The long-running saga over the controversial plan to build a crematorium in North Cork has finally been laid to rest after it emerged An Bord Pleanála has ruled against the facility.
Just last month an appeals board source told The Corkman a decision on the proposed facility on the site for the former Duhallow Park Hotel at Drumcommer Beg, Kanturk, had been delayed and would not be forthcoming before mid-August.
However, following an appeal by Classic Lodges (Ireland) Ltd, An Bord Pleanála has decided to uphold Cork County Council's ruling against the crematorium announced in January of this year.
The crematorium proposal had galvanised the local community into action, with more than 50 observations/submissions lodged with Cork County Council against the initial application and an online petition calling on people to voice their objections to the facility.
Concerns raised included the level of traffic the facility would generate along an already busy stretch of the N72 Mallow to Killarney Road, and the potential impact it might have on public health and the surrounding environment.
In their ruling, council planners cited one reason for the refusal saying that on the basis of the information submitted they were "not satisfied that the proposed development would not adversely impact on public health and the environment by reason of serious air pollution".
While it had been hoped this would finally draw a line under the issue, there were concerns it might be appealed, with one local conceding "the battle has been won, but the war still carries on".
As it transpired these concerns were not without foundation after an appeal was lodged against the refusal in February. The lengthy submission said an air-quality dispersion report demonstrated there would be "no impacts to air quality and no impact to public health or the environment as a result of the proposed development".
It went on to insist that all other issues of concern raised by council planners, including traffic and safety, noise assessment, the design of the facility, connection to mains gas supply, surface water and wastewater treatment and public lighting had also "been dealt with to the satisfaction of the planning authority."
It further pointed out that the planning authority, as stated in the senior planners report, had indicated their approval of the development in principle from a land-use and roads-impact perspective, and that the majority of site-specific issues raised by further information requests had been adequately addressed.
However, in their ruling An Bord Pleanála cited two reasons behind its decision to uphold Cork County Council's original ruling.
In a somewhat ironic twist the controversial high court ruling earlier this year to reinstate an EU directive declaring the River Blackwater a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) was behind one of these.
The appeals board said it was not satisfied that in regard to the absence of any mitigation measures, surface water run-off from roadworks, required to insert a turning lane into the site, would not pollute the River Blackwater.
"The board is not in a position to conclude that the proposed development individually, or in combination with other plans or projects, would not adversely affect the integrity of the European Site the Blackwater River (Cork/Waterford) Special Area of Conservation," read the ruling.
The board further said, given the location of the site and its exclusive access off the N72, it felt the site of the proposed crematorium would "adversely affect the roads operating efficiency and prejudice its strategic traffic function".
"The proposed development would be contrary to the principles of good traffic management, would adversely affect the use of a national road and would, therefore, be contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area," the Bord ruling concluded.
The An Bord Pleanála ruling has been welcomed by Cllr John Paul O'Shea, who was among those to make an observation to Cork County Council in relation to the original planning application.
"I was bitterly disappointed that no consultation took place with the local community prior to the submission of the plan, and it came as a great shock to us all when it was submitted," said Cllr O'Shea.
He said it was not patently clear the proposed crematorium was "never a suitable option for this site".
"I hope this site will be utilised at some juncture into the future, but it is critical that whatever plans are put in place in the future, there is appropriate consultation with the local community first," he added.