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Environmental group seeks to overturn approval for 320 housing units in Trim

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An environmental group has obtained leave to bring a legal challenge aimed at overturning planning permission for a development of 320 residential units in Trim, Co Meath.

Having admitted the action by Eco Advocacy to the High Court’s strategic infrastructure list on Thursday, Mr Justice Richard Humphreys fixed a hearing date in late February.

An early hearing date had been sought by Ross Aylward BL, for Keegan Land Holdings Ltd (KLH), which secured permission from An Bord Pleanála last October for the development at Charterschool Land, Manorlands, Trim.

Mr Aylward said his side believed it had “dotted all the I’s and crossed all the T’s” in its planning application and wanted the challenge determined as speedily as possible.

The board granted permission on October 27th last for the development, having designated it a strategic housing one, meaning a developer can apply directly to the board for planning approval rather than via the normal planning process.

Quarry

Oisin Collins, for the applicant, an environmental NGO based in Enfield, said he was satisfied to have it heard next month. In its action, Eco Advocacy says it has been involved in environmental matters for a number of years and has been concerned for some years about the manner in which KLH operated a quarry.

It says it is concerned about provisions of the 2016 Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act, under which the public are excluded from the pre-planning consultation leading to developments being designated strategic housing developments.

The group said its concerns over the proposed housing development by KLH in Trim included about its size, scale and height and its effect on the cultural and architectural heritage of Trim and on the environment.

The group claims none of the matters that it or others had raised during the planning process were properly considered by the board.

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Ireland

54 deaths and 1,335 new cases of Covid-19

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A further 54 deaths and an additional 1,335 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed this evening by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet).

They said that 50 of the deaths occurred in January and the median age of those who died was 85 years and the age range was 55-96 years.

With 54 deaths this evening, it means there has been a total of 3,120 Covid-19 related deaths in Ireland.

There is also now a total of 191,182 confirmed cases of the virus in Ireland.

Nphet said that of the cases notified today: 618 are men and 711 are women, 54 per cent are under 45 years of age and the median age is 43 years old.

Regarding the location of tonight’s cases: 437 are in Dublin, 114 in Cork, 78 in Galway, 71 in Meath, 61 in Louth and the remaining 574 cases are spread across all other counties.

They said as of 2pm today, 1,670 Covid-19 patients are hospitalised and 217 are in ICU. 81 additional hospitalisations have taken place in the past 24 hours.

Speaking this evening, Dr Tony Holohan, chief medical officer, said: “The current 14 day incidence remains more than double the peak incidence experienced during previous Level 5 measures in October, therefore, now is not the time to drop your guard and start to interact with people outside your household.

“The risk of transmission in the community remains very high. We must continue to work towards reducing incidence of disease and preventing further hospitalisations and deaths.”


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North’s health service to give £500 recognition payment to all staff

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A special recognition payment of £500 (€565) has been announced for Northern Ireland’s health staff.

Stormont’s Health Minister Robin Swann said it will be paid to all health and social care workers including doctors, nurses, care home workers, domiciliary care workers, administrative staff and estates teams.

The payment is subject to approval by the North’s Department of Finance.

Mr Swann also announced a one-off recognition payment of £2,000 for students who have been on clinical placement between October 1st, 2020 and March 31st, 2021.

The qualifying courses include nursing and midwifery, social work and physician associate pre-registration programmes commissioned from Queen’s University Belfast and the Ulster University by Stormont’s health department.

Mr Swann said that thanking the health workers for their work through the pandemic was not enough.

“There are no words to properly convey what they have done for us – we will never be able to repay that debt,” he said.

The minister added that he recognised the payment may pose challenges for some of the lower-paid workers, in terms of potentially having an adverse impact on their social security payments.

“So this afternoon I have written to the ministers of finance and communities asking them to urgently consider the issue and to engage with the tax and benefit authorities in GB to request that these payments are excluded from consideration in this regard,” he said.

“And whilst the UK nations are still negotiating a new pay deal for NHS Agenda for Change staff this payment will have no bearing on that.”

A one-off award is also set to be made to carers but Mr Swann said more work is to be done on this before further detail can be announced.

Vaccines

Meanwhile, Dr Patricia Donnelly, the head of Northern Ireland’s Covid-19 vaccination programme, announced an acceleration of the rollout.

The region received a further delivery of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine on Tuesday, and another delivery is expected next week.

Dr Donnelly said those will cover the 75-plus age group and start provision to the over-70 population.

She said Thursday will see the start of a “twin-track approach”, as the seven regional vaccination centres start receiving members of the public.

GPs will focus on the 70-and-over age group, while the vaccination centres will offer appointments to 65-to-69-year-olds.

So far, 191,050 doses of Covid vaccinations have been administered.

This includes 168,140 first doses and 22,910 second doses.

Earlier First Minister Arlene Foster said she would rather see people vaccinated than doses potentially wasted.

Ms Foster was speaking following reports of a leaked email which appeared to offer some staff in the South Eastern Health Trust the opportunity to register family members for early access to the jab.

The email indicated that over-65s, known to staff, could book in at its vaccine centre before the official announcement.

The trust said it started a local trawl in advance of the online public booking system going live to fill slots and ensure they would not “lose hundreds of precious vaccine slots”.

Mrs Foster said: “The vaccination centres are using the Pfizer vaccine, and it is very restrictive in how and when it can be used. It has to be kept at very cold temperatures and then used quite quickly.

The Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine needs to be stored at very low temperatures. Photo: PA

“As I understand it from looking into this, this is to deal with the very first appointment because we do not want to risk losing this vaccine.

“We are very proud of the fact that our wastage in terms of vaccination is about 0.4 per cent, I think that is very, very good and I’d much rather see people vaccinated than waste the vaccine.”

The First Minister told the BBC: “I think wasting the vaccine would be absolutely the wrong message to send to people.”

The Stormont Executive is set to meet on Thursday with Education Minister Peter Weir expected to bring a paper around school closures.

Schools in the North have been closed since stopping for the Christmas break due to a fresh raft of lockdown restrictions to curb the spread of the virus.

Ireland

Northern Ireland should freeze co-operation with R…

It was announced on Wednesday that a further 16 people have died after testing positive for Covid-19, bringing the toll in Northern Ireland to 1,779.

The Department of Health also confirmed another 527 positive cases of the virus.

There are now 775 patients with Covid-19 in hospital, including 68 in intensive care.

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Ireland

Status yellow rainfall warning in place for 12 counties

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A status yellow rainfall warning has been issued for 12 of counties in the north and west of the country.

Met Éireann has forecast heavy rain with a risk of localised flooding for Donegal, Meath, Westmeath, Louth, Monaghan, Cavan, Longford and all of Connacht.

The warning will come into force at 6pm and remain in place until 6am Thursday morning.

The UK’s Met Office has also issued a weather warning for all six counties in Northern Ireland, from 6pm on Wednesday to 9am on Thursday.

The forecaster said heavy rain would bring some flooding and transport disruption in the region.

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