Railway footbridge works in Tipperary declared unauthorised

Iarnród Éireann has run into difficulty with the planning authorities over repairs it carried out to a footbridge over a railway line in Co Tipperary.

A ruling by An Bord Pleanála effectively declared the footbridge works carried out by the State railway company over the Limerick Junction-Waterford line in Carrick-on-Suir were unauthorised.

The footbridge provides a crossing point between Ard Mhuire and Ballyrichard Rd in the town.

The case had been referred to An Bord Pleanála by Tipperary County Council after it had issued Iarnród Éireann with a warning letter in April 2015 that the removal of stone steps, handrails, and boundary walls at the bridge, combined with the installation of steel frame steps on both sides, constituted unauthorised development.

Iarnród Éireann claimed the improvement works to the bridge were considered exempted development under the Planning Act 2000.

The company also argued the changes did not affect the external appearance of the bridge and were needed to make the bridge safe.

The original footbridge, which is not a protected structure, dates back to 1886.

Iarnród Éireann claimed the main structure of the bridge remained unchanged and Tipperary County Council had erroneously stated that the height and configuration of the bridge had been altered.

It also argued the original steps to the footbridge were unremarkable “from an aesthetic, architectural or engineering perspective”.

In its ruling, An Bord Pleanála ignored the recommendation of its own inspector that the works carried out on the footbridge were exempted development under planning legislation.

The inspector accepted the works had significantly altered the visual impact of the footbridge but that they were carried out sensitively and for the sole purpose of ensuring the safety of the public.

The board said it viewed the alterations carried out on the bridge as a “marked departure from the pre-existing structure”.

It also said it did not regard the purpose of the works, namely the safety of persons using the bridge, as a “material consideration” when assessing the external appearance and overall character of the structure in the context of planning laws.

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