Hospital extension delay leads to call for changes in planning process

Deputy Joe Carey who is calling for a change in the planning process for major public service projects. Photo: Yvonne Vaughan

A CALL to have planning applications for major public service projects bypass local authorities and be dealt with directly by An Bord Pleanala has been made after it emerged that a €14million extension to University Hospital Limerick (UHL) will be delayed because of a planning appeal lodged by a local resident.

Clare TD Joe Carey has written to Planning Minister Damien English asking that public service developments should not be delayed or jeopardised by individual objections to planning permission granted by local councils.

He explained that construction on the 60-bed unit which was being provided to reduce overcrowding at UHL will be delayed by an appeal made by Joe McNamara of Woodlawn Drive, Dooradoyle to An Bord Pleanala against last month’s decision by Limerick City and County Council to grant planning approval to the development.

Mr McNamara’s appeal will delay the final grant of permission for up to six months or prevent it from proceeding altogether.

Deputy Carey explained that the emergency department at UHL, which serves Limerick, Clare and North Tipperary, is the most consistently overcrowded in the country with 969 patients on hospital trolleys last month, which was the highest number in the country.

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He said that while he had no wish to deprive people of their right to appeal against planning decisions, giving An Bord Pleanala the right to deal directly with applications for major public service projects would streamline the process and allow people have their views considered without compromising the public interest.

“Management at UHL say that the 60 single patient en-suite rooms would help to improve patient comfort, safety, privacy and dignity and assist with the management of infection control in the hospital. The new rooms would also increase bed capacity and improve patient flow across the hospital,” Deputy Carey explained.

In his appeal, Mr McNamara stated that it was inappropriate to seek planning permission for a building and car-parks of this scale without a landscaping plan that would help alleviate the negative effects on the residential amenity.

He explained that 11 major projects were carried out in the hospital over the past eight years and this represented a massive intensification of use of a facility in the middle of a residential district. He added that a master plan should be submitted to enable the assessment of how the block fits in with proposed and past developments on the site.