Molloy is keeping an open mind on this issue, she said she would be in favour of any development that generates jobs for the county and the region.

Ennis Councillor Pat Daly (FF) said he would vote in favour of the contravention, provided a condition would be stipulated in any planning approval to ensure that local undertakers would not be excluded from using the Clarecastle crematorium. He added that approval for the Clarecastle crematorium would provide a commercial boost for Ennis and the rest of the county.

While Independent Councillor PJ Ryan hasn’t made a final decision, he admitted he is leaning in favour of the contravention.

Councillor Gerry Flynn, who has consistently opposed the development of the Shannon crematorium, confirmed he would oppose the proposed land sale to the new developer next Monday.

Following lobbying from Ennis Fianna Fáil councillors, he said he would be voting in favour of the Clarecastle crematorium, as he understands the site is over 20 acres compared to a much smaller one in Shannon, which he claims is too small for this type of development.

He acknowledged he accepted the bona fides of the Fianna Fáil councillors who had sought his support for the development. Asked about the strong objections to the Clarecastle crematorium, Councillor Flynn said all these concerns are part of the planning process and noted all submissions would be considered before planning is granted, if it the contravention is successful.

Following the receipt of further information last May, which provided for some modifications to the Clarecastle development, the council drafted a newspaper notice stating its intention to consider granting permission.

This notice acknowledged the development would materially contravene the objectives to reserve land for the development of new residential areas and to reserve, protect and enhance land for open space and amenity purposes.
According to planning documents, Jay Singh and Garech McGuinness are the company directors of Fenloe Properties, while the legal owner of the land is Friends First Management Pension Fund – Sean Lyne and Noel Connellan.

In a recent written report, Clare County Council’s senior executive officer, Michael McNamara, outlined plans for the Shannon site indicated that more than one party is interested.

“The original promoters of the crematorium are no longer interested in pursuing their proposal. The period of validity of the planning permission was extended in 2013 on the application of Jim Cranwell and the planning permission on the site for the crematorium now applies to March 2019.

“At the present time, two parties have indicated an interest in acquiring the property for the purposes of providing a crematorium and it is proposed to offer the lands for sale on the open market. An auctioneer has been instructed accordingly and details in this regard will be in the local media this week.”

The report also stated that the crematorium site is part of a 15.9 acre area plot and 10 acres would remain, which could be used for the development of a burial ground in the future.

Dan Danaher

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