The future of what is Ireland’s only dedicated track for car drifting – Total Drift in east Cork – is uncertain after a ruling that planning permission is needed for the continued use of the facility.
An Bord Pleanála had ruled that the layout and use of lands at Weir Island, Barryscourt outside Carrigtwohill for car drifting events is considered a development under planning legislation which is not exempted from the requirement to obtain planning permission.
Drifting is a form of motor racing where drivers intentionally oversteer to force their cars to slide sideways through a turn.
The ruling also applied to the use by the landowner, Louis O’Regan, of an office, toilets and a hut in a “pit area” which were linked to the operation of the facility for motorsport.
The issue had been referred to An Bord Pleanála by Cork County Council for determination as a dispute arose over the status of the development.
Mr O’Regan maintained that the various developments for car drifting facilities were exempted from requiring planning permission. He claimed such a use for amenity or recreational purposes was exempt where it was for either no more than 15 consecutive days or 30 occasional days per annum.
However, he said he would refrain from using the racing facility until the planning status had been formally established.
Cork County Council claimed Mr O’Regan’s view was “misplaced” as a development cannot be an exempted development if an Environmental Impact Assessment or an Appropriate Assessment is required under the Planning and Development Act 2000-2019.
The council claimed the proximity of the racing track to Natura 2000 sites meant it could not be considered an exempted development as it is surrounded on two of its three sides by the Great Island Channel Special Area of Conservation and the Cork Harbour Special Protection Area.
“Given the noise generated by the use of the motor park and the risk that fuel spills might find their way into these sites, the need for Appropriate Assessment arises,” the council said.
It also pointed out that the 2.5 hectare site comprised of a tarmac track which made it a “permanent” feature under planning legislation.
Council officials said it appeared the site had been used as a location for car drifting since 2017 and it subsequently served a warning letter on Mr O’Regan in January 2018. A Bord Pleanála inspector concluded all the structures on the site, some of which were used specifically for car drifting, were unauthorised.
The inspector pointed out that the exemption claimed by Mr O’Regan for short-term recreational purposes also required the land to be reinstated after the temporary use – which he noted Mr O’Regan realistically was not in a position to comply with.