THE FORMER Dublin city architect Jim Barrett supported Seán Dunne's plans for a 37-storey tower in Ballsbridge before a planning application was lodged with the council, the Danish architect who designed the development has said.
Mr Barrett, who represented the council at pre-planning meetings with the developer, expressed his preference for the 37-storey 136m tower over a 32-storey 119m tower, which was originally designed for the development by Ulrik Raysse.
Mr Raysse said he had attended five pre-planning meetings with the council and at no stage did anyone present raise concerns about the height of the tower.
He was subsequently surprised when the council refused permission for this element of Jurys and Berkeley Court hotels site redevelopment, he told the An Bord Pleanála hearing yesterday.
Mr Barrett, who retired from the council last year before the final planning decision was made, had said at a pre-planning meeting that he found the 37-storey tower "more elegant" than the 32-storey original, Mr Raysse said.
Mr Raysse, of Danish firm Henning Larsen told the hearing he had originally proposed a 32-storey building because Dublin Spire architect Ian Ritchie was a member of the judging panel that would be choosing the winning design.
He thought Mr Ritchie would be reluctant to choose a development taller than the 120m Spire.
"Ian Ritchie was part of the jury and we did not know how he would take a building taller than the Spire."
However he said that Mr Ritchie advised him to increase the height. "He told us that he did not see the Spire as a lid over the city."
Three possible towers were then shown to the council, at 32 storeys, 37 storeys and 40 storeys.
"Jim Barrett said the 37-storey tower was more elegant than the 32 storeys but that the 40-storey tower was a bit over the top," Mr Raysse said.
Mr Barrett had been called as a surprise witness by Mr Dunne earlier this week, however he was withdrawn following objections from the legal representatives of the city council, businessman Dermot Desmond and 21 local residents opposing the high-rise development.
John Gallagher, representing the council, said he had been given no prior notice of the appearance and it was "not appropriate" that Mr Barrett should give evidence on Mr Dunne's behalf.
Colm Mac Eochaidh, who represents 22 appellants, said there was a conflict of interest because Mr Barrett had represented the council at pre-planning meetings.
Yesterday Mr Mac Eochaidh asked Mr Raysse if he would have designed an airport for the site, if Mr Dunne had wanted one.
Mr Raysse said he would not and that it would be a "stupid thing to do" because an airport would not be permitted under aviation regulations.
Mr Mac Eochaidh asked how Mr Raysse was familiar with Irish aviation regulations.
Mr Raysse replied: "We at one stage looked to see if we could design a helicopter landing pad on the building, but it was not possible."
The Irish Times