Campaigners have expressed outrage over plans to build 246 apartments on land they believe overlaps a children’s burial site linked to a former mother and baby home.
The Cork Survivors and Supporters Alliance, which represents more than 50 families of children who died at the former mother and baby institution at Bessborough in Cork city, called on the developers, MWB Two Ltd, to withdraw their applications for a site close to the former Bessborough Mother and Baby Home until the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation’s final report is published.
“We have treated this developer with respect by agreeing to provide them with a copy of our submission to the commission through Cork City Council, and now while we wait for the commission’s final report and the chance to mark the graves of the babies and women, it has done this,” survivors spokesperson Catherine Coffey O'Brien said.
Part of the 3.7-acre site earmarked for the proposed Gateway View development includes a portion of land identified as ‘Childrens’ Burial Ground’ on a 1949/1950 OSI map.
MWB Two plans to apply to the city council for permission for 67 apartments in an eight-storey building, and to apply to An Bord Pleanála separately through the fast-track strategic housing development (SHD) process for 179 residential units in three buildings ranging in height from five to seven stories. This development will include a creche, step-down housing and facilities for the elderly.
The campaigners said the wait for specific details of the development runs concurrently with what is an already difficult wait for the publication of the commission's final report and they said if the SHD planning application is lodged in mid-December, the five-week public consultation period will run through the Christmas and New Year period.
This image is from Cork City Development Plan, the orange circles indicate areas marked from 'development opportunity' at Bessborough Mother and Baby Home site. The lower left circle is in the same location as the Children's Burial Ground. pic.twitter.com/ixBRZcooxZ— Cork Survivors & Supporters Alliance (@Lost900Bessboro) June 18, 2020
A spokesperson for MWB Two said they were very conscious of the "historical concerns and sensitivities" around the Bessborough site.
"However, while the proposed development sits on a parcel of land associated with the former Bessborough Estate, there are no recorded archaeological sites or built heritage features within the site, it said.
"Their report concluded that there is no evidence to suggest that the proposed development site contains any undocumented burials associated with the former Mother and Baby Home."
Last year, the commission found that some 900 children died while in the care of the nuns at Bessborough, or in hospital after being transferred from the home. But it said the burial place of more than 800 of the children is unknown.
It could only establish the burial place of 64 children who died between 1922 and 1928 in various city cemeteries.