Sunday, February 25, 2024

Louth woman allowed to keep 7m high Celtic Cross at Mass Rock in corner of garden

The celtic cross at Rockmarshall, which is now dark green in colour.

An Bord Pleanála has overturned a decision of Louth County Council and decided to grant retention permission for a grotto and steel cross beside a private house in Rockmarshall.

Maria Markey had applied to the local authority for retention permission of a c.7m high Celtic Cross and grotto and general clean of an existing Mass Rock site, at Rockmarshall, Jenkinstown, Dundalk.

The site is located within the curtilage of a detached single storey dwelling, accessed from a narrow laneway (referred to locally as Beck’s Lane) which connects to the R174 (linking Ravensdale and Jenkinstown).

The county council refused permission because the site was in an Area of High Scenic Quality and ‘would endanger public safety by reason of traffic hazard by reason of attracting additional traffic to an unsurfaced access laneway which is inadequate in terms of its width, alignment, gradient and structural condition.’

Ms Markey appealed the decision to An Bord Pleanála.

Acknowledging the scenic nature of the site, she argued that forest fires in June 2020 have taken away from the beauty of the forest directly behind where the applicant discovered a Mass Rock in the corner of their garden.

The appeal continued that the Celtic Cross they have erected draws attention away from the burnt, fallen, and charred trees to ‘a beautiful oasis of peace, colourful flowers and abundant wildlife’.

In terms of inappropriate illumination, it was stated that the offending light was removed immediately when it was brought to the applicant’s attention by the Planning Authority’s enforcement officer.

Examples of similar crosses were included in the appeal submission, and it was stated that none have ever had the requirement for permission or retention permission.

‘The Applicant notes that access to their house and private grotto is via a private lane. It is also confirmed that their gate is padlocked and there is a notice on the gate saying ‘Private No Entry’ and is therefore not accessible to the public.

‘The Applicant notes that the public currently access this private laneway (Beck’s Lane) in large numbers to visit the publicised plane crash site in the forest, the court tomb and the loop walk. It is stated that none of these have been objected to and cited as being dangerous nor have any groups been approached by the Council to limit access.’

Fr. Anthony McMullen made an observation in support of the application. He had spoken to residents within the surrounding area ‘who have had nothing negative to say about it and they feel that it is certainly more pleasing to look at than the burnt trees and foliage of the forest behind it.’

Aidan and Fiona Reburn, John and Mary Reburn, and Tomás Flynn on behalf of the Flynn Family, all made submissions objecting to permission being granted.

Mr Flynn noted that they have ‘continually been harassed by visitors looking for the site which is a direct result of the site being advertised as a visitor attraction and news of it being spread by word of mouth’.

An observation from An Taisce referred to the site’s location in an Area of High Scenic Quality and considered that a landscape impact assessment should be undertaken to determine the suitability of the proposal.

An inspector from An Bord Pleanála recommended that retention permission be granted.

The Board decided to grant permission generally in accordance with the inspector’s recommendation.

‘It is considered that the development to be retained, subject to compliance with conditions, would be in accordance with the policy provisions of the Louth County Development Plan 2021-2027, is acceptable having regard to the visual amenity of this Area of High Scenic Quality and the immediately adjacent Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, would not endanger public safety by reason of a traffic hazard, would not seriously injure the residential amenities of the area or of property in the vicinity and would, therefore, be in accordance with the proper planning and sustainable development of the area.’

Conditions include that the Celtic Cross be painted in a dark green colour which shall be maintained in perpetuity, and all lighting within the curtilage of the Mass Rock site be removed.