AN BORD Pleanála has been urged to reject developer Seán Dunne's €1.5 billion high-rise scheme for Ballsbridge on the grounds that "Ballsbridge is not Knightsbridge".
Barrister Colm MacEochaidh, who is representing objectors to the project, claimed that "a cart and horse has been driven through the rules" of Dublin City Council's development plan.
In closing statements to the hearing on the proposal yesterday, Mr MacEochaidh urged the board to reject it in its entirety.
He claimed the proposed buildings were "oppressive and monolithic" in design.
"Ballsbridge is not Knightsbridge . . . The people who live in Ballsbridge have no wish to live in Knightsbridge," he said.
Mr Dunne is seeking permission for residential, retail and office development on the seven-acre site of the former Jurys and Berkeley Court hotels.
The city council earlier this year granted permission for the bulk of Mr Dunne's development but refused permission for the 28,000sq m of offices proposed and a 37-storey 136-metre tower. Mr Dunne appealed to An Bord Pleanála.
Counsel for Mr Dunne, Micheál OConnell, said the development was one of strategic and national importance which would set new standards within Ballsbridge, Dublin and the State for years to come.
He said there had been unprecedented public consultation and the applicant's cards have been face-up from the beginning.
Mr O'Connell claimed some members of Dublin City Council had treated the application as a political football.
This claim was rejected by John Gallagher SC, representing the city council, who said there could be no suggestion that elected members had acted in any way that was unlawful or improper.
Mr Gallagher said the city council had decided that the balance of what was being proposed was in accordance with the development plan.
Michael O'Donnell, counsel for Ailesbury Road resident Dermot Desmond in his appeal against the development, said there was a sense of unreality about the project.
"This development has not a single redeeming feature . . . It is entirely divorced from the planning reality and planning codes in this jurisdiction," he said.
Earlier it was claimed that a recently-drafted Dublin City Council document identifying areas of the capital appropriate for high buildings did not include Ballsbridge.
Maximising the City Potential: A Height Strategy for Dublin is a discussion document put together by the council's strategic planning committee.
Mr Gallagher said An Bord Pleanála should treat the report as a discussion document and not as draft policy, adding that it had no legal status in the context of this appeal.
Mr MacEochaidh said the document identified 15 areas appropriate for high buildings, and Ballsbridge was not one of them.
Mr O'Connell claimed the disclosure of the document at such a late stage of the proceedings represented clientelism at work.
Meanwhile, a witness earlier told An Bord Pleanála that the Dublin metropolitan area was denser than the metropolitan area of New York in terms of population per square kilometre.
Peter Cody, of Boyd Cody architects, the last of Mr Desmond's witnesses, said Dublin was the 80th densest city in the world, with 2,950 people per square kilometre, ahead of Milan, Helsinki, Copenhagen and Stockholm. (His statistics were taken from www.citymayors.com)
Mr Cody said the 536 residential units proposed in Mr Dunne's plan lacked variety, while the layout of the apartments made them unsuitable for families. There was also a deficiency of open space, he said.
The Irish Times