An Bord Pleanála has given the go-ahead for the building of a 45-unit apartment complex on the old C&D Providers site in Trinity Street following an appeal by local residents.
Wexford County Council originally turned down the proposal, partly due to fears about ground contamination from decades of gas and coal production on the site where a gasometer was formerly located, and requested the preparation of environmental reports.
The Council later allowed the development after the applicants, HPC Sales Ltd, the parent company of C&D, made a new submission, accompanied by a Natura Impact Statement and an Environmental Plan, along with a Flood Risk Assessment, as the site lies within a flood zone.
Residents appealed the decision to An Bord Pleanála on the grounds of visual impact, loss of privacy, a risk of damage to houses in Parnell Street, increased traffic hazard, environmental and health concerns from the release of hazardous substances and security.
But in a decision published last Thursday, the appeals board determined that the development would not seriously injure the residential or visual amenity of the area, would not be prejudicial to public health, would not lead to a risk of flooding and would be acceptable in terms of urban design and pedestrian and traffic safety.
The An Bord Pleanála inspector who dealt with the appeal, had reservations about the overall height of the development (which exceeds that of the Talbot Hotel) and recommended reducing it by omitting the uppermost fifth floor level.
However, in making the final decision, the board did not include this amendment as a condition of planning, even though it said it decided to 'grant persmission generally in accordance with the inspector's recommendation'.
In his report, the inspector said cognisance must be taken of the fact that the project 'represents the re-development of an under-utilised and disapidated property which presently detracts from the surrounding area' and pointed out that it is in line with the Wexford Town Development Plan and national guidelines.
In addressing concerns about possible damage to neighbouring houses from the excavations required for a proposed basement level car park, the inspector said it was his opinion that 'any damage to, or interference with those properties, attributable the proposed development, is essentially a civil matter for resolution between the parties concerned'.
'It is not the function of the Board to adjudicate on property disputes or to act as an arbitrator in the assessment of damages and thus I do not propose to comment further on this matter'.
In relation to contamination, the inspector said it was established in the Environmental Assessment provided with the application that there are historical contamination issues from the site's previous industrial use as part of the Wexford Gas Works.
The assessment identified a number of elevated concentrations of certain contaminants (including arsenic, lead, total petroleum hydrocarbons, polyaromatic hydrocarbons and VOC's) within either or both the underlying subsoils and groundwater.
In addition, high sulphate concentrtions were noted (which would be corrosive to concrete) while low levels of absestos fibres were also recorded.
He said the application was accompanied by an Environmental Management Plan which elaborates on remediation measures as well as detailing proposals for groundwater monitoring measures, noise and dust monitoring and waste management.
'Having considered the available information, including the additional mitigation measures set out in the Natura Impact Authority, and on the basis that the requirements of the Environment Section of the planning authority would appear to have been addressed, on balance, I am satisfied that the proposed development will not pose a risk to public health or the environment, subject to adjerence to mitigation and remediation measures set out in the Environmental Assessment and the Environmental Management Plan.'
He added that on the basis of the available information, the development would appear to be acceptable from a flood risk management perspective.
Among the conditions imposed are the submission of revised plans for additional screening on balconies and communal roof gardens and a reduction in the number of car parking spaces with one section of car park to be replaced by a planted open space.
The existing stone wall on all boundaries must be retained and restored where necessary and the developer must hire an archaeologist to assess the site and monitor all site development works.