Plans to redevelop the landmark Cable O’Leary’s, a hotel overlooking Ballinskelligs Bay, in the south Kerry Gaeltacht, have been deemed excessive and out of character with the area by An Bord Pleanála after objections by a number of holiday-home owners.
The proposal by OS Properties was to demolish the building - a former 12-bed hotel - currently operating as a bar and restaurant, and replace it with a three-storey 48-bed complex with a function room and gym, restaurant and bar, car and bus park. Permission had been granted by Kerry County Council.
The proposal attracted more than a dozen submissions, many of them from holiday home owners. And the original application revealed divisions between owners of 'second homes' and locals. Locals largely supported the plans with submissions saying a hotel is much needed in Ballinskelligs.
Objections by the holiday-home owners centred on the design and fears of mass tourism and traffic. Noise, the overlooking of a public beach, and an increase in traffic on narrow roads which are a haven for cyclists and walkers were among the original concerns.
The appeal was taken to An Bord Pleanala by holiday home owners from Kenmare and Cork.
The existing hotel dates from 1894 - the height of the transatlantic cable connection between south Kerry and North America - and was named after a local character involved in the laying of the cable and in fighting evictions.
Local development group, Coiste Forbartha na Sceilge, had made two submissions supporting the developers, described as “a local family”.
“We desperately need this project,” the group said.
There are about 300 holiday-homes in the area. Many let on a short-term basis, but there is no accommodation for last-minute visitors who want to stay overnight and avoid driving to Cahersiveen or Waterville, according to the letter signed by eight directors. It said the “vast majority of the local population are fully behind the development and wish to see it proceed in its current format”.
Now An Bord Pleanála has rejected the plan. The inspector said: “Having regard to the proposed scale, massing and density of development, it is considered that the proposed development would not preserve or enhance the character of Baile an Sceilg more than the retention of the original structure."
The proposed development, by reason of its excessive height relative to surrounding buildings, its bulk and massing, its building line and its design, would be out of character with the pattern of development in the vicinity and would constitute a visually discordant feature that would materially affect the character of the settlement of Ballinskellig, it said.
The existing hotel structure has significant character within the Ballinskelligs area and the proposed demolition of the structure has not been justified, the board also said.