An Bord Pleanála can’t make any ruling on requests for the application of a long-term valuation on houses that are being affected by Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) for the €40 million new Shannon River Crossing and associated link roads, according to a senior planning inspector.
A number of objectors affected by the CPO for the new project expressed fears their properties will be seriously devalued if a market value is determined on real estate prices inside the next two years.
An Bord Pleanála recently decided to grant planning permission for the €11.9m Killaloe bypass, the €12m Shannon Bridge Crossing and upgrading works costing €16.6m on the existing regional road linking Ballina and Birdhill, subject to 11 conditions.
Stephen Fay, who chaired the oral hearing last October, acknowledged a number of objectors raised issues at the hearing concerning the time period over which the proposed scheme has hung over the properties affected and also concerns regarding the timing of the proposed acquisition and the potential impact that this would have on the valuations placed on properties at the notice to treat stage of the CPO process.
Specific requests were made by a number of parties that the board would direct that the valuation reached would be on the basis of a longer-term average value.
However, Mr Fay pointed out there wasn’t any provision in national legislation, which would allow the board to make a direction on this case but did highlight it for the notice of the authority.
“I note the concerns of the objectors with regard to these issues. However, it does not appear to me to be an issue that has a process that is clearly set out in law and with regard to which the board in making a direction on this case is not in a position to alter. The issue is, however, highlighted for the notice of the board.
The inspector was also requested by Ballina resident Richard O’Toole to issue an order of discovery for the minutes of a meeting of county councillors held in April 2005, where a decision was made to choose the existing route, 7C, even though there was more public support for route 6.
Richard and Marella O’Toole are the owners of the residential property and adjoining lands that are located on the western side of the River Shannon at the point of the proposed crossing, which is proposed to be acquired in its entirety to accommodate the road.
Mr Fay ruled the justification for the choice of route has been clearly set out in the Shannon Bridge Crossing Route Selection Report (2006) and in his opinion there’s wasn’t any benefit to the assessment of the proposed scheme to seek the requested information.
Jim Benson, who is the owner and occupant of a dwelling located at Newtown, Killaloe, had argued in his submission the demolition of this dwelling could be avoided by alternative routing.
His house is located close to the northern end of the bypass scheme and on elevated lands that are to the south of the Ballyvally Estate.
With regard to the overall impact of the scheme, Mr Fay noted is that the bridge location is such that there are not views of it from the centre of Killaloe at the existing bridge.
“There will not therefore be intervisibility between the existing and proposed bridge structures. In terms of the general impact of the proposed bridge on the environs, the scale of the bridge is such that it will not be set against the wider background or setting of the towns or the mountains that are located beyond.
“The bridge will, undoubtedly, have a very significant local impact on views and character of the riverside area, which is currently characterised by uninterrupted views of green vegetation along the river banks. “
Mr Fay agreed with the assessment given during the oral hearing that the bridge would have a profound landscape impact during construction and a permanent significant negative impact in the long term.
While he agreed that no existing views of the river are blocked in the long-term, in most cases, he questioned the applicability of this statement to the property of Roy Benson, Ballina in particular.
The inspector believes that the assessment of landscape and visual impacts given in Chapter 8 of the EIS and in the evidence presented by Mr Boyle to the hearing is an accurate assessment of the likely visual impacts that will arise from the proposed scheme.
“Impacts will be particularly significant during construction and at a number of specific locations along the route, notably the Ballyvally estate and adjoining cutting and also the bridge crossing section. Mitigation measures proposed are comprehensive and detailed however, it is accepted that implementation of these mitigation proposals will take a significant period of time to establish.
“I would question the assessment of impacts contained in the EIS in a number of locations, most significantly in the case of Mr and Mrs Elliott’s property on the western side of the river and that of Mr Benson on the eastern side.
“Overall, however, it is my opinion that the assessment of impacts, as set out, are accurate and reflective of the design proposed and circumstances on the ground and that the scheme has been designed to reduce negative visual and landscape impacts as far as practicable,” he added.