An Bord Pleanála board ordered inspector to delete condition restricting luxury apartment development

The Bord Pleanála (ABP) board told an inspector to delete sections of her report that would have required a property developer to significantly alter its plans for a south Dublin apartment development.  

Yesterday The Ditch reported that the board made an inspector edit her report on a proposed apartment complex in Blackrock that is now subject to a High Court challenge.

In the order granting planning permission for this development, signed by deputy chairperson Paul Hyde, ABP said, “the board identified a discrepancy in the report of the inspector and decided to defer consideration of this case and to request an amended report.”

The Ditch has obtained the original report that ABP had refused to publish. We have identified the edits senior planning inspector Sarah Moran was asked to make. The “discrepancy”, in the ABP board’s words, was sections of Moran’s report where she recommended against the construction of a roof terrace.

In her edited report Moran had changed her mind about this terrace. Having first been opposed to the terrace, she now endorsed it.

Inspector first advises against terrace

Seabren Developments Limited in April 2021 received planning permission for a 101-unit development at the site of the former Mazda Europa Garage in Blackrock. They received this permission under the terms of controversial strategic housing development legislation, which is currently being phased out.

Thirty-five locals objected to the proposed development, including former Fine Gael MEP Pat Cox. A residents’ group is now challenging the development in the High Court.  

The development was to comprise two seven-storey blocks and one of these blocks was to include a rooftop terrace. This terrace was a cause of concern for a number of local residents. ABP planning inspector Sarah Moran acknowledged this in her first report.

“I note that several observers,'' Moran wrote, “including residents of Newtown Villas to the immediate south of the site, state concerns in relation to noise impacts from the 4th floor communal terrace at Block B.” She went on to advise against the terrace’s construction.

“The planning authority shares these concerns and recommends omission of the roof terrace. These concerns are accepted, and I consider that this element of the development would have unacceptable noise impacts. I therefore also recommend omission of the roof terrace.”

Moran, while recommending the development proceed, added a list of conditions.

“The proposed roof terrace at the 4th floor of Block B shall be omitted. Revised drawings showing compliance with this requirement shall be submitted to, and agreed in writing with, the planning authority prior to commencement of development,” she wrote.

This condition was necessary, Moran wrote, “In order to prevent adverse impacts on residential amenities by way of noise impacts.”

After considering this report at a 30 March, 2021 meeting, the ABP board – represented by Paul Hyde, Michelle Fagan and Terry Prendergast – told Moran to change it.

The following day the board met again and reviewed Moran’s edited report.

Inspector changes her mind in edited report

Moran in the edited report had changed her opinion about the terrace.

She again noted locals’ objections to the terrace, but now wrote, “The planning authority does not state any concerns in relation to this issue.”

She added a lengthy passage defending the terrace, which began, “The design of the roof terrace is such that the southern part of Block B provides a physical buffer to adjacent residential properties to the south, which would obviate overlooking and ameliorate potential noise impacts on those properties.”

The passage ended with, “I consider that, on balance, its retention subject to these mitigation measures, is appropriate to retain this space for use by the residents of the apartments.”

In another additional passage, Moran suggested “mitigation measures” of her own and concluded, “There will be no undue impact on residential amenities as a result of the roof terrace at Block B. I consider that, given the additional residential amenity afforded to future residents of the scheme by way of the proposed roof terrace, the retention and managed use of this space is appropriate.”

In the section of her report recommending conditions for development to proceed, Moran deleted the entire passage advising against the roof terrace.

After repeated requests from The Ditch over the last seven days, ABP finally published the original report this week.

ABP did not comment on the edited report, nor did Sarah Moran.

The Ditch editors

The Ditch editors