Plans to demolish the derelict Cloonabinnia House Hotel in Moycullen, to make way for a nursing home with more than 90 bedrooms, have been lodged with Galway County Council.
Owners Peter and Bernadette Moran have sought permission to demolish the former hotel and asylum-seeker hostel on the 3.1-acre site near Ross Lake, which closed down in 2008.
The plans involve the construction of a two-storey nursing home with 91 bedrooms, parking for 51 cars, restoration and renovation of three fire-damaged apartments as staff accommodation.
The Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht has expressed concerns about bats on the site and the need to protect them and told the local authority that a bat derogation licence must be in place before any work takes place, if permission is granted by the Council.
According to the planning application: “This building was erected in the 1970s and is of a generally poor standard of construction and neither does it have the facilities to provide modern hotel facilities such as swimming pool, leisure centre, etc. It ceased to operated as a hotel in 2005 and has had a varied history:
■ guesthouse/hotel until 1985
■ nursing home 1984-1988
■ hotel 1989-2005
■ hostel for asylum seekers 2005-08
“There are also three dwelling units on the site. These were burnt in recent years and it is proposed to restore them as staff accommodation. These units will be retained in the same ownership as the nursing home.
“The building has now been standing vacant for many years. There is, in the current market, no realistic prospect of the hotel re-opening because of its poor quality and inadequate facilities which are not of a standard that is expected today.
“In addition, the recent spate of hotel construction under government tax incentive schemes has led to a surplus of hotel capacity,” the application reads.
The plans include a medical centre, specialist short-term convalescent accommodation of 30 beds, an oratory, library, social rooms, internal and external leisure areas and restaurant.
A bat survey found the main hotel is a roosting site during winter and summer for six bat species, including the protected ‘lesser horseshoe bat’ species, and the woodland and lakeshore were identified as important foraging areas for the bats.
According to a Natura Impact Statement submitted with the application: “Robust and effective mitigation measures have been proposed during the construction and operational stages of the project for the avoidance of impacts to Lough Hoe Bog SAC (Special Area of Conservation under the EU Habitats Directive) and the River Moy SAC.
“The implementation of best practice and construction design measures and site-specific mitigation, in particular those mitigation and design measures outlined for all bat species, will avoid potential impacts to lesser horseshow bat.
“The proposed drainage and wastewater treatment processes will ensure that potential impacts to the receiving environment will not receive untreated wastewater,” the impact statement reads.
A submission – signed by 20 local residents – called on the County Council to ensure the development is not inappropriate given the remote location “distant from services in the local towns and villages” and that it would not increase the risk of an accident on the narrow country road which serves it.
Locals also had concerns that it could negatively impact on the Special Area of Conservation, and whether there would be sufficient capacity in the water supply system.
A submission from the operator of the Teaghlach Uilinn nursing home in Moycullen noted that their 77-bed nursing home has been “well below capacity” over the last number of years.
“There has been a decline in residents over a period which we believe to be attributable to having more than an adequate supply of beds in the vicinity and also the increased prevalence of homecare services.”
The submission also points out that Mowlam Healthcare operate a 54-bed nursing home in Moycullen, and a third would render one of the three nursing homes economically unviable in the short-term.
“Whilst the narrative is that the country is short of nursing home beds, this is true based on the CSO statistics, but this only applies to large urban areas and specific rural locations. Moycullen currently has a nursing home capacity that is thirteen times the national average.
Mowlam Healthcare objected to the Council on the grounds that the development is located on the shoreline of Ross Lake and to allow it to proceed “would represent a complete disregard for this water resource” and pointing out the local authority has a duty to preserve the character of the local landscape.