Contentious plans for Burren distillery get go-ahead

An Bord Pleanála has given the go-ahead for contentious plans for a whiskey distillery in the Burren.

The planned body overruled the recommendation of its own inspector who had advised a refusal.

Last year, Clare County Council granted planning permission to Burren Distillers Ltd for the whiskey distillery and visitor centre at a site located 2km south west of the scenic coastal village of Ballyvaughan.

In its appeal, An Taisce said the controversy over the Burren Interpretative Centre illustrated the sensitivities attendant upon locating tourism facilities in rural areas within the Burren.

The national trust stated that such facilities should only be sited in rural areas where there was a sound site specific location rationale for doing so or where there are historic buildings that require a new use. An Taisce claimed that neither of those conditions applied to the proposal and suggested it should be located within an existing settlement.

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The heritage group had also contended the location of the current proposal upon this site would be visually obtrusive and it would harm the character of this area.

In his recommendation, however, a Bord Pleanála inspector stated the applicant had not demonstrated that every effort had been made to reduce the visual impact of the proposal.

The inspector said to grant permission would contravene tone of the objectives of the local development plan.

He had suggested the project be premature and contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area”.

The inspector also stated that to grant permission “would potentially endanger public safety by reason of traffic hazard or obstruction of road users and so it would be premature and thus contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area”.

Furthermore, he said it would be premature to conclude that the proposal would not adversely affect the integrity of the said SAC in view of the site’s conservation objectives and advised: “To grant permission in these circumstances would be contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area.”

However, in rejecting the inspector’s recommendation, the board stated the applicant had taken reasonable steps to minimise the visual impact of the proposed development through the use of a vernacular architectural idiom and scale, in the mix of structures employed and by positioning these so that advantage is taken of the existing quarry and hillside to partially screen the buildings and help set them into the landscape.

The board further stated that the proposed development would not adversely affect the integrity of any European site in view of the site’s conservation objectives. It added it would not seriously injure the amenities of the area; would not be prejudicial to public health; and would be acceptable in terms of traffic.

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