THE development of a state-of-the art sports complex costing over €8 million on a floodplain of the Clare campus of the University of Limerick has been approved by Clare County Council, despite flooding concerns expressed by a local family.
A spokesperson for UL estimated that the construction costs of the sports complex would be between €8m and €9m.
The new playing facilities will include two standard soccer pitches, one standard GAA pitch and one rugby pitch on a 9.8 hectare site.
A two-storey pavilion development will incorporate 10 changing rooms, two referee rooms, a first aid room, a reception/office area, a plant/boiler room, two coaching rooms, a restaurant with bar facilities, a kitchen, toilets and ancillary circulation and service areas.
The council approved the development, which is located near the under-construction Irish World Academy of Music at the northern end of the University of Limerick campus, subject to 19 conditions.
The planning authority included a stipulation that the development could only be accessed from the Limerick access and not via the Gillogue or Garraun road in Clonlara during construction or operation.
It ruled that a suitable roadblock must be put in place in order to stop traffic entering the university at the Gillogue access road.
The hours of operation for the entire development has to be submitted to the planning authority for its approval, including details of flood lighting in the interest of protecting the amenities of nearby residences and the student accommodation on campus.
An archaeological assessment of the site has to be undertaken by a licensed archaeologist approved by the Department of the Environment. The archaeologist has to prepare and submit a report describing the results of the archaeological monitoring to the local authority within six weeks following completion of work on site.
The university also has to pay a special planning contribution of €158,321 for public infrastructure and facilities benefiting the development.
According to an analysis of an ESB International study prepared by Connellan and Associates, there is no significant impact from this development having regard to upstream water levels or significant extra flooding over the one kilometre upstream of the proposed site.
The study concluded that the loss of the existing floodplain storage was not significant, nor would there be any significant increase in flood peaks downstream.
“The sports facility is an appropriate land use in floodplain and it is adaptable to climate change. It incorporates a SUDS drainage system.
“The scale of the development, relative to the large river flood flows and large floodplain extent, will result in no impact on local water levels,” the study stated.
A submission from Connellan and Associates also noted that the site is suitable without major land form changing works for the development of low-level facilities, which require the maintenance of levels without slopes or undulations over a large area.
“The only site available to the university in Clare, which satisfies this criterion is the site north of the University Plaza with direct pedestrian access to the Living Bridge and good connectivity with the arena,” they explained.
However, in an observation submitted for the O’Brien family, Shravokee, Clonlara, Caroline O’Brien expressed concerns about the impact of the proposed development on the landscape and their own property.
“The site which was developed at the very edge of the traditional floodplain of the River Shannon has never flooded, though on occasion flood waters have encroached within a few metres of our buildings. Even the slightest increase in the flood levels in this floodplain would inundate our property.
“In our opinion, the ESBI report is completely inadequate; ignoring certain important aspects and failing to comprehensively deal with others. It makes little allowance for global warming and the probability of unprecedented flooding in the future.
“A more comprehensive report with enhanced mapping and visual representation is required to cover the myriad of issues that will arise if this development proceeds,” she claimed.
Commenting on OPW Guidelines on Development on Flood Plains, she alleged that the development failed to meet the criterion that “development that is sensitive to the effects of flooding would generally not be permitted in flood-prone areas”.