05/08/2021

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New homes for Laois as Portlaoise doctor's plans found not to 'injure' existing houses

An Bord Pleanála has final say on objections to council including one from Fianna Fáil councillor who called it 'totally unjust'

portlaoise laois housing

Work could soon get underway at site along one of Portlaoise's busiest roads

A drawn out disputed housing development in Laois planned by a local doctor has finally concluded with the GP finding a cure to the opposition at An Bord Pleanlá.

Ireland's planning appeals board has ruled in favour of Dr David Booth who lodged an application with Laois County Council at the end of 2019 to build new homes around the Cedar Clinic on the town's Mountmellick Road.

Dr Booth, who shares a practice with a number of GPs, originally applied to build 55 houses and apartments on a 1.85 hectare vacant infilled and overgrown site to the side and rear of the medical centre and pharmacy. The proposed development included three three-storey apartment blocks. The doctor had also planned to provide access to the new homes via the existing roundabout along the N80.

However, there were many objections. Laois County Council planners received more than 50 submissions and representations throughout the process.

Residents and residents associations opposed the development. A number of letters were submitted by Beechlawn Residents Association, Elm Lawn Residents Association along with many from individuals.

Fianna Fáil's Portlaoise councillor, Cllr Catherine Fitzgerald also made a representations. She questioned several issues including the proposed housing density on the site. She said all town sites should not be treated in a 'broad brush manner'.

She said the development was 'totally out of keeping' with nearby bungalow estates while adding that it was 'totally unjust and unfair' that existing homes would be overlooked by new apartments.

During the planning process, Dr Booth compromised on the height of the apartment blocks and revised down the number of new homes to 50.

Laois County Council granted permission in the autumn of 2020 but this was appealed to An Bord Pleanalá last October by a small number of individuals and the Beechlawn Residents Association. Despite the scaling back of the apartments, the issue of houses being overlooked was one of the grounds of appeals lodged by those affected by the new homes. MORE BELOW LINK.

However, the planning appeals board ultimately ruled in favour of Dr Booth's amended plans as approved by the council.

It did so on the back of a report by one of its Inspectors. The planners reported recommended approval saying the site was located in a area zoned for residential use in an established urban area within walking distance of Portlaoise town. 

The Inspector did not share the concerns around for density problems and found that the development as amended is in line with proper planning and sustainable development. 

"The proposed development would not seriously injure the residential or visual amenity of the area," said the report. MORE BELOW LINK.

The report found that the new houses would make a "positive contribution to the character of the neighbourhood which is  dominated by detached medium density family homes".

The Inspector also said the new development would "provide improved security" to the residents of Elm Lawn and Beechlawn because the rear of their premises currently borders onto "unkempt wastleland".

No overspill of carparking into adjoining estates was foreseen by the Inspector from the new homes or the medical centre.

The Inspector added that the site already had permission for 46 new homes in 2006.

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