Bats protected as residents swoop to save chapel
BATMAN will be pleased. A rare species of the flying mammal is to get special protection from developers who want to dismantle their home.
The mammals are living in the roof of a 19th century chapel in the grounds of St James's Hospital in Dublin.
The church will be knocked down to make way for a new private hospital -- and the builders have been ordered by planners to protect the bats. That means a new bat shelter may have to be constructed if the building goes ahead.
The green light was given to Synchrony Properties to build the hospital on the leased grounds of St James's.
Residents and An Taisce objected, arguing the 19th century church, used by patients for their weekly Mass and by other faiths, was an architectural prize. Planners disagreed and said it can be knocked down although they insisted bats have to be looked after.
One condition is "in the event that bats are discovered on site during coming works the Parks and Landscape Division should be notified immediately".
The Rialto Residents' Association is now taking its battle to An Bord Pleanala, but it is thought unlikely that the decision will be overturned.
Synchrony Properties intends to build an eight-storey private hospital. A spokesman for St James's Hospital told the Irish Independent that architectural advice was sought and it was concluded the church was of marginal value, both historically and architecturally.
He said the hospital had committed itself to replacing the church with a modern inter-faith centre which, unlike the existing church, would be heated and easily accessible.
A final decision on the planning is now not expected until the summer, delivering yet another setback to the co-location proposals first announced in 2005 in a bid to free up beds in adjoining public hospitals.
Other proposed locations are Cork University, Limerick Regional and Beaumont hospitals, all of which have planning permission.
Other proposed sites are Tallaght Hospital, Connolly Hospital and Waterford Regional.
A HSE spokesman said: "There is effectively no change in the position with regard to co-location hospitals.
"Having four major hospital projects fully designed, and three with full planning permission in just over 30 months represents a rapid pace of progress.
"However, there is no doubt that the current economic environment has required both the HSE and the preferred bidders to review certain aspects of the project agreement."
He said this review is provided for within the project agreement and is usual in projects of this size and complexity.