President McAleese Home Illustrates Holiday Home Problem in Rural Ireland – by Ciarán Cuffe, Irish Independent 5th April 2002
YESTERDAY’S decision giving Mary McAleese planning permission for her lakeside home comes after years of agonizing waiting and uncertainty for the president and her family. She and her husband wish to build a family home on the shores of Lough Eidin in Co Roscommon. Their first planning application was for a two storey ‘neo-traditional country house’ with a kind of Georgian fan-lighted doorway and an inset fan light in the door itself. This was granted by Roscommon County Council but turned down on appeal by the Planning Appeals Board. The president was then berated by the Irish Times for placing the dwelling in the wrong location. Then, adding insult to injury, pundits suggested that she employ an architect.
Eventually she and her family ate humble pie and employed the reputable architectural firm of Arthur Gibney to design her dream home. The second application was for a single-storey dwelling with garage and outbuildings, associated site development and landscape works. It seems curious that a President of Ireland would choose a bungalow to live in, albeit one of two thousand two hundred square feet, but perhaps she was seeking the safest option. However, there is a catch in the planning permission. The building must be a permanent home, not just for holiday use. An Taisce believes that this will ensure that the building is not just a weekend holiday home in the countryside.
There are lessons to be learnt from this saga. Firstly, those who employed an architect are more likely to have an asset that will stand the test of time especially when it comes to building a home in the middle of the countryside. The notable difference between the applications is not the chopping off of an extra floor, but the quality of design of the second proposal.
Meanwhile, the battle over whether new homes should be allowed in rural areas continues. On the one side environmental groups argue that new homes in the countryside lead to more traffic and an increased cost on our health and social services. Opposing this view are individuals, such as Dr Seamus Caulfield and Minister Eamon O Cuiv. They believe that the countryside should be full of people as parts of it have been for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.
Planners working for County Councils fall somewhere between the two extremes. They, too, wish to see a thriving countryside. However, they are very aware of the problems that unrestricted rural housing can generate. From leaking septic tanks to rising traffic levels, they see difficulties ahead if we continue to grant all permissions for one-off houses for those currently living in urban areas even if they are for the family of Ireland’s first citizen. ENDS
Irish Independent 5th April 2002, this page published 10th January 2018