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The former Braids site at Station Road, Ennis, is being developed as a primary care health centre. Photograph by John Kelly

Ennis developers win appeal against Clare County Council

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CONTROVERSIAL plans to increase the size of the development of a primary healthcare facility have been given approved by An Bord Pleanala.

Valley Healthcare Fund Infrastructure Investment Fund ICAV had lodged an appeal after Clare County Council refused permission for the plans at the former Braids site on Station Road.

Last year in a split decision, the local authority refused to amend planning permission previously granted for a mixed use development that would increase the floor area from 7,250sqm to 8,008sqm with the provision of an additional floor set back at roof top level.

The plans had initially included an additional deck of car parking which was later omitted by the developers.

While refusing to allow the increase in size, the local authority gave the go-ahead to other aspects of the application seeking to amend the initial health care facility plans.

During the local authority planning process the proposals had been the subject of a number of objections from local residents.

According to a submission from the residents of Ard na Greine, “every single resident of Ard na Greine has signified their opposition to this proposal”.

At the time of the initial application Clare County Council planners raised concerns the increase in floor space of the proposed development could result haphazard parking.

The council was also not satisfied the plans would not result in “significant overbearance” on dwellings in the vicinity.

Appealing the council’s refusal to An Bord Pleanala the developer insisted the proposed extension was required by the HSE for a specific unit for the region.

“The proposed development is required by the HSE to facilitate operation of a Chronic Disease Unit within the primary care centre,” the appeal stated.

“The unit, similar to some of the other services in the building, is intended to provide a service to the surrounding regional area.”

The unit intends to deliver an integrated care programme “that treats patients at the lowest level of complexity that is safe, timely, efficient and as close to home as possible”.

The additional floorspace has been sought to accommodate two consultants and 48 additional staff resulting in total employment within the centre of 17 consultants, 225 staff, five GPs and six GP nursing staff.

The appeal lodged with An Bord Pleanala by HRA Planning Chartered Town Planning Consultants argued the proposed development does not have an “overbearing impact”.

One of the key messages of the National Planning Framework is the need to provide the highest possible quality of life, the appeal pointed out.

“The proposed development of a primary care centre in the town of Ennis has been identified as necessary to ensure the provision of an integrated primary health facility with the necessary services and support structure to provide medical and community services to Ennis and the surrounding area.”

The appeal added that measures proposed in a Mobility Management Plan would ensure the development with the necessary transport demand management “can operate effectively and is not likely to give rise to traffic hazard or obstruction of road users”.

The overall visual impact of the new development is “imperceptible”, the appeal stated, adding that any “potential ‘perceived impacts’ have already been established by the permitted development and are not worsened by the development proposal, which is minimal in the overall increase in height”.

In its response to the appeal Clare County Council’s planners requested that An Bord Pleanala uphold the decision to refuse permission, contending the plans “will result in a negative impact on residential amenities”.

Observations were submitted by residents of Ard na Greine, Michelle Madden of Madden’s Furniture and Cathedral Court Management Company.

Among the issues raised included that the increase in height is “excessive”, with the need to place all services on one site questioned.

An inspector for An Bord Pleanala found that the site is a town centre location at a junction where “increased heights relative to buildings in the vicinity can be accommodated”.

His view was that the visual impact of the additional floor space and near full floor at fourth floor level would be acceptable and not look out of character and scale.

The inspector also determined that sufficient car parking is provided for the proposed development and recommended the granting of planning permission.

In making a direction to grant planning permission, An Bord Pleanala stated that subject to the compliance with conditions “the proposed development would be in accordance with Development Plan policy”.

The board added that it “would not detract from the visual amenities of the area, would be acceptable in the contest of the visual and residential amenities of adjoining properties and acceptable in the context of traffic safety and convenience”.

“The proposed development would, therefore, be in accordance with the proper planning and sustainable development of the area.”

The conditions of planning are that the development be retained, carried out and completed in accordance with the plans and particulars lodged.

The grant of permission omits the proposal for the additional deck and grants permission for a total of 123 parking spaces, comprising 59 spaces in the main body of the site in conjunction to the 64 spaces previously permitted in the car park on the western side of Old Gaol Road.

It is also conditional that the development be carried out and completed in accordance with the relevant conditions of the parent permission granted by Clare County Council.

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