Council ‘should have had consent for sale of Youghal site’

Kirby Kearns’ renovated station master’s house in Youghal
Kirby Kearns’ renovated station master’s house in Youghal

Residents objecting to a proposed extension to an imposing beachside dwelling claim Cork County Council contravened its own development plans.

Last year, Youghal-born Kirby Kearns, who lives in Qatar, renovated a former train station master’s house at the town’s Front Strand and added one- and two-storey extensions.

Afterwards, the council sold an adjoining derelict toilet and council store to Mr Kearns for €50,000. Revenue from the sale will aid a proposed, €400,000, two-storey lifeguard facility and public toilets.

Mr Kearns later acquired planning for another extension to include a detached granny flat, including modifications to boundaries onto a public road and footpath.

In an appeal to Bord Pleanála, Youghal Knockaverry Strand Residents’ Association said the council’s valuation of its property was based on use as a garden, and that an independent evaluation rated it three times higher as a development property.

The residents claim the Planning and Development Act 2000 provides that “consent for sale of public land is required where the price sought is not the best reasonably achievable”. They believe the sale should have gone to public auction or tender.

Objectors further stated the planning “contravenes the architectural and ecological annexes” of the 2014 Cork County Plan, “given the sensitive nature, physical, geographical and topological beauty” of the area.

Mr Kearns, however, told the Irish Examiner the site was purchased “independent of any planning decision or discussion” and “without any preconditions”.

The son of a local merchant seaman, Mr Kearns, 55, left Youghal aged 21 and worked as a cameraman in war zones prior to settling in Qatar. Raised on the water’s edge in Strand St, he intends to retire to Youghal.

The council, meanwhile, said its advice was the site’s size and location would only be of value to a “specialist purchaser, such as Mr Kearns”, and the deal, including demolition and removal, spelt “significant savings” for the local authority.

It noted the site was not placed on the open market, because the “purchaser agreed to pay the full asking price and to carry out the works”. The land disposal was unanimously approved by the full council.

Mr Kearns says the purchase followed an approach by the council and was made “independent of any future planning decision or preconditions”. He only decided on the second development as an independent granny complex for his mother.

Mr Kearns said the proposed development “removes the eyesore of a derelict toilet block, unused and neglected for decades”, and believes its “passive surveillance” would be a positive feature”. A board decision is due July 8.

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