The decision by the planning appeals authority to order the hearing has been welcomed by a group opposed to restructuring the inside of St Coleman’s Cathedral in Cobh.
Adrian O’Donovan, spokesman for the Friends of St Coleman’s Cathedral, said yesterday he’s confident An Bord Pleanála will overturn a ruling made by Cobh Town Council last September to allow the development to proceed.
“The decision from Bord Pleanála to our appeal was expected in the middle of February, but it has now been put back to April. We haven’t yet got a venue or date for the oral hearing as yet, but were believe it will be sooner rather than later,” Mr O’Donovan said.
The Friends of Cobh Cathedral, who helped collect 24,000 signatures against the proposed work, claim there is “no liturgical requirement for it”, as argued by some religious under the terms of the Second Vatican Council.
Appeals against the development were also lodged with An Bord Pleanála by the board of An Taisce, the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and by the Irish Georgian Society.
The planning appeals board has also asked the Arts Council for its views on the project under a section of the 2000 Planning and Development Act.
Bishop John Magee first announced his controversial proposals in 1998. These include the removal and relocation of the altar rails and the extension of the sanctuary into the nave.
This would involve disturbing the mosaic sanctuary floor, designed by architect George Ashlin and installed by Ludwig Oppenheimer of Manchester in 1982. The cathedral’s trustees are looking to create a permanent altar on an extended sanctuary.
An Taisce says the cathedral is one of the most important Victorian buildings in Ireland, and it took nearly 50 years to construct.
It believes the project will cause “irreversible and unacceptable” changes to the fabric of the building.
Meanwhile, the Irish Georgian Society has questioned whether the project is necessary under the provision of the Second Vatican Council.