By: Anne O'Grady
A report at the weekend that archaeologists working on the M8 motorway have discovered evidence of settlements which will scupper the 460 million euro Tipperary Venue at Two-Mile-Borris have been rejected this week by Independent T.D., Mr. Michael Lowry.
The report in a Sunday newspaper maintained that archaeologists had discovered a 5,000 year old settlement beside the proposed site of the development, as well as 19 medieval skeletons.
It was stated that officials at the Department of the Environment had written to North Tipperary County Council as a consequence stating the planning permission could not be approved until a proper archaeological excavation of the site was carried out.
However, Mr. Lowry stated this week that a preliminary survey and dig had resulted in what could possibly be evidence to suggest a settlement but the actual location was outside the main planning area.
He maintained that the find did not interfere with any of the proposed construction and said the Council and promoter, Mr. Richard Quirke, had already agreed that a professional archaeologist would be appointed to oversee all works on the site as and when they happened.
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And, the project’s Architect, Mr. Brian O’Connell has stated that the nature of the settlement is that there is evidence of “pit fires” having been lit. That, he said, was the only evidence found on the site. “A number of small pit fires were found but not on any of the site that interferes with the development”.
Mr. O’Connell stated that there was a general policy that an archaeological investigation was not carried out during crop time and when harvests were completed these were undertaken. The harvest, he said, had now been completed on the site on the other side of the M8 and the investigation was now being carried out and would be lodged. “That is by agreement with the planners”, he said.
Contacted by the “Tipperary Star” this week, a spokesman for the Department of the Environment stated that further information had been requested by the planning authority on 21st of December last. The request for further information had required the preparation and submission of an archaeological assessment report in advance of a planning decision.
“The required archaeological assessment has not been completed on site to date and no detailed report has been submitted for comments. The further information submission includes an “archaeological assessment progress report” prepared by Margaret Gowen & Co. Ltd. which notes that a geophysical survey was carried out on site on 13th July 2010 and that “the report on the geophysical survey will issue in the next couple of weeks.” The progress report also notes that a licence application for archaeological testing was submitted to the Department of the Environment, Heritage & Local Government and National Museum of Ireland on 15th July 2010”.
However, the Department said, the request for further information clearly stated that “having completed the work, the archaeologist should submit a written report to the Planning Authority and to the Department of the Environment, Heritage & Local Government, assessing any impact the development may have on archaeological material/features.” No such detailed archaeological assessment report has been submitted in response to the request for further information”.
The Department said the applicant should be requested to submit the required archaeological assessment report in response to the request for further information.
An archaeological assessment progress report was not considered to be a sufficient response to the request for further information.
“It is our view that a final decision should not be made on this application until the Planning Authority and this office has had the opportunity to evaluate the Archaeological Assessment. We will forward a recommendation based on the Archaeological Assessment to the Planning Authority”, it added.
However, Mr. Lowry stated that as part of their pre-planning preparation, the Council had requested that a preliminary survey and dig be conducted on the whole site and at one point they had come across what could possibly be evidence to suggest a settlement.
The actual location, he said, was outside the main planning area and it did not interfere with any of the proposed construction. “They found it on a part that would be a green area or a carparking area. Nothing will happen within ten metres of that area”.
Mr. Lowry said the Council and the promoter had agreed that a professional archaeologist would be appointed to oversee all works on the site as and when they happened.
“The Council will be conditioning the application to deal with all archaeology matters and a professional archaeologist will be appointed to oversee the work on the site when it happens”.
Asked if he was confident that the development would proceed, he stated that he was. “The scale, scope and sheer magnitude of the planning application means that an enormous amount of consultation has gone on with representatives of various elements, sections of the Council and outside bodies, including the NRA. There has been a huge level of contact and consultation”.
Mr. Lowry said in all these matters issues would arise and a lot had already been resolved. Any issue which remained would be part of the planning conditions set down by the Council. His estimation was that it was progressing well and there had been a great level of co-operation between all the various agencies.
Asked the anticipated starting date of the development, the Independent T.D. said planning permission was due in September and it would be “all systems go” after that. The design team were at an advanced stage of planning, which was the civil engineering works, he added.