AN inspector with An Bord Pleanála (ABP) expressed concern with the Development Contribution Scheme for Mayo, saying it ‘introduces confusion’. The comments were made in a report by planning inspector Stephen Sullivan after he reduced a contribution payment for the development of an Achill hostel by over €30,000.
As part of the conditions imposed by Mayo County Council for granting planning permission for a nine-bedroom hostel at Derreens, Achill, the applicants, John and Michael Patten, were to pay a contribution payment of €33,357.
Mayo County Council adopted the Development Contribution Scheme in 2004. It states that the various categories of contribution are applied to a particular planning application only where they are relevant.
In this application, the financial-contribution condition was for amenities, footpaths, roads, community open space and recreational facilities and car parking, but the condition was appealed to An Bord Pleanála (ABP).
The applicants appealed on a number of grounds and claimed the figure of €33,357 was not based on the proper application of the terms of the scheme and was ‘significantly exaggerated’.
In his report to the board, planning inspector Stephen O’Sullivan reduced the contribution payment to €1,642.20. “The scheme adopted by Mayo County Council in 2004 introduces confusion on the matter by stating that the various categories of contribution would be applied in particular cases only where they are relevant,” he said.
Mr Sullivan also stated that ‘charges due under each of the categories of Roads and Footpaths is nil’, because the planning authority did not specify any actual road works or lengths of footpaths as a basis to calculate charges under those categories.
The location of the proposed development is beside the existing Patten’s Bar in Derreens and the proposal to demolish existing buildings beside the pub and and build a hostel with a floor area of 346 square metres. The hostel would have nine bedrooms over two storeys.
Calculation method queried
In the appeal, the applicants stated that the levy was significantly exaggerated by the method the planning authority used to calculate the ‘dwelling equivalent’ of the authorised development, which regarded it as equivalent to 13.5 dwellings. They claimed the appropriate equivalent for the development would be 2.3 dwellings.
They claimed the element of the contribution referring to roads and footpaths should not have been included and the proper amount of the levy under the adopted scheme should be €892.50.
Giving his reasons for reducing the financial contribution required, Mr Sullivan stated that given the absence from the Mayo Development Contribution Scheme 2004 of a method to calculate the dwelling equivalent of commercial development, he would use a standard of 150 square metres of commercial floorspace being equivalent to a dwelling.
The area of the development of 346 square metres would therefore be equivalent to 2.3 dwellings and a charge of €357 per dwelling is due.
He directed that Mayo County Council amend the condition to include a financial contribution of €1,642.20, and his direction was accepted by the board of ABP..