Bessborough: Second refusal for flats at mother and baby home

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image copyrightRTÉ
image captionBessborough House in Cork was a mother and baby home until 1998

Former residents of an Irish mother and baby home are "absolutely delighted" at the latest rejection of plans to build apartments in the grounds of the home.

The Cork Survivors and Supporters Alliance opposed the development of the Bessborough mother and baby home site due to concerns over unmarked graves.

More than 900 children died from various causes while resident in the home, but only 64 have marked graves.

It is the second time this year that planners denied permission at the site.

A proposal to build three apartment blocks in the grounds of the former home was refused planning permission in May.

Now, planners have rejected a related application to build a forth, eight-story block of flats at the site.

'Landscape preservation zone'

The Cork Survivors and Supporters Alliance campaigned against the four tower blocks, but in particular, they want part of the site which was marked as a "children's burial ground" on a 1940s map to be left undisturbed.

"It was a long drawn out process," said Maureen Considine, spokeswoman for alliance which represents several former residents.

"But they are absolutely delighted. For the first time in history, they feel like their voices matter," she told BBC News NI.

The group is campaigning for part of the Bessborough site to become a "registered official burial ground" which they hope would protect it from future development.

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The majority of the site under examination is located within a landscape preservation zone, according to documents from An Bord Pleanála (the Planning Board).

The proposed eight-story block of flats was part of a larger residential development which would have consisted of four blocks in total, containing 246 apartments and a creche.

'Haphazard'

On 25 May, An Bord Pleanála refused permission for three of the blocks containing 179 apartments, saying planners were "not satisfied that the site was not previously used as, and does not contain, a children's burial ground".

Planners referred back to that earlier decision when they rejected plans the forth block last week.

Given that the three other blocks had already been refused, they said would not give permission for the forth block on its own as its "location, height and scale would result in a haphazard form of development".

They ruled against the erection of an "isolated apartment block in a protected landscape".

Ms Considine said former residents of the home were relieved that this stage in the planning process is over, but added there is nothing to stop landowners from redesigning and resubmitting new plans.

image copyrightCork Survivors and Supporters Alliance
image captionThe campaigners submitted a 1940s map to planners to support their claim that there is a children's burial ground close to the Bessborough home

She said the Cork Survivors and Supporters Alliance is now calling on the government to buy the site "in the public interest" so that it can be protected as a burial ground.

Former residents just want a place to visit so they can remember their loved ones, she added.

The developer, MWB Two Ltd, owns 3.7 acres of land at the site of the former mother and baby home in Mahon, Blackrock.

The firm has declined to comment on the latest planning decision.

Back in May however, a statement from MWB Two Ltd said the firm was "disappointed" at the rejection of its planning application for three apartment blocks.

It added that experts had "found no evidence to suggest that its proposed development site contains any undocumented burials associated with the former mother and baby home".

It also argued that "the identification of a burial ground on its land, based on a single interpretation of old Ordnance Survey Ireland records, is erroneous".

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