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The Lesser Horseshoe bat

Church goes to bat over Cahercalla lands

PLANS for a housing development on Catholic Church lands on the outskirts of Ennis may be thwarted by a protected bat species.

Killaloe Diocesan Trust has been successful in getting land rezoned for low-density housing at Cahercalla More, Beechpark, despite opposition from the council executive, but the presence of Lesser Horseshoe bats could change matters.

Councillors voted to change the recreation zoning to low-density residential in the interest of pedestrian access, movement and safety and also passed a resolution that was incorporated into the Draft Clare County Development Plan 2017 – 2023.

This stated that any development has to provide a high-quality design, which sensitively incorporates mature trees on site and provides a buffer to the N85 to protect residential amenities.

It was also decided to change the zoning on part of this site from low-density residential to recreation.
It has emerged that the Diocesan Trust has been approached by housing developers to acquire some of the proposed residentially-zoned lands within this landholding.

In a submission from Paddy Coleman and Associates, on behalf of the Killaloe Diocesan Trust, it was stated the original masterplan for this landholding provided for most of it to be developed as a residential neighbourhood, to meet the demands of the greater Ennis area and to support the relocation of Ennis National School.

However, the council warned that it may be difficult to secure planning permission for housing on this land, which is situated 1.7km from Pouladatig Cave SAC. The closest record of a Lesser Horseshoe bat is within the 1km grid square of this site.

Due to the potential significant negative impact on the foraging habitat of the bat and in the absence of site-specific assessments, Clare County Council acting chief executive, Ger Dollard recommended the existing zoning should remain. “Research carried out on this species has suggested that the majority of feeding activity takes place within two to three kilometres of roosts during the year, with occasional movements in excess of four kilometres.

“In light of recent changes to legislation, it is no longer sufficient to say that protective policies or objectives included in parts of the plan will counteract potential significant or adverse effects of development or redevelopment of sites within the plan area. Strategic examination and analysis are required as the basis for considering the effects alone, or in combination with other plans and projects on European sites, in view of their conservation objectives,” Mr Dollard said.

Killaloe Diocesan Trust has had mixed success with five other rezoning applications. The council rejected the trust’s request to rezone land at Cahercalla More, Beechpark, Ennis to the west of the N85 Western Relief Road, between the Claureen and Beechpark roundabouts, for light industrial use.

The trust did succeed in getting more than three acres of land within St Flannan’s College complex rezoned from community to residential, despite opposition from Mr Dollard.

Mr Dollard said the requirement to meet the need for housing must be balanced against the requirement to ensure there is sufficient community zoned lands to serve the neighbourhood in which it is located.

By Dan Danaher

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