A decision by An Bord Pleanála to refuse planning permission an appeal for an eight-storey hotel on a landmark site in the town centre has left a Wexford building firm at the loss of hundreds of thousands of Euro which it invested in the design and planning of the project.
The appeals board ruled that the massing, scale and design of the proposed development on the old Dublin Providers site at Wexford Bridge, would be 'highly obtrusive and visually incongruous' with the existing streetscape and would detract from the architectural heritage of the area.
An appeals inspector said the development failed to integrate successfully with the surrounding built environment and would set an 'undesirable precedent' for similar developments in the vicinity.
Brothers Anthony and Colm Neville of CoAnt Entertainments who also own the adjoining Crown Live and the Riverside Park Hotel in Enniscorthy, were granted planning permission by Wexford County Council for a 137-bedroom four star hotel with a bar, restaurant, function room and conference facilities along with nine luxury penthouse apartments and an underground car park of 155 spaces, as part of an estimated €30 million project on the high-profile Wexford site.
'We are incredibly disappointed. We are still dusting ourselves down', commented Colm Neville who had been hopeful of a successful outcome to the appeal process.
'We had a very positive planner's report behind us and we had very supportive feedback from the public. The really annoying thing is that none of the matters raised by third parties to the appeal, were among the reasons for refusal', he said.
Mr. Neville said the company took a consultative approach to the project, seeking advice every step of the way with planners and experts, to make sure that they had everyone's views on board and 'then this happens'.
'Also, An Bord Pleanála had no difficulty with the height. The concern was about the horizontal scale. It was one planner's view. He referred to it not being in keeping with the rest of the quayfront'', he said.
'It is described as a landmark, gateway site in the Development Plan so you would think that putting a statement building in there would be a good thing, rather than the same old, same old'', he said, adding that Wexford town is in need of development.
Mr. Neville said it cost 'hundreds of thousands of Euro' to get the ambitious project to the planning stage and through the appeal process, and while that is the risk that any developer takes, it doesn't mean that he and his brother are not shaken by the result.
He confirmed that the company will return to the drawing board with the proposed development, and will take on board the views of An Bord Pleanála, but he said it will take a few weeks before they have the heart to start looking at it again.
'It's a big body blow and it will take time to dust ourselves off', Mr. Neville said.
He now estimates that it could take more than a year to get a revised development design to the planning stage again. 'I will have to sit down with Anthony and consult with our own planners on it. We will be hoping to start the process again. Let's have a look again and see what we can do with the design', he said.