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Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland
bessborough home

Campaigners 'outraged' over plan to build 420 apartments on Bessborough mother and baby home site

Plans were lodged with An Bord Pleanála earlier this year by Estuary View Enterprises.

MEMBERS OF A support group for the Bessborough Mother and Baby Home are ‘outraged’ at €105 million plans to construct 420 apartments on the Bessborough estate in Cork.

Earlier this year, Estuary View Enterprises (EVE) lodged combined Strategic Housing Development (SHD) plans with An Bord Pleanála to construct 420 apartments plus a café and creche on the site in Blackrock in Cork city.

EVE is today the largest landowner in the Bessborough estate with its block totalling just over 40 acres and the new combined scheme followed the appeals board last year refusing planning permission to MWB Two Ltd for 246 apartments on a different parcel of land in the Bessborough estate south of the proposed development site.

As part of EVE’s ‘TheMeadowSHD’, the applicants are seeking planning permission for 280 buy to sell apartments in four blocks ranging from six to 10 storeys in height, while the companion ‘TheFarmSHD’ provides for 140 buy-to-sell apartments in three blocks up to five storeys in height.

The Mother and Baby home operated there from 1922 to 1999 and more than 900 children died from various causes while resident in the home, but only 64 have marked graves.

Now, in response to the twin applications, the Bessboro Mother & Baby Home Support Group – whose members include Philomena Lee – has told An Bord Pleanála it is objecting to the plans across a number of grounds.

The group states that “the undisputed fact is that 859 children registered as born in Bessborough are missing”.

In the objection lodged on behalf of the Support Group by Carmel Cantwell, Cantwell states that “adoptees come from all over the world to visit the place they were born in and reflect on how lucky they were to get out alive”.

She added: “Mothers come to reflect on their time there and grieve for their children lost to adoption or whose burial places are unknown.

She said: “We are all outraged at the thought that this peaceful space could be overshadowed by blocks of apartments in the future. The threat of such developments add to and perpetuates the trauma suffered by Bessborough survivors.

Cantwell further states: “There is too much ambiguity surrounding burials at Bessborough and until a full independent investigation is carried out to determine the truth there should be no further construction on the grounds.”

The Bessboro Mother and Baby Home Support Group state that planning permission was refused last year to MWB Two Ltd for a development at Bessborough “as there was too much ambiguity around burials possibly being in the area proposed for development”.

They state that this uncertainty applies to the EVE proposed development.

The group state that EVE are proposing to do forensic archaeological testing in conjunction with the construction.

Cantwell states: “This is a means to an end to achieve a building development. This is hurtful to us as it is not about finding nor honouring the missing children and their families.”

She states “that every one of those children was a real person and was with a mother who wasn’t given the dignity and respect to be allowed to bury their own child in a manner that they would have liked”.

In the planning statement lodged with the plans on behalf of EVE, it states that “the applicants recognise the sensitives associated with the legacy of the former Mother and Baby Home” at Bessborough.

In advance of submitting the application, the applicants consulted with the Cork Survivors and Supporters Alliance (CSSA).

The planning statement says that there is no evidence to suggest that there are any children burials on the subject lands of the application.

In relation to the EVE applications, the planning statement says: “The CSSA have confirmed that they have no objection to the principle of the proposed development.”

The report adds: “While the issue of the burials at Bessborough remains unresolved, there is now a consensus between the primary stakeholders that any unrecorded burials were likely to have taken place within or adjacent to The Folly.”

HW Planning state that “based on this we consider that the subject lands are similar in profile to all other lands within the former 200 acre Bessborough Estate, the majority of which have been successfully developed”.

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