THE SCALE of the National Children’s Hospital proposed for the Mater site in Dublin is so large it will be visible from many vantage points in the city, but some local residents say it will be “overwhelming” to streets in the immediate vicinity.
In a submission to An Bord Pleanála, they say photomontages of the scheme – prepared as part of the environmental impact statement (EIS) – are “shocking”, and that the plan “shows scant regard” for the low-rise character of the neighbourhood and city.
The scheme, designed by architects O’Connell Mahon, would consist of an eight-storey rectangular block topped by an oval-shaped element that would also be eight storeys high. Overall the building would be 68m tall – 8m higher than Liberty Hall.
“The scale of the proposed development is so great that its visual impact will be noted from areas as far away as Clontarf Road, St John’s Road West, the Swords Road at Highfield and even Harold’s Cross,” according to the Blend residents’ association.
Blend represents people living in single-storey cottages and two-storey Victorian houses in the Eccles Street area, including St Joseph’s Parade and Blessington Place, and says the scheme “will effectively swamp” them.
“This oval-shaped structure looks for all the world like a football stadium, and bears a remarkable resemblance to the Aviva Stadium at Lansdowne Road,” it says. The submission says “to even consider this proposed development on a site such as the Mater beggars belief”, given its elevated position and protected structures such as St George’s Church on Hardwicke Place, and the residential environment.
An Taisce has said the proposed children’s hospital “is in fundamental conflict” with the Dublin City Plan because it “is seriously over-scaled [and] damaging to the setting and integrity of protected structures” and residential streets.
“The site is inherently unsuitable for a new National Children’s Hospital because of its constricted nature,” it says. “The scale, bulk and height of the proposed development, which would dominate the northside Georgian city . . . should be rejected out of hand.”
An Taisce heritage officer Ian Lumley says in a personal submission to the appeals board the planned hospital would be the tallest structure in Dublin, “soaring way above landmark church spires such as nearby St George’s” and St Joseph’s Catholic Church on Berkeley Road.
With such a “significant and adverse impact on the skyline and character” of the city, it would “seriously undermine Dublin’s potential World Heritage Site candidacy, he says, adding Dresden lost this status following construction of a new bridge over the Elbe.
Blend noted there already were significant traffic congestion and parking problems in the area, and anticipated that catering for an estimated 10,000 arrivals and departures per day at the Mater site – mostly by car – would worsen this situation “substantially”.
It suggested the reason why the EIS did not assess alternative sites such as Newlands Cross was that “it is obvious that the Mater site is highly unsuitable in planning terms and that any comprehensive comparative assessment could not avoid illustrating this”.
“We submit that the decision made by the Government on July 5th, 2011, to proceed with the plan to locate the National Children’s Hospital on the site of the Mater demonstrates a total disregard of planning provisions as they apply to the subject site.”
It was “the most ill-conceived . . . of an unprecedented number of poor and inappropriate planning decisions that have blighted the landscape, destroyed people’s lives and left a trail of destruction that individuals, communities and local authorities now struggle to rectify”.
The proposed hospital is dealt with by An Bord Pleanála under the Strategic Infrastructure Act.
NEW NATIONAL CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: TIMELINE OF EVENTS
2006 : February – Report by consultants McKinsey recommends a single world-class tertiary paediatric centre amalgamating three existing children’s hospitals in the capital. New facility to be located in Dublin adjacent to an adult hospital.
June – HSE taskforce selects the Mater campus as the site. This is endorsed by the government.
2007 : May – National Paediatric Hospital Development Board established by then minister for health Mary Harney.
2009 : October – taoiseach Brian Cowen says the hospital will open by the end of 2014.
2010 : October – board chairman Philip Lynch resigns after Ms Harney hears he questions the site’s suitability for the project.
2011 : March – board’s second chairman, John Gallagher resigns saying he is at “risk of incurring further material ongoing costs in the project without full government support”.
May – Minister for Health James Reilly announces independent team to review site decision.
July – Team’s report affirms the correct site was chosen. A planning application for the new hospital is submitted to An Bord Pleanála.