Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Carlton cinema site development 'could undermine character of O'Connell Street'

THE PROPOSED €1.25 billion redevelopment of a 5.5 acre site centred on the former Carlton cinema on O’Connell Street, could “serious and irreversibly” undermine the character of Dublin’s main street, An Bord Pleanála has been told.

The appeal hearing on the development which includes a four-storey “park in the sky”, a branch of British department store John Lewis, almost 100 shops, 64 apartments, and 2,868sq m of offices was opened by An Bord Pleanála yesterday.

Developers Chartered Land told the hearing that the scheme would make a “positive and powerful contribution to the city as a whole”.

The developer’s architect Mark Turpin said the area was considered by many to have become unsafe and had “suffered stagnation over a long period” but the proposed scheme would transform the area and regenerate what was the “civic spine” of Dublin.

The development area bounded by O’Connell Street, Moore Street Henry Street and Parnell Street would include three new public squares, two new streets, and would involve the relocation of two protected structures: the 19th-century O’Connell Hall, and the facade of the former Carlton cinema.

The Georgian Society of Ireland told the hearing that it strongly opposed the relocation of the protected structures, and the insertion of a new plaza on O’Connell Street. The society’s assistant director Emmeline Henderson said the plaza would “detract from the 18th-century urban form” of O’Connell Street and “compromises the existing civic spine”.

The society also objected to the height of the development, which, at 40 metres, it felt was excessive in such an architecturally sensitive area. The “excessive level of facadism”, where the fronts of several buildings were being retained while their interiors would be demolished, was also considered objectionable

If An Bord Pleanála allowed the development to go ahead in its current form it would “result in the architectural and historic character of O’Connell Street being seriously and irreversibly undermined,” Ms Henderson said.

The Moore Street Traders Committee, which represents the market stall holders, said the area had suffered “prolonged dereliction” and the subject site had been a major negative feature of the area. “It is in this context that the Moore Street traders welcome the proposed development,” committee spokesman Ernie Beggs said.

The proposed development sought to integrate the existing market and would allow it to develop and grow. It would also protect the structures of the heritage buildings on Moore Street, Mr Beggs said.

However, James Connolly Heron of the Save Moore Street Committee said the development involved the demolition of part of the National Monument buildings of 14-16 Moore Street, which were used during the 1916 Rising, and infringed upon their setting.

Mr Connolly Heron, who is a great-grandson of James Connolly, said Chartered Land had allowed the National Monument buildings to deteriorate and decay. The state of the monument “is a national disgrace”, he said.

Dublin City Council had reached a deal to sell the site Chartered Land instead of putting the project out to tender, which was in contravention of EU guidelines, Mr Connolly Heron said, and was allowing the demolition of protected structures contrary to development controls.

The park in the sky, which slopes for four storeys on the roof of the development was “entirely inappropriate” and was at odds with the “grand terrace form” of O’Connell Street, he said.

The hearing continues today.

Irish Times


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