The approval of a major student apartment development near the Lough in Cork city has been described as a 'hammer blow' to the area.
An Bord Pleanála has approved the construction of 57 apartments in four and five storey buildings on a site overlooking the Lough. The development, located on Bandon Road, will have space for 419 students.
Developers, Lyonshall, had previously received planning permission from Cork City Council to develop a complex of 324 beds on the site, which incorporates the former O'Riordan's Joinery and a portion of land of the Church of the Immaculate Conception.
It is located close to a number of city bus routes and just a few minutes' walk from UCC.
In January, they submitted a revised application to An Bord Pleanála, increasing the number of beds to 419. Lyonshall said that the development would answer a need for more student accommodation in the city, freeing up stock in the private market in the process.
In its application, Lyonshall estimated that the development will be operational for the school term starting in September 2021.
The initial application caused concern in the local community, prompting protests from local residents who claimed that the additional student population could damage the area.
Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Mick Finn said that the approval of an even bigger development is a disappointing development: "This flies in the face of the chief executive’s report against the increased number of units and of course the residents of the are who are fearful that it will forever alter the fabric of the area. It is a hammer blow."
Mr Finn said he is concerned about the impact of the development on the Lough: “We are forever altering the precious amenity and wildlife sanctuary and landscape that is The Lough; an oasis in the heart of the city. This is a mistake compounded now by an increased footprint sanctioned by people who are unaffected by it."
Apartments with space for more than 800 student beds are already under construction in Cork city. Planning has now been granted for more than 2,000 additional beds on various sites.
In granting permission for the development on Bandon Road, An Bord Pleanála noted that "the proposed development would make a positive contribution to the urban landscape of the area and respect its existing character, would not seriously injure the residential amenities of properties in the vicinity, would not be injurious in terms of biodiversity, and would be acceptable in terms of pedestrian and traffic safety and convenience".
The developer is required to submit a finalised student accommodation management plan, including 24/7 on-site management, before commencing construction. They are also required to take 'all feasible measures ... to avoid the introduction or spread of invasive alien species into the site or the nearby Cork Lough Natural Heritage Area'.
An Bord Pleanála has also directed the developer to amend plans for bicycle parking, replacing a proposed two-tier bicycle parking structure with single tier bike stands and, if required, reduce the number of car parking spaces at the development if necessary.