Rare bats may thwart church’s housing plans in Clare

Plans for a housing development on Catholic Church lands on the outskirts of Ennis, Co Clare, may be thwarted by the presence of a protected bat species.

The Killaloe Diocesan Trust has succeeded in getting land rezoned for low density housing at Cahercalla More, Beechpark, Ennis, despite opposition from the council executive, but the presence of Lesser Horsehoe bats could change matters.

Councillors voted to change the recreation zoning to low-density residential in the interest of pedestrian access, movement, and safety, and also passed a resolution that was incorporated into the Draft Clare County Development Plan 2017 to 2023.

This stated that any development has to provide a high quality design, which sensitively incorporates mature trees on site and provides a buffer to the N85 to protect residential amenity.

It was also decided to change the zoning on part of this site from low density residential to recreation.

It has emerged that the trust has been approached by housing developers to acquire some of the proposed residentially zoned lands within this landholding.

In a submission from Paddy Coleman and Associates on behalf of the trust, it was stated the original masterplan for this landholding provided for most of it to be developed as a residential neighbourhood to meet the demands of the greater Ennis area and to support the relocation of the Ennis National School.

However, the council has warned that it may be difficult to secure planning permission for housing on this land, which is situated 1,700m from Pouladatig Cave SAC.

The closest record of a Lesser Horseshoe bat is within the 1km grid square of this site.

Due to the potential significant negative impact on the foraging habitat of the bats, which is a qualifying interest feature of the Pouladatig Cave SAC amongst others, and in the absence of site-specific assessments, Clare County Council chief executive Gerard Dollard recommended the existing zoning should remain.

“Research carried out on this species has suggested that the majority of feeding activity takes place within 2km-3km of roosts during the year with occasional movements in excess of 4km.” he said.

“In light of recent changes to legislation... it is no longer sufficient to say that protective policies or objectives included in parts of the plan will counteract potential significant or adverse effects of development or redevelopment of sites within the plan area.

“The council as the competent authority must have sufficient information to screen out the potential for significant effects.

“Otherwise zoning which leads to this significant effect cannot be accommodated.”


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