A public hearing on plans for the proposed National Children’s Hospital on the grounds of the Mater Hospital Dublin began this morning.
An Bord Pleanála expects the hearing, which will hear evidence from more than 30 parties, will take three weeks to complete.
The hospital, which is expected to cost €650 million, would be able to accommodate clinical facilities for the provision of paediatric care, including 392 beds, 53 day care beds, 13 operating theatres, overnight beds for parents and a family resource centre.
The application also seeks to develop play areas, a school, external gardens and courtyards. The development, which is intended to be up to 16 storeys in height, is due for completion in late 2016.
Architects representing the National Children’s Hospital Development Board told the hearing that the site offered an opportunity to provide “world class” facilities in co-location with an adult hospital and eventually a maternity hospital.
Architect Clare White acknowledged that many submissions had raised concerns about the effect on the historic Georgian area, particularly protected structures.
“Almost every building on Eccles Street is a protected structure and we considered this context from the very outset,” she said.
Plans to locate a 16 storey “landmark” building on the site were consistent with Dublin City Council’s Local Area Plan, Ms White said.
The heights proposed for Eccles Street had been limited to four storeys rather than the six to 12 which would have been permitted by the council’s plan she said.
An eight storey block, set back from Eccles Street was planned but this would have “minimal impact on existing vistas or protected structures” and would be similar in height to the Mater Adult Hospital currently under construction.
The development would cause some overshadowing of Leo Street, off the North Circular Road, but this was “generally not considered to be significant”, she said.
The construction of the hospital at the Mater site is being opposed by a number of parties including local residents, An Taisce, the Irish Georgian Society, Tallaght Hospital Action Group, and the New Children’s Hospital Alliance.
The alliance, which involves health professionals and parents of sick children, in its submission to the hearing said it would not be possible to maintain proper standards of care at the chosen site, and that alternative sites were not adequately considered.
An Taisce, the Georgian Society and local residents have said the facility’s height and scale would have an unacceptable impact on the historic core of the city. In its submission An Taisce said the proposed development was in “fundamental conflict” with the Dublin City Plan because it was “seriously over-scaled” and “damaging to the setting and integrity of protected structures”.
The site was inherently unsuitable for a new National Children’s Hospital because of its constricted nature an Taisce said. The scale, bulk and height of the proposed development, which would dominate the northside Georgian city and “should be rejected out of hand,” it said.
Dublin City Council supports the development but said it must be compensated for the resulting loss of on-street parking revenues.