Sunday, 10 December 2006

Lansdowne redevelopment - the main oral hearing issues

The main concerns over the proposed redevelopment of Landsdowne Road:

A large number of residents and residents associations have appealed this decision. Here are the main points, as detailed by John Gormley of the Green Party.

Height of proposed stadium

The planner’s report makes it clear that the height and scale of the proposed stadium was a major issue of concern for residents and others who submitted observations. This was a key issue in my own observation, in which I proposed alternatives whereby the height could be reduced by incorporating the back pitch into the stadium area, and by scaling back the conference and hospitality facilities proposed.

Dublin City Council (DCC) asked the applicant to explore alternatives such as suggested above, but the applicant declined to do so for various reasons. Despite this, DCC agreed to accept the design as originally submitted. In my view, on-site alternatives to the original design were not adequately explored, and DCC should not have accepted the applicant’s contention that there was no alternative to a stadium of the proposed height.

It has been shown that the height of the stadium is out of proportion to its seating capacity, when compared with similar modern stadiums in Europe. The discrepancy is quite dramatic, as shown in a number of the appeals, and is apparently the consequence of the constrained site and the scale of the provision of conference and hospitality facilities. However, there are alternatives in which neither of these conditions would apply. In my view no case has been made that the retention of the back pitch is an absolute necessity, and neither has it been established that the additional conference and hospitality facilities could not be scaled back to reduce the stadium height.

The planner’s report acknowledges that the height of the stadium gives rise to negative visual impacts, especially for neighbouring residents, as well as overshadowing effects. Residents should not have to suffer these adverse effects in order to allow the applicant to obtain more space for commercial activity such as corporate hospitality and conferences.

On this point I should also note an error in the planner's report, in which it is stated that my original observation on the planning application suggested lowering the pitch as a means of reducing the height of the stadium. This suggestion was not made in my observation – I referred to achieving a "lower profile" for the stadium by scaling back conference facilities and/or incorporating the back pitch. Lowering the pitch would require a great deal of additional excavation, with consequent nuisance for residents, extended construction time and additional emissions from trucks carrying earth from the site. I would like the Board to note that this is not an option I put forward in my original observation.

Demolition of 70 Shelbourne Road

The EIS acknowledges that the demolition of 70 Shelbourne Road will have a negative impact, and Dublin City Council's Conservation Officer stated that it would be preferable to seek alternative arrangements for the dispersal of people in order to preserve the streetscape. The planner's report concludes that while the "loss of No.70 is regrettable, it is considered that the need to create a safe access/ egress without bottlenecks in line with the overall strategy of dispersing accesses around the stadium, constitute exceptional circumstances in this particular case."

While I would acknowledge the need for a number of safe access and egress

Points to the stadium, it does not appear that the Conservation Officer's request for the applicant to seek alternative arrangements has been seriously explored.

The planning authority in this case seems to have accepted at face value that no alternative to the demolition of No.70 Shelbourne Road exists. I am not aware of any detailed assessment of alternative options –the Board should not uphold the decision in the absence of such an assessment.


Flooding is a serious issue to be considered in any development adjacent to the Dodder. I am pleased to note that the applicant developed options for future flood control measures in response to a request from Dublin City Council. However, I am concerned that no definite flood defence arrangements have been agreed prior to the granting of planning permission. Although the applicant will have to secure the agreement of Dublin City Council for flood defences before Commencing development, the public will not have an opportunity to review these plans and make submissions. The Board should require that the flood defence measures be finalised and made available for public comment before permission is granted.

Incorporation of Dodder Walkway

I remain opposed to the incorporation of part of the Dodder Walkway into the stadium development. The use of this strip of riverside walk as one of the main access and egress points for the stadium will inevitably and irreversibly alter the character of this section of the Dodder Linear Park. Given its regional importance and the specific reference to it in the City Development Plan (ObjectiveRO1), the Board should require the applicant to develop a scheme which does not include this strip of land. Again, the retention of the back pitch appears to be the only obstacle to the development of such an alternative scheme.

Legal title

Having reviewed the appeals on file, it is clear that questions persist over the legal title to a number of plots of land included in the proposed site. The recent unfortunate situation in Dartmouth Square demonstrates the importance of clarity on issues of land ownership, and the Board should insist that all such questions are clarified before the grant of permission can be upheld.

Increased use of the stadium complex

A final area of concern, raised in my original objection, is that the redeveloped stadium will support a much wider range of uses than the existing stadium. The impact of such intensified use has not been adequately assessed in the application or in the planner's report. Although Dublin City Council has imposed a condition (No.12) which would result in the setting up of an Environmental Monitoring and Management Programme (EMMP) to address issues such as noise, litter and transport with a view to mitigating adverse impacts on residents, it has not imposed any conditions which would allow the level of activity in the stadium to be constrained in order to avoid such adverse impacts. It is not clear from condition 12 whether recommendations of the EMMP will be in any way binding on the applicant, or what powers the City Council will retain to enforce such recommendations.

In this light, it would be preferable if a condition of the permission explicitly set appropriate limits on the intensity of use of the stadium complex. Although the EMMP is a desirable measure, its powers to enforce recommendations should be specified in the appropriate condition.

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