PLANS to construct a wellness centre in North Clare will have to be put on hold after planning permission for the project was appealed to An Bord Pleanála.
Ian Lumley, heritage officer with An Taisce, lodged the appeal against what developers have called “the first purpose-built wellness rejuvenation centre in Europe” with An Bord Pleanála last week.
Fintan O’Brien, Kieran Casey and Brian O’Shaughnessy applied for planning permission in 2010 to construct a wellness centre with a manager’s apartment or office, 15 ‘wellness’ tourist accommodation units, a storage shed, gazebo, wastewater treatment, 32 parking spaces and associated works at Ranaghan, Ruan, four and a half miles from Corofin.
The An Taisce appeal centres on three grounds, the location of the proposed centre, the site suitability for wastewater disposal and flood risks.
According to the planning application, it is intended that Clare Resorts will operate the development. The three applicants are local people and in partnership with Clare Resorts, “it is proposed to create employment in the area; [an area] that has no tourist-related employment or tourist accommodation in existence. There are no tourist facilities servicing the eastern part of the Burren and it is considered that this small-scale development will bring an economic boost while not impacting on the unique landscape to the north and west.”
According to Clare Resorts, market research has shown that the development is required in Ranaghan and “once constructed will be the first of its kind in Europe”.
“This will generate tourism dollars into an area that needs it and will create local employment,” it adds.
In September 2010, Clare County Council raised “serious concerns” about the development of the centre and requested further information from the developers. It stated that it had “serious concerns regarding the proposed development from a public health point of view”. The council also requested a Natura Impact Statement because of the proximity of the site 230 metres from the East Burren Complex Special Area of Conservation and within 370 metres of the Ballyogan Lough Special Area of Conservation and the proposal to have on site wastewater treatment. The developers supplied further information and Clare County Council granted planning permission for the development subject to 21 conditions earlier this month. This permission is now being appealed.
The An Taisce appeal points out that the Burren Special Area of Conservation runs 230m to the north-west of the site and that the site is in a rural unzoned area “with poor road access”.
It states that a core objective of the Clare County Development Plan 2011 to 2017 is to protect and enhance water quality. It adds that the plan refers to tourist facilities being located outside of settlements where there is a “clear need” and that “no such argument applies in this case”.
The appeal also states that a further element of the development plan is to encourage holiday accommodation to locate within settlement boundaries. This development, according to An Taisce, “is car dependent and fails to comply with these policies”.
Mr Lumley states, therefore, that An Taisce does “not consider that the proposal has demonstrated compliance” with the 2011 County Development Plan or the 2005 Local Area Plan.
In terms of site suitability, the An Taisce appeal states “neither Clare County Council nor the applicant have adequately addressed the geology and landscape features that affect not only the groundwater resources of this site but also for the region”.
Groundwater vulnerability across the site and the immediate area, according to An Taisce, “is very variable, from extreme karst to high and this should have been taken fully into account in the site assessment”.
Flood impact too, according to the appeal, was not adequately addressed.
“The area is full of lakes, streams and ponds, as well as underground water supply in keeping with the low Burren landscape and this also poses the problem of flooding.” Mr Lumley also pointed out the site is listed under the County Draft Development Plan as an area that has been flooded in the past.
An Bord Pleanála is due to make a decision on the appeal in August.