Members of a support group for Bessborough Mother and Baby Home are ‘outraged’ by the £105m plans to build 420 flats on the Bessborough estate in Cork.
Earlier this year, Estuary View Enterprises (EVE) filed combined Strategic Housing Development (SHD) plans with An Bord Pleanála to build 420 apartments plus a cafe and nursery at the Blackrock site in Cork City.
EVE is now the largest landowner in the Bessborough estate with her block totaling just over 40 acres. The new combined scheme follows the appeal board which last year refused planning permission for MWB Two Ltd for 246 apartments on another plot of land in the Bessborough estate to the south of the proposed development site.
Under EVE’s ‘TheMeadowSHD’, applicants seek planning permission for 280 buy-sell apartments in four blocks ranging from six to 10 storeys, while companion ‘TheFarmSHD’ plans 140 buy-sell apartments in three blocks up to five floors.
The Mother and Baby Home operated there from 1922 to 1999 and over 900 children have died of various causes while residing in the home, but only 64 have marked graves.
The Bessborough Mother & Baby Home Support Group – whose members include Philomena Lee – told An Bord Pleanála it opposed the plans on a number of grounds.
It says “the undisputed fact is that 859 children recorded as born in Bessborough are missing”.
In the objection filed on behalf of the support group by Carmel Cantwell, she says ‘adopted people come from all over the world to visit the place where they were born and reflect on how lucky they were to get out alive’ .
She added: ‘Mothers come to reflect on their time there and mourn their children lost through adoption or whose burial places are unknown.
“There is too much ambiguity surrounding the 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 group says planning permission was refused last year to MWB Two Ltd ‘because there was too much ambiguity surrounding any burials that might be in the area proposed for development’.
He says that this uncertainty applies to the development proposed by EVE.
The group says EVE is offering to do forensic archaeological testing in conjunction with construction.
“It’s a way to achieve real estate development,” Ms Cantwell said.
“It hurts us because it’s not about finding or honoring missing children and their families.”
In the declaration of town planning filed with the plans in the name of EVE, it is indicated that “the candidates recognize the sensitive elements associated with the heritage of the former mother and baby house”.
He says there is no evidence to suggest there are any children buried on the land in question.
Prior to submitting their application, candidates consulted with the Cork Survivors and Supporters Alliance (CSSA).
“The CSSA has confirmed that it has no objection to the principle of the proposed development. While the issue of burials at Bessborough remains unresolved, there is now a consensus among key stakeholders that unrecorded burials were likely to have taken place in or near The Folly.”