The start of works at a major housing development on Cork City's northside has been put back five months — because bats are breeding on the site.
Gutted by a fire in 2017, St Kevin’s Hospital in Sunday’s Well has long been earmarked for housing.
Planning permission was granted over a year ago to the semi-state Land Development Agency (LDA) for the 265-home development. However, initial surveys of the site in 2020 identified bats roosting at the location, and one of the planning conditions was that any disturbance to the bats would have to be agreed on the advice of an ecologist.
Experts undertaking the surveys recommended that no works should take place at the “roost areas” from May to September as “bats may be breeding”.
Now, it has emerged that the first tranche of development to deliver 97 homes at St Kevin’s has had to be put back five months.
In a note given to the Oireachtas housing committee, the LDA said that works are due to commence on-site this September having been delayed since April due to a “bat breeding issue”.
The note also refers to St Kevin’s as a “challenging site” given that it has extensive protected structures, has steep slopes, and has numerous invasive plant species.
There are two large water mains serving a “substantial of Cork City [that] needs to be diverted”. Talks are ongoing with Irish Water and Cork City Council in this regard, the LDA said.
It said that the first phase of the project is due to be completed in the first half of 2024.
Reacting to the news regarding the delay, Sinn Féin TD for Cork North Central Thomas Gould pointed to the potential impact of bats on the site being flagged in the survey.
“They knew this could have an impact on the site,” he said. “This should have been factored into their plans but has instead resulted in a five-month delay to a project that has already taken decades to complete.
“There is absolutely no question that wildlife must be preserved but this should have been planned for.
“It took the LDA 12 months from receipt of planning permission to be ready to move on the site. This move was then delayed by a further five months.”
Mr Gould added that the LDA must now make it clear when these homes will be delivered as people “need these homes”.
The LDA has been contacted for comment.