Green light for Cathedral

St Mel’s Cathedral remains on track for midnight Mass on Christmas Eve 2014 after An Bord Pleanála granted permission for the development to go ahead, subject to a number of conditions.

St Mel’s Cathedral remains on track for midnight Mass on Christmas Eve 2014 after An Bord Pleanála granted permission for the development to go ahead, subject to a number of conditions.

In April, local architect Liam Madden lodged an appeal against Longford Town Council’s decision to grant permission for works relating to the construction of a new roof and concrete sub-floor.

In their judgement this week, An Bord Pleanála said the proposed development to “secure the conservation and protection of the surviving elements and the ultimate restoration of the [...] Cathedral, is desirable in the interests of conservation and amenity.”

Under the conditions of the original planning permission, the planning authority ordered revised proposals for the design of the roof structure to be submitted prior to the commencement of works. Mr Madden said this was the equivalent of an “approval of a redesign that doesn’t exist.”

“My concerns remain to the extent that absolute precision and certainty has not been put in place by [the conditions]. The conditions approve a re-design of the only significant built elements in the design – the roof and floor. Every other element of the restoration is a mere replication of what previously existed. A redesign ought to have been invited prior to the decision,” Mr Madden wrote at the time.

In An Bord Pleanála’s conditions, they state that there should be a glulaminated roof structure, which is a structural timber product composed of several layers of dimensioned lumber glued together. This was one of the detailed options put forward by Punch and Partners Consulting Engineers back in January, when St Mel’s Diocesan Trust lodged the application.

The works authorised do not include permission for the removal of the concrete slab added to the sanctuary area around 1977. This was also a condition imposed by Longford Town Council last April. Any proposal for the removal of this concrete slab shall be the subject of a separate planning application that provides details relating to the future scheme of works being proposed for the interior of the building.

Mr Madden told the Leader he believes his objections were upheld “100 percent” by the conditions of planning permission imposed by the planning body, adding: “There is a ‘god’ after all; he’s alive and well living in Marlborough Street [where the An Bord Pleanála offices are].”

However, Chairman of the St Mel’s Cathedral Project Committee, Seamus Butler said the committee felt vindicated by the decision. “It’s very timely. We were hoping the appeal would not be kicked on down the road. We feel it was an unnecessary appeal; there was a little bit of a hold-up but work has not been held up.”

Mr Butler said a 30-day notice to begin work will be erected in the coming days. Work has already begun on site in relation to Section 57 (Planning and Development Act 2000) works in the Cathedral, which will see the replacement of the limestone columns and pilasters with like-for-like replacements. This did not require planning permission.

A separate planning application relating to the interior of the Cathedral was lodged last month with Longford Town Council and is pending a decision.